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Fatality in Confined Spaces May 2021

A supervisor and another worker died after they entered a ship's ballast tank (which is a confined space) and collapsed in the confined space.

The incident 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, the supervisor, who was a Bangladeshi national, had entered a dredging vessel’s ballast tank, which is a confined space, for an inspection of the piping without any appropriate personal protective equipment. Confined Spaces need permit to work to enter a confined space.

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.

Sadly hazards and dangers of a confined space are sometimes not known to workers. They may wrongly assume if they cannot see the hazard, there are no hazards. 

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. 

SSG WSQ Perform Work in Confined Space Operation (PWICSO)


This PWICSO course was formerly called Safety Orientation Course for Workers - Manhole SOCManhole or Manhole SOC

The SSG WSQ Perform Work in Confined Space Operation (PWICSO) is one of the core units in all process sectors of Process Industry.

People who should attend PWICSO are

  • Confined Space Entrant (includes manholes, tanks, vessels, etc)

  • Confined Space Attendant (includes manholes, tanks, vessels etc)


PWICSO Assumed Skills and Knowledge

PWICSO Learners will be able to listen, read, speak and write English at a proficiency level equivalent to the Employability Skills System (ESS) Level 2.


Course Outline for Perform Work in Confined Space Operations

for the SSG WSQ Perform Work in Confined Space Operation are

  • PWICSO Identify duties and responsibilities of all personnel involved in confined space work under the WSH Legislations and Code of Practice.

  • PWICSO Identify confined space hazards

  • PWICSO Use Gas Detection Instruments for atmospheric monitoring

  • PWICSO Comply with Permit-to-Work system and safe work procedures when working in confined space

  • PWICSO Participate in an Emergency for confined space


Course Duration for the Perform Work in Confined Space Operations:

  • 14 Hours (Inclusive of Assessment)


PWICSO Assessment:

  • Written Questions

  • Practical Performance

  • Upon completion of the Perform Work in Confined Space Operations course and passing the examination, a Statement of Attainment (SOA) from Skillsfuture Singapore (SSG) will be awarded.


PWICSO Price of Course:

  • Price per participant: SGD$150

Additional Information about the Perform Work in Confined Space Operation

Legal Requirement for Perform Work in Confined Space Operation Training

Under the Factories (Safety Training Courses) Order 2001 which came into effect in June 2001, all workers, including Singaporeans, must undergo a Safety Orientation Course (Manholes) before they are allowed to work in Manholes and other Confined Spaces. This is now under the Workplace Safety Health Act and its subsidiary legislations

A Confined Space worker or a Manhole Worker when about to perform work in confined space operations, as appointed by the Principal or Employer of a workplace, will play the role of either an entrant or an attendant.

As such the Confined Space Entrant has the responsibility to:
i) coordinate with the confined space attendant, confined space supervisor and confined space (manhole) safety assessor to ensure safe entry in and egress from the confined space or manhole,
ii) assess the working conditions in the confined space or manhole and evacuate the confined space or manhole when it is unsafe to work,
iii) only carry out prescribed work activities (ie perform the work that is allowed), for allowed durations, as approved on the entry permit.


The Confined Space attendant has the responsibility to :
i) coordinate with the confined space entrant, confined space supervisor and confined space (manhole) safety assessor to ensure entrants safe entry in and egress from the confined space or manhole,
ii) prevent unauthorized entry into the confined space or manhole,
iii) maintain regular visual and/or verbal contact with the confined space entrants
iv) assess the working conditions in the manhole and alert the confined space entrants to evacuate when the confined space or manhole is unsafe to work in,
v) alert the confined space rescue personnel to activate the confined space rescue operation.

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