in Confined Spaces
Many, or perhaps even most, workplaces have something on the
premises that would be correctly termed a "confined space."
OSHA's definition is a space that is large enough and configured
in such a way that a person can enter and perform work inside,
but has limited or restricted means of entry/exit, and is
not designed for continuous occupancy.
Some examples are storage tanks, pits,
silos, vats, degreasers, boilers, ventilation and exhaust
ducts, sewers, tunnels, underground utility vaults, wells,
shafts, and deep trenches.
spaces can be dangerous places to work in because:
- The ventilation
is likely to be poor, and dangerous levels of air contamination
or oxygen deficiency can occur. Or the atmosphere may be
- Stored products
may shift and be unstable.
There may be physical barriers to
movement-and it can be difficult to get into or to remove
an injured worker from the space because of the size or location
of entrances and exits.
Employers whose operations may require
having workers enter such potentially dangerous spaces are
required by OSHA to have a written program and procedure that
provide proper protection including:
entry without a permit approved by the supervisor and protecting
and posting the openings to bar unauthorized entry
- Testing the
atmosphere before entry for oxygen content and for any flammable
gases and vapors or toxic air contaminants and then purging
the atmosphere of hazardous elements
- Providing appropriate
ventilating, lighting, and personal protective equipment
for the entrant
- Having at least
one attendant on standby outside the space in continuous
communication with the worker inside, wearing protective
equipment, and equipped with a lifeline or harness in case
a rescue is needed.
- Arranging necessary
rescue equipment, personnel, and procedures.
- Training all
workers that will be involved in any of these activities.
Workers themselves must share the
responsibility for their safety when work in a confined space
is required. Primarily, this involves never entering such
a space without the proper permit and without knowledge that
the necessary atmospheric testing has been performed and has
indicated that air inside is safe to breathe with respiratory
equipment if necessary. In addition, you should never enter
a confined space if you are on medication or are feeling ill.
It is also important to realize that
conditions inside the space can change, sometimes very suddenly.
Be alert to possible changes and be ready to leave the space
immediately if you begin to feel any fatigue, dizziness, or
nausea. Keep in regular touch with your standby attendant
and do not hesitate to call for assistance if you need to
leave the space but are having any difficulty doing so.
If you are assigned as a standby,
maintain continuing contact with your buddy inside and be
ready to provide assistance. This does not mean entering the
space yourself unless you have been specifically equipped
for such rescue procedure. A large percentage of confined
space fatalities have been would-be rescuers who succumbed
to the same hazard that overtook the original entrant.
Although there can be many potential
risks in confined space work, proper preparation, monitoring,
equipment, and training can overcome them and keep workers
safe. That is our purpose and with your cooperation it will