The Do’s and Don’ts of Working in Confined Spaces

confined spaces

What is a Confined Space?

A confined work space is just large enough for an employee to enter and perform the assigned responsibilities. These areas usually have limited exit options. Thousands of workers safely perform critical tasks daily in confined spaces.  It’s important to have a full understanding of what this dangerous and crucial job entails. 

How to determine if a workspace is a confined space? 

In order for a work area to be defined as a confined space it must meet all three of the following criteria:

  • Limited Openings for Entry and Exit. 
    • An example would be a tank with a single opening. There is one way in and one way out. 
  • The Space is not Intended for Continuous Human Occupancy. 
    • For example, a tank, chimney, silos or manhole is not intended for a human to spend a continuous amount of time. 
  • The Space is Large Enough for You to Enter and Conduct Work.
    • If you can get in, you can get out. 

What are the risks of working in confined spaces?  

According to Amerisafe, 1.6 million Americans work in confined spaces each year. Individuals who work in confined spaces must be aware of risks involved and know how to prevent them. Potential risks include:

  • Explosions
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Drowning 
  • Asphyxiation 
  • Low oxygen levels

When possible, you should avoid entering or working in a confined space altogether. If entry is unavoidable, you must follow proper safety measures. 

What does OSHA say about Working in a Confined Space?

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. 
  • 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 confined workspace. 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 it’s safe the following day. It’s imperative to be aware of the risks involved.
  • DON’T Enter the Space Until It’s Safe – Avoid rushing to complete a job before you can ensure safety. 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.

If you are a confined space attendant looking for ongoing work opportunities in the United States, view our job board here and apply today! If you are an employer looking for quality safety professionals for your next job, learn more about our process here.

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