SINGAPORE: A supervisor and another worker died last week after they entered a ship's ballast tank and collapsed in the confined space.
The incident took place last Wednesday and was reported in an alert by the Workplace Safety and Health (WSH) Council on Monday (May 24).
The notice from the WSH Council said that last Wednesday, the supervisor, who was Bangladeshi, entered a dredging vessel’s ballast tank, which is a confined space, for an inspection of the piping without any appropriate personal protective equipment.
A ballast tank is a compartment within a vessel that holds water and is used to provide stability for the boat or ship.
The supervisor did not check if the confined space was safe, said the WSH Council. Shortly after entering, he collapsed and passed out, it added.
Another worker entered the tank to try to save the supervisor, but also passed out. A third worker attempted a rescue as well, and he too collapsed inside the tank, the alert said.
They likely collapsed due to oxygen deficiency in the tank, said the Ministry of Manpower (MOM).
When they did not emerge after some time, the rest of the crew forced ventilation into the tank. The second worker eventually regained consciousness and managed to climb out of the tank.
"The supervisor and the third worker were later extricated by the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) but unfortunately did not survive," said the alert.
"This tragic accident highlights the invisible dangers of confined spaces."
SCDF said that it received a call for help from a vessel in Singapore's eastern waters at around 11.35am last Wednesday.
"SCDF's marine specialists including the elite Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team conducted an intricate depth rescue operation on board the vessel to rescue three people from a confined space," said a spokesperson.
Paramedics pronounced two people dead at the scene and took one person to Changi General Hospital.
The two workers who died were aged 31 years old and 37 years old, said MOM. The worker who survived, a 39-year-old, was discharged on May 22.
The workers are employed by KSE Marine Works and the occupier of the vessel is Antara Koh.
MOM said it is investigating the incident and has instructed Antara Koh to stop all works involving entry into confined spaces.
An Antara Koh spokesperson said that the dredger KSE Exo belongs to KSE Marine Works, who is Antara's subcontractor to carry out dredging works.
When contacted, KSE Marine Works said it is assisting with MOM's investigation and could not comment further.
The WSH Council reminded workers not to open up any manhole of confined spaces without proper authorisation, and not to enter any confined space if they have not been trained for it.
Workers should also not attempt any rescue on their own without any proper personal protective equipment as doing so may endanger them, said the WSH Council.
Workplace regulations stipulate that workers who operate in confined spaces need to have undergone training. At least one of the workers in the space should have a portable gas monitor to check the level of oxygen or harmful gasses, and an attendant needs to stationed outside.
With this latest incident, the number of workplace fatalities in 2021 has risen to 16.