Many workplaces include confined spaces, which are spacious enough for workers to enter and complete specific tasks. However, these spaces may not be built for humans as their primary purpose.
A confined space may have restricted or limited exit and entry points. Thus, these spaces tend not to be meant for continuous occupancy. Some examples of such areas include vaults, pipelines, tunnels, and ducting.
Now let’s look into why we deem confined spaces as workplace hazards.
Workplace Hazards in Confined Spaces
Are confined spaces dangerous? What are the risks of confined spaces?
Working in confined spaces is hazardous due to the dangers of toxic gases, the possibility of fire, and low oxygen levels. Also, flooding and drowning are possibilities we should be aware of in such spaces. Workers can also suffer from asphyxiation due to other causes such as grain, dust, or another pollutant.
When analyzing the dangers of a confined space, you should check for:
- Explosive or flammable atmospheres
- Harmful fumes, gases, or vapors
- Increasing liquid levels
- Excessive oxygen levels
- Potential for oxygen levels reducing
- High temperatures
All these hazards are enough for any employer to worry about in various standard-size work environments. However, in confined spaces with limited access, the threats we mentioned need serious consideration.
What You Need to Consider
You should avoid performing work in confined spaces whenever feasible. If this isn’t doable, you’ll need to analyze the hazards of the restricted place in question and devise a strategy for dealing with them.
Now we’ll summarize some actions that you could take to lessen the hazards within your particular confined space. Here are some example scenarios:
- If there are toxic vapors in a confined space, you should think about ventilating or eliminating them.
- If there is a danger of gases or liquids flowing in, check to see if you can shut and seal the valves.
- If someone enters restricted areas with insufficient oxygen to breathe, you must provide breathing gear or ventilate the space to improve oxygen levels.
You also need to consider emergy situations in case they might occur. For instance, if a worker enters a confined space, how will they know if the fumes are dangerous? Also, how would you get the worker out if the fumes were too intense?
It’s worth conducting a what is job hazard analysis. This way, you not only understand the hazards of the space but the job role too.
Enforcement and Standards
Specific Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules for maritime, construction, and general industry address confined spaces. OSHA defines a confined space as a permit-required confined space or permit space if it meets specific criteria.
The space will be permit-required if it meets one or more of these conditions:
- The space contains a dangerous atmosphere or has the potential to possess one
- The space includes a substance that has the capability of engulfing someone within
- The space has walls shaped in a way that could asphyxiate or trap the entrant
- The space contains things such as exposed live wires, unguarded machinery, or heat stress.
To be sure about all the rules and regulations on this topic, be sure to check out the OSHA website.
Learn About Confined Spaces
If you are an employer that has confined spaces, it’s crucial to understand your responsibilities. Whether you or someone else is entering a confined space, you should carry out a full assessment. Also, learn the standards that OSHA has laid out.
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