Inspectioneering Journal

North Sea Accident - Workers in an Enclosed Space

This article appears in the November/December 2007 issue of Inspectioneering Journal.

The Inspectioneering Journal was unable to validate this report but it still serves well for all of us who enter equipment as an example not to take lightly, safety procedures that should not be ignored, side stepped nor steps skipped. Here is the purported account and lessons learned, that should be of little surprise to anyone with experience and training in enclosed space entry. Unfortunately, this same type of scenario has played itself out over the years. Don't let it happen to you or those for whose safety you are responsible........

Accounts suggest that another tragic marine accident has occurred in the North Sea.

The preliminary report states that two men were painting inside an enclosed space. A third man was positioned outside the space with breathing apparatus equipment. The two men inside the space collapsed and the third man on the outside of the space tried to make entry but his breathing equipment hit against the space opening. It is purported that he removed his equipment, made entry and also collapsed. He was eventually found with his colleagues in the space.

All three were removed from the space. Resuscitation commenced and continued while they were transferred to the nearest hospital by a coast guard helicopter. All three were pronounced DOA (dead on arrival) at the hospital.


  • Inadequate ventilation of the space.
  • Failure to raise the alarm.
  • Failure to follow confined space rescue procedures including raising alarm and personnel recovery procedures.

Systematic root causes are considered to include, but are not limited to the following:

  • Permit to work system appeared to not enforce regular atmosphere testing.
  • Alternative methods of atmosphere controls were not considered including confined space air hoods / equipment.
  • Rescue equipment not suitable to task and crew members appeared to be inadequately trained and were not aware of limitations of use.
  • Poor JHA / RA conducted.
  • Risk assessment of rescue / retrieval process could have illuminated deficiencies in equipment selection and use. This should have driven mitigation measures or changes to task allocation.

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