Let’s define the confined spaces and the possible hazards to know how to deal with this issue and what to have in mind while entering them. Any space is large enough so the employee can get in and perform their task, but still limited in terms of entrance and exit can be called a confined space. This is not a regular place where people work daily. This is a place where people perform a specific task and later get out. Examples of confined spaces are vaults, tanks, storage bins, pits, and diked areas, vessels, silos, and other similar places. Some confined spaces require a permit to enter them since they are potentially hazardous, have materials that can engulf, entrap or asphyxiate people whether for their internal configuration or for materials they contain.
Provide proper training for confined spaces
If your employees will have to enter any type of confined space, then it is your legal duty to provide them with the proper confined space training. This is common for construction workers. It is crucial that this training be done adequately because your employees might experience risky situations and their life and health might be at stake if they don’t know the regulations and procedures. Make sure they complete all the levels of training, from beginners to advanced. Pay special attention to rescue operations in case this emerges in the future. Never wait for the accidents to happen, but try to prevent them on time.
Evaluate the workplace
Workplace evaluation is an important step. You need to see which safety equipment will be necessary to enter the place and leave it safely after the task has been completed. The evaluation means you have already had training and it is understood that there is no partial understanding of the procedures involving confined spaces. In case there is still something unclear, you can repeat that part of the training. The employer is the one who evaluates the confined space and they must check if there are any special permits required to enter it. In case that the answer is yes, they must inform the employees by different means. Usually, there are danger signs close to the place.
Entry and exit plan
Like we mentioned, confined spaces are limited when it comes to entry and exit, so these two are focal points of entry and evacuation plans that must exist. There is no improvisation when it comes to this because a clear plan is the only way of doing it safely and not risking someone’s life.
Test the atmosphere
There is special equipment designed to test the presence of different chemicals in the atmosphere and it must be used to see if it’s safe to enter the confined space. These tests must be done by professionals and the results that are obtained must present the numbers below the exposure limits to be considered safe. Basic tests include oxygen levels and combustible and toxic gases but continuous monitoring is the best way to track the atmosphere in the confined space and always be prepared.
It might be redundant to mention that the equipment used when entering the confined space and operating once there has to be fully functional. No equipment failure is allowed since if something goes wrong, it could put someone’s life in danger with possibly fatal consequences. Evaluate the equipment before entering the confined space and see if something needs to be replaced in case it’s not fully functional. Never have a second thought when it comes to this since employees’ safety is the top priority.
Poor lighting is nothing rare when it comes to confined spaces since they are limited in space. This is dangerous if you have to move and finish some tasks. The possibility you fall, trip or stumble upon something is higher since you don’t have proper lighting to see and prevent these accidents. Some additional light sources must be provided in this case, such as lamps or handheld torches.
We mentioned the regular exit plan, but the rescue plan is there when something has already gone awry. Although you can do everything to prevent any accident, something unpredictable can happen and you have to be prepared. The rescue plan will depend on the type of confined space and all the possible scenarios that can happen. It must be elaborated before entering the confined space and it shouldn’t rely on improvisation.
Both employer and employees must take the training for the confined spaces as something utterly serious and important. That way the accident rate can be reduced to a minimum. Good evaluation, equipment, and communication between the workers is crucial as well.
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