Real Life Incident: Fatal Fall Into Confined Space



The 34-year-old victim entered into a chemical tanker for cleaning and collapsed at the bottom. In a rescue attempt, another victim (male, age 31) also collapsed. One of two co-workers was pronounced dead at the scene while the other is in critical condition.


A large chemical tanker reached the isolated location for washing. When the person in charge of the chemical tanker made entry into the compartment, there were no prior checks on the air quality of the compartment. Within a very short time after entering the victim rendered unconscious and fell down onto the plates below.

One co-worker that remained outside attempted a rescue but also lost consciousness on entering the tank. After over an hour a successful rescue attempt was made and all bodies were removed. Resuscitation was attempted but of the two who entered the compartment, only one survived.


During the investigation, it is found that the person in charge did not follow the proper procedure for washing the chemical tanker. The following actions have contributed to the accident:

  1. They did not carry out the risk assessment.
  2. Space was not properly checked for oxygen content and other gas content with the help of an oxygen analyzer and gas detector.
  3. The workers did not carry oxygen analyzers with them inside the enclosed space to help continuously monitor the oxygen content.
  4. The confined space was not ventilated properly before entry.

Lesson learnt

  1. The person in charge may have acquired a false sense of security as he entered without first evaluating the negative consequences.
  2. Never enter a confined space without first testing the atmosphere from top to bottom.
  3. Always wear a portable gas detector while entering a confined space. Only when the detector shows proper reading can entry be made in the confined space.
  4. Confined space training and practice are essential in order to prevent tragedies such as the above.

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Source: ITCO


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