According to National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, about 2.1 million workers enter permit needed confined spaces, every year. Out of which, 60% of the confined space deaths are unauthorized rescuers. Surprisingly, 29% of the unauthorized rescuers are supervisors.
Working in confined spaces should be approached with caution because, at its very nature, confined spaces can result in various life-threatening injuries and even death to its workers. Since a confined space is substantially enclosed, there are quite a few safety hazards in there.
Before we discuss how to make sure you are working safely in confined spaces, it is important to understand what are the primary safety hazards, you need to be careful about.
1. Hazards of Toxic Environment
At the end of the day, a confined space is a workspace of a toxic atmosphere. There is constant aerosolization of dangerous chemicals which leads to workers facing side effects like impaired judgment, unconsciousness, and even death.
2. Deficiency in oxygen
This goes without saying, but since a confined space is actually enclosed, it is automatically isolated from the atmosphere and air outside. It already has restricted air, plus the metal surfaces inside are absorbing air and chemical reactions are constantly going on. This can take a very bad toll on your oxygen levels, naturally.
3. Enrichment of oxygen
The exact opposite of what we explained above, sometimes there is too much oxygen present inside an enclosed/confined space, which leads to problems like risk of fire and higher chances of explosions.
Now that we know what are the primary problems about confined spaces, we can now formulate guidelines on how to work safely in confined spaces. Below, we have rounded up a list of things you need to consider.
4. Having to Monitor
This is one of the most basic things you do before the work begins and the workers have entered the space. You need to monitor and test the environment present in the space.
You can do so by placing cameras inside. You must ensure that the environment your workers will work in is not immediately fatal, because every confined is fatal, by its very nature. The aim is to know whether it is immediately fatal or not.
Next up, monitoring pre hand helps you decide upon the aptest and right Personal Protective Equipment for your workers, which is equally important for your workers to carry out the task successfully.
5. Making Ventilation Arrangements
To keep the environment worker-friendly and safe, one thing you need to do is to keep the deadly toxins to their bare minimum.
Ventilating confined spaces do that for you, but again, there is a definite procedure and know-how that you need to know before ventilating confined spaces. You are reducing the harm caused to the workers by making it far safer than the environment.
6. Communication is the key
It is not the workers who will be making arrangements but the employers. But at the same time, the workers know exactly what is going on, so they need to communicate the changing dynamic and environment to their employers. This is why communication is so important.
As employers, you need to offer them clear opportunities to speak, and also take action in case of emergencies.
Over to you…
Now that we know what are the risks working in confined spaces come with, and how and what one needs to do to be safe while working in confined spaces, it is also important to know why so many deaths and injuries happen in confined spaces.
The number one reason for so many deaths and injuries from working in confined spaces is the lack of confined space training.
Training for safety in confined spaces is lacking in many companies, which is the root of many problems. Working in confined spaces is not something that can be learned on the job, and so training beforehand is of extreme importance. There needs to be adequate training provided to workers working in confined spaces as well as for rescue procedures.