4 Things to Know About Confined Space Entry

Confined Space EntryStorage tanks, manholes, tunnels — confined spaces pose particular occupational safety risks. By design, confined spaces have limited access points and ventilation, and are not intended for workers to occupy for long periods of time. Not only is there danger of entrapment because the tight quarters affect how workers can enter, exit, and work in these spaces, there’s also the increased risk of serious physical injury from hazards like deadly gases, electrical components, or machinery.

In our experience at Diversified Safety Services, approximately 85 percent of companies working for reputable contractors know the dangers and safety requirements for entering a confined space. But others just aren’t aware and go into confined spaces without proper safety measures. Before sending your workers into a confined space, here’s what you need to do.

Inform employees of any permit-required confined spaces. The term refers to those spaces that meet OSHA’s definition of a confined space and contain health or safety hazards, thereby requiring a permit for entry. If there are permit spaces in the workplace, the employer must inform exposed employees of the existence, location, and danger posed by the spaces, by posting signs and training employees.

Test the atmosphere. The air in a confined space may be hazardous due to low oxygen levels, toxic levels of gases and vapors, or flammable or explosive concentrations of gases, vapors, or dusts. So before any worker enters the space, the air must be tested. Periodic testing is critical to ensure the space is maintained within safe entry conditions. The frequency of testing depends on the nature of the space and the results of the initial testing.

Be aware that some gases and vapors are heavier than air and will settle to the bottom of a confined space, while other gases are lighter than air and will be found around the top of the confined space. For that reason, it is necessary to test all areas of a confined space with proper testing instruments. Depending on the test results, ventilation or respirators may be required before the space is safe to enter.

Isolate energy sources. In a confined space, the close quarters make it hard to maintain a safe distance between workers and sources of hazardous energy, increasing the likelihood of injury. Specific safety procedures to lockout/tagout potentially hazardous equipment are required before entering the space. All electrical circuits must be de-energized and locked, and mechanical equipment must be disconnected. Only employees trained in lockout/tagout procedures should perform these tasks.

Plan rescue procedures in advance. More than half of the workers who die in confined spaces are attempting to rescue other workers. Rescue procedures should be well planned, and rescuers must be trained to follow established emergency procedures and use appropriate equipment and techniques (including lifelines, respirators, and standby persons). Drills on rescue procedures should be conducted regularly. An unplanned rescue, such as when someone instinctively rushes in to help a co-worker, can easily result in multiple fatalities.

There are many aspects of confined-spaces safety: testing, monitoring, ventilation, isolation, protective clothing, and more. But the number-one most important way to keep your workers safe in confined spaces is training.

To find out more or for help training your employees, contact Diversified Safety Services, a full-service occupational safety training and consulting firm, today.

The following two tabs change content below.