Confined Space Entry: U.S. Coast Guard Warns After Three Die Of Asphyxiation

The danger of confined spaces is in the news again after three crew members died of asphyxiation on a drilling rig.

They were part of a ten man team preparing equipment for heavy lift transport. After a de-ballasting system failed, they rigged a portable diesel engine pump to discharge tanks. Unfortunately, the hatches used for ventilation were inadequate and one of the crew collapsed after being overcome by fumes while supervising the operation.

The second and third victims died while attempting to rescue him after descending into the enclosed space without safety equipment. The Captain and Ship Superintendent narrowly escaped and were airlifted to hospital.

This is sadly typical of enclosed space fatalities and is similar to other recent accidents in Japan, UK, Denmark, Belgium and Malaysia.

Because many toxic gases are colourless and odourless, it can be easy to miss the danger signals, especially if you’re under stress or focused on a complicated task. Rescuers are commonly the next victims as they react quickly – and usually in a state of panic – so they don’t follow essential safety procedures or use the necessary equipment. Studies suggest that over 50% of the deaths in confined spaces are the result of crew members attempting to rescue colleagues.

This latest incident has prompted the US Coast Guard to issue a Marine Safety Alert about the dangers of confined spaces. They advise:

  • Obtaining the requisite level of knowledge and training of confined space entry procedures including emergency and rescue procedures
  • Ensuring crews undergo periodic confined space training and participate in routine and practical onboard emergency drills
  • Verifying that all required confined space entry and rescue safety equipment is onboard, maintained, tested and fully functional
  • Continually appreciating the dangers involved in confined space entry and educating yourself by further study.

Modern vessels contain more enclosed spaces than ever before. This, combined with the pressures of larger loads, smaller crews and tighter turnaround times, means that deaths in confined spaces are still happening despite the IMO’s attempts to prevent them. The latest regulations require all SOLAS applicable vessels to carry portable gas detectors for monitoring enclosed spaces:

“Every ship to which Chapter 1 applies shall carry an appropriate portable atmosphere testing instrument or instruments. As a minimum, these shall be capable to measuring concentrations of oxygen, flammable gases or vapours, hydrogen sulphide and carbon monoxide. Instruments carried under other requirements may satisfy this regulation. Suitable means shall be provided for the calibration of all such instruments.”

Effective gas detectors and calibration instruments are essential on all cargo vessels. This equipment should also be as versatile and easy to use as possible so that all crew members are protected.

Contact us to find out more about keeping your crews safe in confined spaces.

The Problem with Portable Gas Detectors

Making sure your crew and your vessel are always safe from harmful gases is vital, so a portable gas detector is an important piece of equipment. However, there are many issues with the instruments that can cost you time and money if you don’t have the right kit.

Here are some of the problems – and the solutions offered by the MGC Simple+.

Battery life and charging


Traditional portable gas detectors have a pellistor/catalytic bead LEL sensor which uses a heated aluminium coil. It’s this element, in particular, that’s responsible for draining large amounts of power. Instead of the pellistor sensor, The MGC Simple+ uses a low-powered infrared light source which greatly reduces the drain on the battery – it’s like switching an incandescent light bulb for an energy efficient LED bulb.

The power saving is enough for the MGC Simple+ to last 3 years without charging. It works straight from the box and will easily allow for a bump test and a 1.5-minute alarm every day of its life.

Calibrating
Calibration and bump testing are crucial in traditional detectors because, over time, their performance becomes slower and gradually more unresponsive. This is down to the pellistor sensor which is susceptible to poisoning by many things, including the gases they are actually detecting. Once the sensor is no longer efficient, it needs to be replaced – a costly process which will leave your instrument out of action. You will also need extra equipment to cover gas detection while this work is being carried out.

Infrared sensors are completely immune to poisoning so this isn’t an issue with the Marine MGC Simple+ – there’s no need to calibrate at all.

However, some risk assessments and safe systems of work do specify that instruments must be calibrated. The MGC Simple+ can be set up to do this easily using one button operated dock which is capable of testing four detectors at the same time. This takes around 40 seconds and uses only around a quarter of the gas you need for individual calibration.

Working in inert environments

Pellistor sensors need a minimum of 10% oxygen in the environment – any lower and the readings may be inaccurate. Infrared doesn’t need oxygen, so the MGC Simple+ will work in completely inert atmospheres. This makes it ideal for confined space detection and taking samples from tanks where lack of oxygen is an issue.

Data Logging

Traditional portable gas detectors will log events, but many won’t log data. Data logging is important for all instruments as the gathering of information helps to improve safety and inform the investigation of incidents. The MGC Simple+ logs data every second and records the last 25 bumps, calibrations and events.

Repair Costs


As instruments get older, they begin to develop faults with their components – backlights, screens, sounders etc – they will all have to be repaired eventually. By the time a detector gets to three years old, most of the sensors will be reaching the end of their life and will need replacing.

The MGC Simple+ comes with a full three-year warranty, so you’ll never incur extra repair costs. At the end of those three years, you simply replace the whole instrument – a cheaper option than spending money maintaining an old detector. Buying a new instrument means you’ll also have a new three-year warranty so the instrument will always be covered.

The MGC Simple+ is the world’s first ‘NO calibration’ portable multi-gas detector.

NO calibration. NO charging. NO cost.

Contact us to find out more.

Are You Throwing Money Overboard?

There’s a worrying number of reports where used cylinders are thrown overboard

There’s an increasing awareness of pollution in our oceans. The world is waking up to just how much waste is dumped in our seas – not only from plastic but from a variety of other sources too, including gas cylinders.

Recently, there have been many reports of merchant ships simply throwing used cylinders overboard to save the cost of proper disposal. As well as the obvious environmental impact of this, it’s also missing out on a potentially lucrative source of money.

The problem

To make sure your gas detection devices are operating correctly, and your vessel is safe, you’ll need a good supply of calibration gas. If you order in bulk, this means that you’ll undoubtedly have a large supply of cylinders on board. These cylinders are classified as dangerous goods so they need careful handling and storage – even when they’re empty, they may still be considered hazardous by many organisations and flag states.

This makes disposal a problem. The process can often be costly and time-consuming and the inevitable result is that many companies send them to landfill or, if they’re particularly irresponsible, toss them overboard.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.

Recycling

Calibration gas cylinders are made from aluminium or steel, both of which are valuable materials to recycling companies or scrap metal agents. As well as benefiting the environment and cutting down on waste, selling on empty cylinders will also provide you with some additional income – empty cylinders are likely to be worth around $2 each.

However, because they’re classified as hazardous, recycling companies won’t simply accept cylinders as they are, they need preparing first.

Checks

Firstly, it’s important to make sure that your calibration gas container can be recycled. Many gas supply companies specify that they can’t so always make sure by reading the manufacturer’s label or contacting them directly.

You also need to check the regulations. Legislation regarding disposal and recycling differs from country to country – as well as organisation to organisation – so be clear about exactly which guidelines you need to follow.

Preparing the cylinder

The most important part of preparing your cylinders for recycling is to make sure that they’re completely empty. If it was used to store a toxic or combustible gas there may still be traces of the material inside so most recycling companies will require you to drill a hole in it and write ‘empty’ or ‘punctured’ on it using permanent marker – some will even specify that you cut them in half.

The valve must also be removed or made unusable to make sure that the cylinder is no longer pressurised. After this, cylinders are no longer classified as dangerous goods and can be recycled as scrap.

However, it’s this part of the procedure that’s usually the trickiest. Making the valve inoperable will probably involve a vice, some elbow grease, and a specially made tool that’s compatible with the container you’re preparing. Getting the right kind of specially made tool can make all the difference to the time and effort you spend.

Our Solution

All FastCalGas cylinders are suitable for recycling. We also have tools that are simple to use and render the valves unusable quickly and easily. They’re available for all our canisters – 34L Aluminium and 58L Aluminium as well as 103L Steel and 34L Steel.

It’s a straightforward process that helps take the stress out of the disposal. It also enables you to recover costs by scrapping your used calibration gas cylinders instead of throwing them away.

Save the planet and save money.

Recycle your used gas cylinders.

Can I Be Held Liable For Using An AED?

Rapid defibrillation is the only proven way to treat Sudden Cardiac Arrest and it can mean the difference between life and death.

A quick response is vital – if a victim is shocked within sixty seconds, their chance of survival can be as high as 90% but after this, it drops by 10% every minute.

But using an AED for the first time can be daunting. As well as the panic of what to do in an emergency situation, you might also have some doubts about where you stand from a legal perspective.

These concerns may cause you to hesitate and lose valuable time. Here we address some common questions and look at where you stand when it comes to the law in the UK.

What injuries can occur?

If you use a reliable, well maintained AED, it’s highly unlikely that it will make a mistake. The unit will analyse and assess the victim’s heart rhythm and make all the decisions, guiding you through the process step by step. It’s impossible to shock someone who isn’t having a cardiac arrest.

It’s more likely that injuries will occur when administering CPR as this can sometimes result in broken ribs, especially with older people. You might also worsen injuries when you move them into the safe airway position.

However, these potential problems are the lesser of two evils when compared to what will happen if you don’t follow the chain of survival for treating a sudden cardiac arrest.

While you’re waiting for an AED, you need to make sure that oxygen can still reach the brain – a few broken ribs are a small price to pay for survival.

Can I be sued if I use an AED?

To support companies who provide AEDs, there’s plenty of legal protection from civil liability.

To date, there have been no known judgments against anyone who has used an AED to save someone’s life – you’re covered by ‘Good Samaritan’ laws that protect users who attempt to save a person from death. You just need to show that you were acting in the best interest of the casualty.

However, if a civil case is brought against you for negligence, the court will judge your actions against those of: ‘a reasonable person of the same standing’.

‘Reasonable person’ means that they will take into account your circumstances, you won’t be assessed against the textbook procedure. Someone with no first aid training is bound to make mistakes – even those with training are likely to make errors when under pressure.

Your training may only have covered the basics or you may have forgotten things if it was a long time ago – these factors are all taken into account under the term: ‘reasonable person’.

The ‘same standing’ part means that you’ll be treated at a level appropriate to the amount of training you’ve had, you won’t be compared to a medical professional.

If you’ve never used an AED before and you have no first aid training whatsoever, your actions will be judged against what might be expected of someone in a similar position.

As well as these procedures, there’s also the SARAH Act that has been applied to cases since 2015.

What is the SARAH Act?

The Social Action, Heroism and Responsibility Act. It means that a judge must also consider whether you were trying to save the victim, whether your approach to safety was responsible and if you were behaving heroically by trying to save someone in danger.

There are already legal mechanisms in place that cover most of these areas but the SARAH Act is an additional safety net. It doesn’t prevent you from being found negligent or criminally liable but it should provide some extra peace of mind for anyone trying to do their best in a difficult emergency situation.

What are my responsibilities as a business?

In many industries, it’s a legal requirement to have a qualified first aider on hand. It’s their responsibility to provide a duty of care and provide assistance in the case of an emergency.

Many organisations such as sports clubs also assume a duty of care when conducting their activities so it’s up to them to provide treatment in the event of a sudden cardiac arrest.

If you have an AED at your place of work, you also need to follow the legal requirements for its upkeep. This will involve appropriate documentation and the maintenance of the device as recommended by the manufacturer. Failure to keep your AED in a usable condition could result in a claim against you.

Getting the right AED

Your defibrillator could be sitting around gathering dust for a while but it needs to be rescue ready in an instant when you need it the most. Depending on where it’s placed, it may face very challenging conditions. If it’s on board ship, for example, it will need to be capable of surviving in the most hostile of environments.

Lifeforce is designed specifically for life at sea and is the first AED on the market to be GL Type Approved for the marine industry.

It’s rated IPX4 for water protection, IP5X for dust protection and has been jet and helicopter tested, coming up to US Military standards for shock and vibration.

The handle and sides are rubberised to prevent impact damage and there are no unnecessary frills to complicate things in an emergency. It’s lightweight, portable and low maintenance with a battery life of up to seven years.

It automatically carries out its own diagnostic tests without the need for additional servicing and we also support its performance and reliability with a full eight-year marine specific warranty.

For peace of mind, make sure you have an AED you know you can rely on.

Are You Prepared For The 2020 Cap on Sulphur Emissions?

Sulphur emissions are one of the major components of air pollution.

They cause respiratory diseases, contribute to acid rain and form aerosol gases. Because of the high content of sulphur compounds in marine fuels, the maritime industry has always been a huge part of the problem.

The IMO has been working to reduce the environmental impact of shipping since as far back as the 1960s and their latest initiative is to introduce a cap on sulphur emissions that will come into force on 1st January 2020.

The New 2020 Regulation

Regulation 14.1.3 of MARPOL Annex will set a limit of 0.50% m/m on the sulphur content of fuel oil used by ships – a dramatic reduction from the current 3.50% limit.

The sulphur content of oil is lowered by refining, but the maritime industry has traditionally used mostly low-grade fuel oils like heavy oil and diesel oil, both of which have a high sulphur content. Therefore, the main aim of the new regulation is to ensure that marine engines use a low-sulphur oil or a better grade of fuel such as marine gas oil.

Enforcement

Ships must be issued with an International Air Pollution Prevention (IAPP) Certificate by their flag state which states that they use a fuel oil that’s compliant with the new regulation. When they take on fuel, they must also obtain a bunker delivery note that details the oil’s sulphur content. Samples may be taken to verify this, and port and coastal states can use surveillance, assess smoke plumes and apply many other techniques to catch out vessels that attempt to evade the 0.50% m/m limit.

Vessels that fail to comply can be fined and may even be declared unseaworthy, stopping them from sailing.

Impact on shipping

Approximately 90% of world trade is by sea and global shipping currently consumes around four million barrels of high sulphur fuel oil per day. It’s estimated that fuel accounts for about half of a ship’s daily operating cost so the new regulation will have a huge impact on the industry.

Based on average consumption of 20 to 80 tonnes of fuel a day, a vessel using cleaner fuel can expect to face extra daily expenses of about $6,000 to $20,000. Overall, global shipping costs are expected to rise by at least a quarter and analysts say that the maritime industry is not prepared for the change.

How to comply

There are three main ways of making sure your vessels meet the standards required by the new regulation. However, all of them come with added costs and challenges.

Use compliant fuels
This is the most straightforward solution – ships can simply switch to a low sulphur fuel without the need to fit expensive new equipment. These low sulphur fuels have an extended refining process which removes a much larger amount of the sulphur content. However, the process means that fuel can cost up to 50% more and there are concerns that refiners may struggle to meet demand when the new regulations take effect.

Install exhaust gas cleaning systems
Known as ‘scrubbers’, these clean the ship’s emissions before they’re released into the atmosphere, stripping out the sulphur content. They enable vessels to continue using lower grade fuel while still meeting the IMO’s new regulation.

Many vessels are already using scrubbers and, by 2020, around 20,000 ships are expected to be equipped. However, fitting them takes time and there are only a limited number of manufacturers and installers – only around 500 vessels per year can be equipped. With a global fleet of over 90,000 vessels, this means that fitting every ship with scrubbers would take over 100 years.

The installation of adequate scrubbing equipment is also expensive, costing between $1-$10million per vessel. Additionally, if the equipment should break down while the vessel is at sea, operators would be faced with even more costs as well as significant operational difficulties.

Use clean gas LNG as fuel
This is a considerably greener alternative to oil and is seen as much more viable in the long term because it reduces sulphur emissions by up to 95%. As with scrubbers, this option does involve a large investment when it comes to installation as converting existing ships to run on LNG requires them to be re-engined. The fuel store and insulation equipment also take up a large amount of valuable space on board and currently, few ports have the necessary infrastructure to supply vessels.

Despite this, an increasing number of ships are beginning to use LNG in preparation for the new IMO regulation. Methanol is also being used as a fuel source on some short sea services.

What steps are you taking to prepare for the cap on sulphur emissions?

This is a very difficult transitional period for the maritime industry – you need to make sure you’re ready for 1st January 2020.

Contact us to find out how we can help.

The Most Common Cause of Death at Sea

Working at sea has always been demanding – the hours are long and irregular and the job usually requires military-precision routine. The environment also has the additional risks of handling machinery, chemicals, fuels and gases without easy access to emergency services if things go wrong.

Despite advanced technology and a greater focus on safety, there are still many dangers to seafarers. The economic struggles faced by the maritime industry have also resulted in the reduction of crew numbers, an increase in work hours and quicker turnarounds in ports that leaves less time to rest and recover.

SOLAS

The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) was first proposed in response to the sinking of The Titanic but eventually took effect across signatory flag states in 1948. The current version came into force in 1974 and is continually amended and updated to take into account new developments in merchant shipping and more sophisticated safety procedures.

It covers everything from the stability of installations and how cargo is carried to communications, ship management and what life-saving equipment should be kept on board. However, despite the comprehensive guidelines set out by SOLAS, fatalities on ships are still occurring from a variety of different sources.

Liberian Flag data

Liberian Flag has collated and published information regarding the leading causes of death among its seafarers for the last five years. The data goes up to 1st November 2018 and even then, without the last two months of the year, it can be seen that 2018 wasn’t the best year for safety. In fact, it was the worst since 2014 with 43 deaths lives lost at sea.

Being caught or hit by objects caused 7 deaths and suicide was responsible for 5 but the most significant number – double the nearest figure – was for ‘heart attack, collapse, unconscious’. These issues caused the deaths of 14 seafarers in 2018 and the numbers were just as high for the previous years: 18 in 2017, 14 in 2016, 19 in 2015, 25 in 2014 and 12 in 2013. ‘Heart attack, collapse, unconscious’ has been the leading cause of death among Liberian Flag seafarers for the last 5 years.

The risks of Sudden Cardiac Arrest at sea

Sudden Cardiac Arrest can strike anyone at any time, even the fittest and most healthy but the most common cause is a heart attack – a blockage in the arteries which prevents oxygenated blood from reaching the heart. Obesity, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, high blood pressure and a cholesterol heavy diet can all be contributing factors.

Clinical and statistical studies have also identified several other factors that increase the risk of a heart attack. Men, for example, are at greater risk and fall victim earlier in life – generally over the age of 45. As you get older, your blood vessels become less flexible making it harder for blood to flow through them, so age is a significant factor.

Over 25% of officers on ships from OECD countries are over 50 years old and 50% are over 40. There are many additional contributing factors on board a working vessel too – hypothermia, electrocution, trauma caused by impacts or falls, respiratory and circulation problems, metabolic changes and the effects of drugs all significantly increase the chances of suffering a sudden cardiac arrest.

Protecting Seafarers

Rapid defibrillation with an AED is the only proven way to treat Sudden Cardiac Arrest. If a victim is shocked within sixty seconds, their chances of survival can be as high as 90%. Within five minutes, there’s still a 70% chance but after this, it drops by 10% every minute.

For this reason, AEDs are becoming commonplace in schools, sports venues, tourist locations and workplaces – and they’re saving lives. However, if your workplace is at sea, hours away from a hospital or medevac, and a crew member suffers a sudden cardiac arrest, their chances of survival are practically zero if there isn’t AED in the medical chest.

Germany was the first flag state to introduce legislation that legally requires seagoing merchant vessels to carry AEDs but this was way back in 2012 and the rest of the world has been very slow to follow suit. While AEDs are becoming standard equipment on cruise ships and ferries, merchant vessels – with all their increased risks – are still being neglected.

Lifeforce Marine AED

Lifeforce is designed specifically for the tough conditions faced on board ship. It’s the first AED to be GL Type Approved for the marine industry and is rated IPX4 for water protection, IP5X for dust protection and has been jet and helicopter tested, coming up to US Military standards for shock and vibration. The handle and sides are rubberised to prevent impact damage and there are no lids, cases or moving parts to get in the way during an emergency. It’s lightweight, portable and easy to store.

During an emergency situation, non-medically trained personnel may often be in a state of panic so it’s also essential that your AED is easy to use for all crew members – it could make all the difference to a victim’s survival. Independent studies have shown that Lifeforce is the simplest and most successful AED to use in the world, stating that: ‘Users are on average 26% more likely to deliver effective defibrillation using LIFEFORCE® than with other AEDs’.

Stay safe at sea.

Make sure your crew are protected from the world’s biggest killer with a Type Approved defibrillator that you can depend on.

Contact us to find out more.