National Safety Month: Preparing for Confined Space Work
Safety is at the core of every project that the Spec Engineering team works on. Regardless of the project scope or location, safety practices guide our team to ensure each and every person goes home safely at night. As the month of June welcomes National Safety Month, it is an appropriate time to reflect on some key trainings that can be applied across a variety of industries – as well as in your personal life.
Confined space work can be much more dangerous than initially thought of. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines confined spaces as spaces that are not designed for continuous occupancy. If there was an emergency, it would be difficult to exit the space quickly to avoid harm. These areas are large enough for an employee to enter, have limited means of entry/exit, and are not designed for continuous occupancy.
In the markets that Spec serves, many customers have tanks, vessels, or mixers that need to be cleaned out or serviced. Sometimes the only way to have a thorough cleaning or inspection is to have an employee get inside the confined space. Outside of the construction industry, you can probably think of a few spaces around your house that could qualify as a confined space – potentially a crawl space in your basement or underneath a deck outside. It is important to understand how to properly enter confined spaces to avoid any potential harm.
Employees are often unaware or uneducated of the potential hazard of asphyxiation, being deprived of oxygen in the space. Without being properly equipped, workers may not be able to manage changing situations within the confined space – and seconds count! It is reported that untrained rescuers/workers account for 60% of annual confined space related deaths. The importance of training is critical to avoid injuries and deaths especially when a confined space can change into a permit required due to the type of work being done.
According to HASpod, there are seven hazards to consider. When one of these is present, there is a Permit Required Confined Space (PRCS).
- Lack of Oxygen
- Gases, Fumes, and Vapors
- Fire and Explosions
- Access Restrictions
A well-defined confined space program will be written, defining responsibility, accountability, and assigned duties. This program will also have contingency plans in case the confined space becomes dangerous for the worker. Confined space personnel incorporates more than the person entering the space; this also includes an authorized attendant along with an entry supervisor.
Whether you regularly work in confined spaces or encounter them occasionally in your personal life, it is important to be knowledgeable about the potential dangers and have a plan in place should you have to enter a confined space. With proper training, you will be better suited to assess the situation and make any necessary changes should danger occur.
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