Confined Spaces (Internal Link)
A confined space is an area with a small opening that is large enough for someone to enter, and work. See Figure 1. The size and shape of the space can make it hard to move around or work in for a long time. Examples of confined spaces include:
Hazards of confined spaces
The air can be unsafe (hazardous atmosphere) for a number or reasons.
Other hazards of confined space work include:
Protecting workers from the hazards of confined spaces
The following actions are needed to protect workers from the hazards that can be present in confined spaces:
1. Train workers and supervisors about the hazards of confined spaces and how to protect workers.
2. Fill out an entry permit.
Permits should be filled out before a worker enters a confined space and should contain the following information:
3. Test the air for hazards BEFORE ENTERING!
|The device used to measure the air, the monitor, should be operated from outside the confined space. See Figure 2. The area must first be tested for oxygen. The air must have between 19.5 and 23.5 percent oxygen.
The monitor should be able to reach the lowest point in the space. Some gases, like hydrogen sulfide, are heavier than air and sink to the bottom. Other gases, like methane, are lighter than air and rise to the top. Samples need to be taken from the bottom, middle and top levels.
4. Ventilate the area BEFORE ENTERING!
Ventilation is needed if the monitor shows there is not enough oxygen or if it contains toxic gases. Air that is safe to breathe is forced into the confined space. The air must be monitored again to make sure the ventilation has gotten rid of the hazards in the air.
5. Use the right protective equipment.
The type of protective equipment needed depends on the hazards that are present. Equipment that is commonly used for confined space work includes:
|6. Be ready to make a rescue WITHOUT HAVING TO ENTER THE AREA!|
Too often, workers die in confined spaces while trying to rescue a co-worker. Employees must be trained in rescue procedures. Be prepared to make a “non-entry” rescue in case of an emergency. A rescue can be made without having to enter the space by using tripods, winches and other types of retrieval systems. See Figure 3.
Laws to protect workers in confined spaces
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation to protect workers from the hazards of working in confined spaces is 29 CFR 1910.146. The rule requires the employer to: