The cargo ship had loaded maize and after a voyage of approximately six weeks arrived at the discharge port. Holds 3 and 4 were opened. A shore manager measured the oxygen content of hold 4 and found it to be normal. He hung a sign on the hold booby hatch entrance that indicated ‘Inspected – OK’. Before he could measure the oxygen content of hold 3 he was called to the ship’s office to discuss discharge details.
Meanwhile, a grain inspector had boarded the vessel and proceeded to enter hold 3 via the open booby hatch with the intention of taking the temperature of the cargo. He descended by a vertical ladder and then a spiral staircase. Once on the surface of the maize he collapsed and was spotted shortly afterwards by a stevedore on deck. The alarm was raised. While preparations for rescue were undertaken the shore manager measured the oxygen content in hold 3 and found it to be about 12%.
Later, rescue teams exited the hold with the unconscious grain inspector but the victim was declared dead.
- Even if the hold hatch has been opened, keep booby hatch access doors locked and sealed to prevent entry until the hold atmosphere has been tested and certified safe by a competent person
- Never enter an enclosed space before it has been tested for oxygen content
- Even once tested and found acceptable, always wear a personal gas detector when entering an enclosed space.
- Enclosed spaces are inherently dangerous and procedures for entry need to be followed. A person should be assigned to act as a watchman outside the space while entry into the space is attempted.