According to Amerisafe, 1.6 million Americans work in confined spaces each year.
These work spaces are just large enough for an employee to enter and perform the assigned responsibilities. These areas usually have limited exit options.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) uses the words “permit-required confined space” to describe a specific confined space meeting one or more of the following characteristics:
- Hazardous (or potentially hazardous) atmosphere
- Potential to engulf worker
- Walls that converge inward
- Floors that slope downward and taper into an area that could entrap or suffocate entrant
- Contains any other recognized safety/health hazard (i.e. exposed live wires or heat stress)
Those of you a part of that 1.6 million mentioned at the beginning of this blog recognize that working in a confined space is not without risk.
Whether you’re working in a tank, vessel, tunnel or manhole, there are certain things to keep in mind.
Confined Spaces: What to Do
- DO Know the Dangers – Make sure that you are well-informed of the specific risks with each confined space job. There are severe hazards to be aware of such as flooding, drowning, asphyxiation, toxic fumes, flammable air, lack of oxygen, etc. Of course, these things happen under unfortunate circumstances. But, to accept the job, you need to be informed of the risks that could occur.
- DO Ensure Capability – The person doing the job must be capable to complete it regarding health and training. If they are healthy and properly trained in both the work needed and the use of emergency equipment, they are qualified.
- DO Have a Plan – For every risk involved, come up with a plan to control these risks for the specific work space. For example, if there is a confined work space with reduced oxygen levels, make sure that your employer provides a breathing apparatus or has the space ventilated before entering.
Confined Spaces: What NOT to Do
- DON’T Ignore the Hazards – Unfortunately, accidents do happen. Just because a confined space is safe one day doesn’t ensure its safe the following day. It’s imperative to be aware of the risks involved.
- DON’T Enter the Space Until It’s Safe – A confined space needs to be marked safe before a worker enters the work area.
- DON’T Forget about Emergency Arrangements – If someone is working in a confined space, there needs to be a plan in place in order to know if they are safe. And, if they are not safe, how will you get them out of the situation?
Safety is imperative. Many job sites come with dangers or risks to be aware of. Do not take these lightly. Make sure that you are equipped with the proper gear, knowledge and training to complete the job effectively and safely.