Confined Space Accidents on Offshore Vessels

It is no secret that offshore vessels are dangerous places to work. One of the biggest hazards on many offshore vessels is work that must be performed in a confined space. In addition to hazards that are present in open spaces such as being struck by an object, confined spaces contain additional unique hazards. Even hazards that are minor in open spaces can become exacerbated by conditions in a confined space.

Work Hazards in Confined Spaces

Work hazards that are unique to confined spaces include:

  • Lack of Oxygen: Asphyxiation (or suffocation) due to a lack of oxygen is the leading cause of fatal confined space accidents. Before entering a confined space, workers should always test the air to make sure it has enough oxygen. While OSHA standards do not set a specific guideline on how often the air should be tested, ideally workers would be provided with a device that continually monitors oxygen levels and alerts them if the levels become dangerously low.
  • Toxic Chemicals/Fumes: Confined spaces often have ventilation problems, making toxic chemicals and fumes particularly hazardous. Blower equipment or fans should be provided to ensure ventilation in the confined space.
  • Heat: Temperatures inside confined spaces can be significantly hotter than open spaces, particularly in poorly ventilated spaces in warm climates. When working in extremely hot temperatures, it is advisable to take breaks every 15 minutes to avoid overheating.
  • Poor Lighting: Confined spaces are often poorly lit since there is usually no room for overhead lighting. The dimness makes workers more prone to typical hazards such as slip and falls. Workers should also make sure that any light source they bring into a confined space is certified for that environment. In a confined space environment that has flammable gases, a lighting source that has unprotected circuitry could ignite the gas or vapor in the air.
  • Cramped Quarters: Confined spaces can leave workers with little room for maneuvering. This forces them to contort their body into awkward positions at times, which can lead to long-term injury.

If you have been injured while working in a confined space, it is advisable to consult with an experienced offshore lawyer to learn about your legal rights. If your injuries were preventable or your employer did not provide you with the required safety equipment, you could be eligible for compensation. 

Contact the offshore lawyers at Arnold & Itkin for a free consultation about your legal rights.

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