by hold fumes
A machine operator “felt dizzy and saw stars” after less than an hour in a hold containing logs treated with anti-sap stain.
Although the logs were treated with anti-sap stain,
rated as having low-to-moderate toxicity,
testing to detect toxic fumes
should always be
out before entering.
The hold had been venting for about 25 minutes while the crew held its pre-entry briefing. The machine operator then entered the hold alone, and waited there for the 25 minutes it took for his machine to be lowered in.
He had no means of communication with him, but once the machine was in place, he used its radio to advise his supervisor that the fumes in the hold were "pretty strong".
Even so, he remained in the hold and started loading operations. After about 15 minutes, the machine operator called his supervisor back saying he was "not feeling too good" and was going to get some aspirin.
He was not seen leaving the hold, but was found a few minutes later in a dazed state. He was taken to hospital by ambulance, but recovered quickly after exposure to fresh air.
- Although the crew had not carried out an oxygen depletion test before allowing the machine operator to enter the hold, later tests showed the oxygen levels in the hold to be normal. While oxygen tests of confined spaces are a vital first step, further testing is needed to detect toxic fumes. Err on the side of caution, and always carry out relevant testing before entering.
- The machine operator entered the hold unobserved, and without any means of communication. If he had been overcome by fumes before the machine was lowered into the hold, he may not have been able to call for help.
- If you suspect an environment is making you feel unwell, leave immediately. Do not wait until your condition worsens. However, once affected, do not attempt a physically challenging effort, such as scaling a ladder out of a ship’s hold, on your own, unless the situation is urgent. Let someone know you are in trouble and ask for help. Once out of the environment do not assume fresh air will remedy the situation. Toxicity is serious – call an ambulance.
- The contaminated person, and those in contact with them, should be mindful of residual contamination. Thoroughly wash hands before eating, smoking or drinking. Remove and wash any potentially contaminated clothing.
- The fumes were caused by anti-sap stain. This is a wet organic solvent rated as having low-to-moderate toxicity. Overexposure can cause eye and skin irritation and headaches. Inhalation can cause respiratory tract irritation, and pulmonary oedema (fluid on the lungs) in severe cases. Although this stain is not generally considered hazardous, this incident shows that the accumulated fumes can be.
- A pre-entry briefing is the time to ascertain what hazards may be present, and what can be done to eliminate, isolate or minimise these. A thorough briefing in this instance would have included ensuring there was a method of communication, a reminder not to enter the hold unobserved, a discussion of the potential for toxic fumes and appropriate actions to take, a revision of the relevant safety data sheet for the material, and preparation for the appropriate pre-entry testing.
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