Improving safety and reducing risks associated with enclosed spaces entry
RightShip has a vision for a maritime industry that causes zero harm and is passionate to see real safety improvement in the maritime industry. RightShip uses data to inform, support and encourage ship managers to make proactive choices about crew safety. Here our Head of Operations, Americas, Oussama Darif takes us through enclosed space entry, demonstrating RightShip’s commitment to providing insights to help the industry.
About the author
Captain Oussama Darif – Head of Operations, Americas
As co-author of the Handy Guide to Dry Bulk Operations published by the Nautical Institute, and The Dry Bulk Management Standard at RightShip, his most recent project, the Enclosed Space Entry Insights Paper is for the RightShip series on safety and leading practices.
Why do we need to talk about Enclosed Space Entry safety?
In RightShip Operations, we analyse our data and provide insights for the maritime industry to benefit everyone. The concept for RightShip’s Enclosed Space Entry series was born out of necessity. The global vetting team had investigated a selection of 360 incidents involving 385 fatalities since 2019. 31 of which, happened in enclosed spaces. They found that all of these could have been avoided if certain preventative or mitigating controls had been in place.
How do you feel about this ongoing issue?
I’m passionate about this issue as I lost one of my friends to an enclosed tank space entry back in 2006. He went into a tank without PPE or breathing apparatus to save a crew member and he lost his life. I’ve never forgotten it, and it has always been on my mind. The more I worked in RS, the more I became exposed to incidents like this happening on vessels. Here, we analyse our data to evaluate what good managers are doing to prevent these incidents, highlight the gaps, and provide insights on leading practices so that we can spread the word. If we can help just one ship manager save just one life, we’ve done good work.
Why did you create the story and report?
Within our Operations group, we defined a shared goal to form an Insights series that targeted fatal risks as we see all fatalities as avoidable. The approach is to illustrate with facts why each topic is so important, what good managers do to prevent these avoidable fatalities, and most importantly where the manager can find information to apply in improving their SMS and controls across their fleet, to avoid fatal outcomes.
This was a topic we identified through discussions across the Operations Leadership Team. Given the deep meaning enclosed spaces fatalities have for me, I took the lead to, conduct the analysis, draft the paper, and present the findings to the team for feedback. I then edited the report and incorporated some of their suggestions before it was published in its final format.
The video - is it based on a true story?
We pooled ideas to draw out what RightShip had to say about this tragic issue and make a relatable story with a strong visual impact. We identified that today’s seafarers include GenX’ers who enjoy Tik Tok and streamed media. We felt a mini movie with CGI characters would send a powerful short message to say this is real and is still happening. It also appeals to different learning styles, particularly visual and auditory.
View link RightShip Enclosed Space Entry video
Report link Safety Insights Paper: Enclosed Space Entry
Do Masters and crew understand the regulations?
They do. However, the level of training and familiarisation differs from one company to another. Sadly, what we call the “human factor” usually has something to do with the reasons behind these fatalities. Crews may take safety shortcuts when under pressure from fatigue or other drivers to get things done. Others have a skewed perception of risk and might feel comfortable that what they’ve experienced in the past (even if unsafe) as the best way to deal with their next task.
Sometimes, people become too familiar and overlook past learning when working in high-risk environments. I think it is time to talk more about behaviour-based safety and the need to improve the safety culture onboard by making it a lifestyle rather than task oriented. Some of the analysed reports show that there are cases when fatalities could have been avoided if crews were confident to speak up for safety, regardless of rank.
Do crews always wear safety gear?
The case reports for seafarer fatalities show how easily some of these tragedies can be prevented. For example, a seafarer going down a ladder in an open and well-ventilated cargo hold must have as a minimum a safety harness and an FPD (Fall Preventer Device) to protect them from falling should they slip. Do all seafarers wear one? Some reports show this doesn’t always happen.
While we know it makes a seafarer safer, excuses are often made that they are time-consuming to rig, or not comfortable and convenient to wear. There are also some preconceived beliefs such as “I’m an experienced seaman, this could not happen to me” so it isn’t worn. Not to mention the lack of PPE and Safety gear maintenance. Which makes them less reliable or effective.
Are there other factors at play?
Yes, I believe commercial pressure is high on the list. When exerted onto a vessel’s crew it can lead people to take shortcuts, against their better judgement. This may also happen due to fear of retaliation or job loss if you refuse to do a task. Remember that seafarers’ contracts are duration bound, they are not permanent employees. In their minds, there is always a need to accommodate or keep “the company” happy to ensure they are re-employed.
How are seafarer crews and families affected by the loss of a crew member and loved one?
While there may be a payment compensation to families, nothing can replace the loss of a loved one. Crews are usually devastated. A case I read stood out to me as the company relieved all the crew members after a fatality due to low morale. Oftentimes, crews become unable to perform and experience the feeling of unsafety. In some cases, crew experience PTSD or survivor complexes asking themselves if it should have been them.
Do you see differences between big and small companies in terms of the number and nature of incidents?
Surprisingly, we don’t see much difference between large and small companies that have fatalities. The common factor is there is a need for crew welfare management, safety culture improvement and vessel care.
Economies of scale may suggest that bigger companies can manage their vessels and train their crews better than smaller companies. However, this is not always the case. There are small companies who manage their vessels with a vision to be industry leaders. They have plans in place to care for crews and seafarers and keep vessels in very good condition with no problems.
Managers who want to take those steps are always welcome to speak with RightShip Operations about safety. Dry bulk managers can also benefit from implementing the guidance given within RightShip Inspection Ship Questionnaire (RISQ) — arguably the most comprehensive inspection tool in dry bulk. In my opinion, I think it is much cheaper to manage a vessel properly than to have an expensive disaster.
RightShip is the world’s leading due diligence company in the maritime industry. With our Safety Insights, we’re trying to drive the industry toward zero harm and share good practice, using the data we have to help all industry branches avoid vessel fatalities.
Contributors to Enclosed Space Entry video
Marc Forster (Head of Marine Standards and Governance)
Taner Umac (Head of Operations - EMEA)
Oussama Darif (Head of Operations, Americas)
Alexandre Piccon (Senior Manager of Process Governance)
Hayden Latchford (Head of Operations, APAC)
Levent Sen ORKA Informatics