Know The Dangers of Confined Spaces
Confined spaces can be found in many workplace settings. These can include storage bins, pits, boilers, tunnels, tanks, and many other locations. In order for a work area to be considered a confined space, it must meet ALL three of the following criteria:
Limited Openings for Entry and Exit. A confined space may be difficult to enter and perform repair work, or general maintenance. If something goes wrong while you are inside a confined space, escape/rescue may be difficult. Just because a work area has more than one way of escape, does not necessarily mean it is not a confined space. If the space has limited ways to get in and out, it could be a confined space. An open top tank would have limited openings for entry and exit.
- The Space is not Intended for Continuous Human Occupancy. This means that the space was designed to hold something other than people. Examples include tanks and manholes.
- The Space is Large Enough for You to Enter and Conduct Work. If you cannot fit your body into the space, you cannot become trapped inside.
When talking about confined spaces, there are two main types: Permit Required and Non-Permit Required. A permit is simply a written checklist that is completed before someone enters a confined space. This permit asks questions such as:
- What is the purpose of entry?
- How much time will be spent working inside the confined space?
- Who are the people authorized to enter the space?
- Who will be the attendant that stays outside the confined space?
- What are the atmospheric conditions in the confined space?
- What are the methods of communication between people inside the confined space and people outside the space?
- What kinds of equipment are being provided and used for safe entry?
- Are there any additional safety checklists that need to be completed, such as welding or burning permits?
- How have you eliminated the hazards before you enter the confined space (lockout/tagout, forced air ventilation, etc.)?
Non-permit required confined spaces are areas that do not contain hazards that could cause death or serious harm. This could include equipment closets, crawl spaces, tool rooms, and storage containers. A permit-required confined space is a space that has one or more of the following characteristics:
- It contains, or could contain a hazardous atmosphere. An example would be a gasoline storage tank that has just been emptied, or a sewer manhole.
- It contains a material that could engulf the person entering into the space. An example would be a grain silo.
- It has an inwardly converging wall or a floor that slopes downward and tapers to a small cross section. An example would be a large hopper that slopes to an auger that removes sawdust.
- It contains any other recognized serious safety hazard. An example would be electrocution or moving equipment.
For either type of confined space, training and proper documentation is a necessity. Take the time now to ensure your employees understand your company's policies and procedures, as well as the dangers associated with confined spaces.
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