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Confined spaces are a part of nearly every industry. And, due to their nature, workers entering confined spaces must exercise a high degree of caution and take extra steps to ensure their safety.
According to OSHA, approximately 2.1 million workers enter confined spaces annually. They also estimate that if employers fully comply with confined space safety standards, 53 worker deaths, 5,000 lost-day cases, and 5,700 other accidents can be avoided each year.
Unfortunately, most confined space injuries and fatalities are due to employers and employees failing to recognize hazards before they happen or not taking the necessary precautions when working in confined spaces themselves.
To help prevent confined space accidents, here are 8 steps you can take to ensure your safety.
Educate yourself about confined spaces and their potential hazards before entering one.
OSHA defines a confined space as an area with special features such as size, limited entry, and exit points, or design that is not meant to be occupied for long periods. Examples include tanks, storage bins, vaults, furnaces, or underground areas which become permit-required if they present any recognized serious hazard.
Tasks in these spaces can range from cleaning to scraping to maintenance. Employers must test confined spaces to determine if they’re hazardous. This is because failing to identify hazards and take precautions causes thousands of serious injuries, sometimes even deaths in these types of areas.
Certain hazards create permit-required confined spaces, which means OSHA allows work only with written permits after the space has been examined for specific risks such as air contamination or oxygen deprivation.
Learn about self-rescue, non-entry rescue, and entry rescue.
When people go into a small space, they might be injured or die. A self-rescue plan is a good way to escape from dangerous spaces and get out quickly.
If you cannot self-rescue, then you should do non-entry rescue. If someone is endangered, the worker’s equipment and other aids can be used to help them escape. But if this plan does not work, then people need to do entry rescue instead.
Entry rescue is when people go into the space and get the person who has gone in and also help them if they need it. Before you do an entry rescue, have a plan. The plan is for emergencies that are not just about going in to get the person.
Studies show that rescuers are a large part of confined space fatalities. It’s important to have an emergency plan before entering and make sure all personnel is trained on the rescue procedures for this type of environment.
Do not send untrained workers into dangerous environments, as they could put themselves in danger or worse – get hurt trying to save another person trapped inside with them!
Always perform hazard control.
The hazards in a confined space can be eliminated or reduced with the right control measure. Before entry, you must make sure that there are acceptable conditions for work to happen (e.g., no toxic levels of gases). A toxic atmosphere can be prevented by using less toxic products and keeping containers closed.
Hazard control programs are an essential part to protect workers from the exposure of harmful substances and systems. For a hazard program to be successful, it must outline which methods will be used in controlling the hazardous substance or system as well as how these controls can then effectively monitor worker exposure and health over time.
For example, we carry tools that are safe to use in confined spaces that may be explosion-hazardous. It is of the utmost importance that you use tools that will not produce sparks that could cause an ignition.
Sometimes when it is not possible to control the hazard. In these cases, you should consult with occupational health professionals such as an occupational hygienist or safety professional about what best practice would be in that situation.
Go through the four ways to control hazards.
There are many ways to control a hazard.
One way is by elimination, which includes removing the hazardous material or machine altogether from your workplace and substituting it with something less dangerous.
This may not be an option for some jobs so engineering controls can also work such as redesigning plants, equipment, ventilation systems, and processes that reduce exposure sources of hazards in the first place rather than trying to remove them later on when they have already been introduced into your environment. These can still exist within specific areas of concern like machinery or plant design itself.
Administrative controls should always be considered too. This could include changing how you do things at certain times during work hours (such as timing) policies/rules set out across different levels including management level down through to the workers themselves.
Lastly, personal protective equipment is essential to confined space safety. The equipment may not always be appropriate for the confined space hazard and so you should consult with an occupational health professional to find out what kind of gear would work best in that specific situation.
Understand how workplace factors can affect confined spaces risks.
Workplace risk management is a process that provides ways to identify, measure, and control risks. The confined spaces risk factors that should be taken into consideration include confined space hazards (e.g., oxygen deficiency) as well as other workplace-related or human factors such as confined space work practices and the physical environment in which these types of activities are taking place.
The emergency arrangements shall include all practical measures necessary to ensure the health and safety of those taking part in rescue work. The provision of a suitable, reliable means for raising alarm should an emergency arise.
This includes all equipment needed nearby and well maintained at all times so that rescuers are properly prepared no matter when or where they go on duty. It is also important to provide training for resuscitation procedures – as there may be foreseeable risks that could lead to needing these skills one day down the road.
Maintenance is key and life-saving
Damaged equipment can put workers in harm’s way. Make sure to inspect it regularly and replace any damaged parts if necessary.
Damaged machinery may not operate effectively and could put them in danger, so inspectors recommend checking it regularly for any issues that might arise while being used by others. Make an honest assessment of the condition of your work tools even if you have to delay or replace them – this will help keep everyone around safer from injury!
Companies should have clear policies outlining who can perform which tasks to maintain safety standards. Remember the three levels of maintenance:
- Wearer or user maintenance that needs no tools or only a few common ones
- Maintenance by the shop, which can only be done by the maintenance shop the employer decided to hire
- Specialized maintenance is only done by a factory o a person that is authorized by it
Flammable or explosive atmospheres
Flammable atmospheres can lead to fires and explosions. This is when there is flammable liquid or gas, or a suspension of combustible dust in the air. When these things happen, it can be really dangerous because there will be hot gases and the destruction of the building.
Explosions are a deadly force that can cause significant damage to the environment. Preventing releases of dangerous substances and preventing sources of ignition is an important way to protect life and property from explosions, but there’s no surefire measure for prevention.
That’s why it’s crucial not only to wear safety equipment when handling hazardous materials to minimize risk but also to maintain awareness around your surroundings so you don’t accidentally find yourself next-in-line at ground zero!
Take care of lighting
How do you ensure that artificial lighting does not pose a hazard at construction sites or in confined spaces? The answer is to use the right kind of light. Workplace lighting is pivotal for various reasons: to make visual work easier; increase production rates; provide security, promote health & wellbeing among workers with better environmental conditions.
The way you light things in your workplace is important for people to see. If the lights are too bright, then it can make it hard to see. It can also make hazards like falls more common. But if the lights are too dim, then workers might not be able to do their jobs correctly while staying safe. You need to have good lighting so people can work well and stay safe.