It’s emerged that two workers were accidentally entombed in the ballast tank of a nuclear submarine.
According to a BBC investigation, colleagues mistakenly sealed the tank in preparation for an air tightness test – with two electricians still inside, who had been checking sonar gear.
The incident took place last December at HMNB Devonport base, Plymouth, where Britain’s nuclear submarines are refitted by contractor Babcock International, with a report saying the submarine was in dry dock at the time.
The workers thankfully managed to escape after getting one bar of phone signal, having climbed to the upper reaches of the tank. The report said:
“In an attempt to raise the alarm they used the only thing they had to hand – a battery powered drill to hammer against the tank boundary but to no avail.
“There was no-one in the dock bottom to hear them.”
The men were eventually freed “shaken but unhurt”, 20 minutes after the beginning of the ordeal. The Unite union said:
“We feel for the men involved and what they had to go through because it must have been an extremely unpleasant situation.”
“The incident was actually caused by poor management and poor communication.
“We are disappointed it was not in line with Babcock’s normal standards.”
Babcock, meanwhile, said it was “continually focused on delivering and maintaining the highest standards of safety procedures and practices”.
It said an internal investigation has been carried out and “changes to work control arrangements have been made”.