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A Marine Surveyor’s Approach to Confined Space Entry Work

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Confined space entry - marine surveyor

Part of the job as a Marine Surveyor is to go into spaces that can often be tight and dark to complete the inspection. Often the spaces are defined as a confined space.

The definition of an enclosed or confined space actually varies from state to state in Australia, however as a general rule: An enclosed space is a space that is not used for day to day activity and which has any of the following characteristics:

  1. Limited opening for entry and exit
  2. Inadequate ventilation
  3. Is not designed for continuous worker occupancy.

The presence of any one of the characteristics as stated above can make space an enclosed space.

Confined space entry procedures should be part of the vessels Safety Management System (SMS). Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 2865 – 2009 ‘Confined Spaces’ defines confined spaces and outlines risk assessment and entry permit requirements.

All Maritime Survey Australia Marine Surveyors are certified to enter confined spaces. It is very important to complete the task in accordance with the appropriate confined space entry rules and ensure that the space is free of gas and well ventilated.

Failure to adopt a systematic and careful approach to confined space entry can result in injury and death. Multiple fatalities have occurred in confined spaces especially when rescuers fail to assess the risk and take appropriate steps. Confined space hazards are not confined to toxic or oxygen depleted atmospheres. There are many different kinds of confined spaces on board ships such as sealed void spaces, fuel tanks, sullage tanks, battery storage compartments, and compartments where explosive gases may accumulate due to construction work. There have been circumstances where workers or contractors have risked serious injury as a result of not having equipment isolated when working in a confined space. The level of risk will vary considerably depending on the nature of the space, the material contained within the space and the hazard control arrangements. As a consequence the procedures and precautions required will depend on the nature of the space and the level of the hazard present.

MSA recognise risk management as an integral part of good survey management practice. Risk management is the term applied to a logical and systematic method of establishing the context, identifying, analysing, evaluating, treating, monitoring and communicating risks associated with an activity.

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