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The Dangers of Confined Spaces and How to Stay Safe

Working in confined spaces poses serious and potentially fatal hazards that all employers need to address. A confined space has limited openings for entry and exit, unfavorable natural ventilation that could contain or produce dangerous air contaminants and is not designated for continuous employee occupancy. Examples include storage tanks, open-topped pits, ductwork, silos and more.

Dangers of Confined Spaces

The risks of working in confined spaces include:

  • Asphyxiation from lack of oxygen

  • Inhalation of toxic gases and dusts

  • Drowning in liquids and solids

  • Fire and explosions

  • Heat stress

Employer Responsibilities

Employers must:

  • Assess risks of all work activities, including in confined spaces

  • Avoid entry into confined spaces when possible

  • Implement a safe system of work if entry is required

  • Develop emergency rescue procedures

Creating a Safe System

If entry is unavoidable, key elements for a safe system include:

  • Appointing a trained supervisor

  • Ensuring competent, fit workers

  • Isolating equipment

  • Cleaning and ventilating the space

  • Testing and monitoring the air quality

  • Using appropriate equipment and PPE

  • Establishing emergency and rescue plans

A permit-to-work system should be used to check all precautions are in place before anyone enters the space.

Additionally, workers must be properly trained and drilled on the hazards and emergency procedures.

Following these precautions is essential for preventing serious injury and death when the nature of the work demands confined space entry.


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