By Jaquelyn Burton (Coeval) Why with all the requirements, regulations, and best practices in place do so many mariners die needlessly each year – under completely preventable circumstances? Take for example enclosed spaces. Why do so many mariners still die in enclosed spaces? With training requirements in place for more than 40 years, the deaths still continue.
While I was talking about this subject in preparation for writing this, an anecdote was related to me by Captain David Freer – “Everyone knew the dangers of entering tanks and other “confined” spaces but flirted with the danger anyway. Tanks generally were not tested before entry to ensure they were safe for entry. We would sniff the air stream coming out of a tank being ventilated, and if we didn’t detect an odor, men would enter and do whatever was needed in the tank. This practice was followed well into the 80’s in a lot of fleets. Deaths were not uncommon.”
Worse still are the mariners who die, trying to be a hero and attempting to rescue the mariner who entered so unwisely – they too die in the effort to make a rescue. These cases are not one-offs – they happen time and time again. Even every time you take a flight you are reminded to be sure to put on your oxygen mask before helping others.During my teenage years, I worked as a lifeguard, and one of the things that we were always told during all of our training and retraining was always to ensure and safeguard our safety – you cannot save or help someone if you become another victim. It will do the victim no good if you become a victim as well. Always assume that a danger they succumbed to could hurt you as well.
If you knew that in entering that space you might never come out again alive – would you risk it? Would you take the extra time to ensure that it was safe for entry before proceeding? How about if it wasn’t you, but shipmates. Shipmates who have people back home who depend on them. Would you take extra time to explain how dangerous these kinds of spaces can be? How would you explain it – how would you make sure that it sinks in?