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
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
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.