On October 4,2001 Cody McNolty was working as a welder's assistant in northern British Columbia. He was helping his father refit a log barge.  Four workers were rendered unconscious from a lack of oxygen. Dan McNolty (the father) died.

Precious Time documents Cody's story, a story of confined space rescue that goes tragically wrong.  Precious Time was created to raise awareness among employers and workers about the importance of adequate health and safety training, and safe work procedures for entering confined spaces.



A coroner's investigation showed that rust depleted the oxygen inside the compartment and left the air unfit to breathe. Daniel McNolty, 45, the last worker pulled from the Apex No. 1's hold, died at the scene. Four other workers who went down, one by one, to rescue those who had gone before, also passed out but survived. McNolty was one of a crew of six who were refurbishing the 23-year-old barge, said Fraser Lake RCMP Sergeant Rod Holland, who worked on the case. The vessel, which had been in storage since 1991, was being leased by the ministry of forests to transport logging trucks to clear beetle-infested timber, according to a B.C. coroner's report. "He was welding on some rails along the edge so the trucks would stay on the barge," Holland said. "He decided to go down and check out what was going on below the deck." To that end, according to the report by coroner Ronda Kingsley, McNolty opened three of the barge's hatches and climbed down to look for "cracks in the hull integrity." He was gone at least 15 minutes before anyone noticed he was missing, the report says. The compartment into which McNolty had descended had been sealed for about three years, since a 1998 inspection, according to Kingsley's report, and it was the only one of nine hull compartments whose hatch had no ventilation holes. The interior of the compartment was rusty, Kingsley noted, and there was standing water inside. "The chemical process of oxidation or rusting uses up oxygen, thereby creating an oxygen-poor atmosphere," she wrote. According to Workers' Compensation Board findings included in the report, the air in the Apex No. 1's other eight compartments contained 20.9-per-cent oxygen, which is in the normal range for the Earth's atmosphere. The sealed compartment's air was between 15.7 and 16.4 percent oxygen - low enough that it can't support human life for long. "[McNolty's] son was working nearby and I guess he went to look for his dad," Holland said. "And then another guy went down, and another went down... . You can't see anything wrong, you can't smell anything wrong." Each of them, he said, made it only to the bottom of a two-metre ladder before collapsing. "The last guy on the crew, he realized that everyone was down and out and called for help," Holland said. "It's a good thing he did." Holland said as far as he can remember, none of the workers used safety equipment - air tanks or ropes, for instance - when descending the ladder. "I think they had it back at the camp, not on the site," Holland said, and speculated that might have been because nobody was supposed to be clambering around inside the Apex No. 1 that day. Kingsley's report doesn't mention any safety equipment at all. The coroner said the report she wrote is intended to be the final statement on the matter, so she couldn't add much to it. "It's not our job to find fault," she said. "Maybe you can read between the lines." The Workers' Compensation Board, however, found that the workers should have been better educated about the danger lurking in the Apex No. 1's hold, and that there should have been rescue equipment available and pre-arranged procedures for getting injured people out.  SAFTENG MEMBERs can CLICK HERE to see the orginal Incident Alert from 2001

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