A confined space refers to an area wherein it’s large enough for a person to enter with a restricted or limited entrance or exit and it’s not designed to be inhabited by humans. As contrary to popular belief, confined spaces are not necessarily small.
Vats, silos, sewers, pipes, hoppers, tanks, boilers, utility vaults, access shafts, water supply towers, aircraft wings, pump stations, manure pits, storage bins, and manholes are just some examples of confined spaces. As an employer, it’s your responsibility to ensure that your employees get the proper training for safety, minimizing accident, and mortality associated with working with confined spaces.
Below are the benefits of confined space training for your employees:
Provides Specific-industry Training
Generally, anyone who works or enters in confined spaces should know how to identify hazards and implement risk control measures before entering these spaces. Also, people who issue permits for confined space entry and design confined space workplaces are expected to undergo specific-industry confined space training to enhance their knowledge and skills.
Here are examples of specific industries needing confined space training:
- Construction:Construction workers also work in drainage pipes, crawl spaces, and trenches, which are considered confined spaces.
- Mining:The mining industry is considered one of the top industries working in confined spaces.
- Manufacturing:The manufacturing industry involves working with various harmful chemicals and substances, like sealants, volatile products, and plastics in confined spaces.
- Food and Beverage:From time to time, even employees in this industry are required to do tasks in partially enclosed or totally enclosed areas.
Helps Employees Use Specialized Equipment
If you require your employees to perform tasks in confined spaces, it’s crucial to send them on an effective confined space training course, such as Confined Space Training: First Response Trainers.
As defined, confined spaces have limited spaces around entry and exit points. Working in confined spaces creates a higher risk of accident. That’s why your employees should learn new skills, most especially in operating a specialist equipment
All employees should be fitted with safety gear and equipment, like high-visibility clothing, helmets, and headlights or torches. Your employees should also know how to use probes to test the environment within a confined space properly. Because confined spaces have poor ventilation, dangerous gases can easily build-up, and oxygen levels are low. Confined space training will also teach your employees to use a breathing apparatus when working in a confined space.
Thus, confined space training helps employees in handling various machines or equipment to ensure safety, including the following:
- Oxygen Monitors:Before entering any confined space, air monitoring should be carried out. Testing for atmospheric hazards is done remotely, prioritizing testing the area’s oxygen level. After oxygen, you need to test the confined space for the presence of combustible gases.
Also, the presence of toxic gases should be below the permissible exposure limit of OSHA. Your employees will learn how to use oxygen monitors in a confined space training.
- Lighting Equipment:Additional lighting should be provided if natural light is insufficient when working in a confined space. In damp conditions, lighting should not exceed 12 volts with an equipped ground fault circuit interrupter.
On the other hand, a 24-volt light is used in a confined space to help reduce electrical shock impact. Installing higher voltage tend to create a more fatal incident. The impact will depend on the type of environment, like metal or wet surfaces.
- Specialist Ladders:Fiberglass confined space ladders are recommended for anyone who needs easy access to awkward areas where a traditional step ladder won’t fit. This type of specialist ladder is non-conductive up to 30,000 volts.
Confined space training will train your employees to use fiberglass confined space ladders for optimum safety when they need to use it when climbing or going down.
- Ventilation Fans:Hazardous conditions develop when your employees work in tightly confined spaces because of poor airflow and ventilation. Confined space training will teach your employees how to carefully place confined space ventilators and blowers in or around enclosed or confined areas. In that way, you can create a safer work environment for your employees and contractors.
Provides Emergency Awareness
If your employees don’t have the proper training, they won’t know the clear signs of emergencies in confined spaces. Oxygen levels of 19.5 percent or less may cause rapid heart rate, rapid breathing, clumsiness, fatigue, and emotional upset. As oxygen further decreases, nausea and vomiting, dizziness, collapse, seizures or convulsions, and coma occur, and eventually cause death.
In just a few minutes, unconsciousness or death may occur following exposure to carbon dioxide, nitrogen, argon, or other asphyxiants. If your employees are trained, they’ll know how to assess themselves and their colleagues if they have very low oxygen levels and the actionable steps they need to do.
Here are the things confined space training can teach your employees:
- Learn how to recognize potential hazards in restricted or confined spaces.
- Implementation of risk control measures.
- Choose, utilize, test, store, and fit personal protective equipment (PPE).
- Learn about a confined space entry permit.
- Emergency procedures.
Recognize Potential Hazards
Confined space training educates your employees about potential hazards found in confined spaces. In that way, they’ll be able to take the necessary safety measures to avoid an accident.
Here are some examples of potential hazards in confined spaces:
- Lack of Oxygen:In a confined space, oxygen is removed via naturally occurring reactions. For instance, reactions between oxygen and certain soils. Chalk or limestone and groundwater tend to produce carbon dioxide that displaces oxygen. Lack of oxygen may also be a result of rust formation inside tanks.
- Vapors, Gases, and Fumes:In places where proper ventilation is lacking, such as confined spaces, fumes and poisonous gases can easily build up. Gases can easily leak when a gas pipe leaks or from contaminated land in confined spaces. Also, paint fumes, welding, and adhesives can create a harmful or toxic atmosphere that can harm your employees.
- Flooding:If your employees are not properly trained to handle flooding, they can get trapped inside confined spaces or buried. Liquids can flood confined spaces quickly, particularly in sewer or drainage work, which can trap and potentially drown those within. Also, solids can flood confined spaces, such as in trench collapses. Flooding can happen in seconds, which leave workers no time to escape.
- Fire and Explosions:Liquids, flammable vapors, dust, and gases can increase the risks of fire and explosions. It increases further in areas with tools that spark are used or where hot works are performed within confined spaces.
- Dust:In confined spaces, dust can also buildup due to activities carried out, such as grinding and drilling. Dust can cause respiratory problems. Also, it increases risks of fire and explosion, especially if the area lacks proper ventilation.
- Oxygen:Too high oxygen levels are also dangerous, which may lead to fire and explosions.
- Temperature:In construction work, hot conditions may lead to increased body temperature, which is a major problem in confined spaces, leading to collapse, exhaustion, and heatstroke.
- Access Restrictions:Because confined spaces are difficult to access, escaping will be difficult, since it also restricts access to emergency rescue. When your employees are inside confined spaces, remember that there’s no easy way out. That’s why proper training is important to know what they need to do in such situations.
- Others:The other potential hazards in confined spaces include solids or liquids stored within confined spaces, moving equipment parts and despots or sludge build up.
Proper Formulation of Policy
Formulation of confined space policy is crucial in every company, most especially if your employees always need to work in confined spaces. By letting your employees (both forefront and management staff) undergo confined space training, you can create better-confined space policy or update your existing policy to ensure safety.
Here are some details included in a confined space policy:
- Confined space entry permit should be completed by supervisors. Supervisors should define all possible hazards. For a safe entry and exit, employees should review specific entry permit prior to entering confined spaces.
- Openings, like manholes, should be temporarily covered, guarded by railings, or other forms of effective barriers to prevent accidental slips or falls. These safety barriers protect your employees who are performing their duties in confined spaces.
- All workers who are entering a permit-required confined space should wear protective gear or full-body harness while working in the confined space. Also, the harness should be hooked to a reliable retrieval line, which leads to a tripod system.
- Isolate all hazardous energy sources related to confined spaces, possibly exposing the entrants to injury.
- Activities like welding, spark-producing cutting, or soldering make the atmosphere hazardous. That’s why a generator or vehicle exhaust should be drawn into confined spaces, depending on the proximity to the opening.
- Forced air ventilation should be provided in confined spaces based on the monitoring, the nature or type of work, or comfort level. The forced air should be clean and should be continuously provided until work is finished.
- Always keep a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for chemical products used in entering a confined space. Using volatile chemicals, like PVC cement or products containing solvents, can quickly change the atmospheric conditions in confined spaces, which creates a dangerous environment.
Prepares Employees to a Higher Level Position
As a company, you need to assign higher level positions to qualified employees. When it comes to assigning supervisors and entry attendants in confined spaces, you should ensure that the employees you’ll choose have undergone the necessary confined space training.
Authorized entrants should receive the necessary confined space training and authorized by the supervisor to enter a confined space. Also, all authorized entrants should wear and use personal protective gear, entry supplies, tools, and equipment. With confined space training, all entrants will be equipped with the right knowledge, skills, and discipline working in confined spaces.
On the other hand, entry attendants should not perform activities that can interfere with the monitoring and protection of authorized entrants. All communication modes should be maintained to monitor the status of the entrants, alerting entrants of any changes in the condition, or if evacuation is needed. Entry attendants should also perform to initiate the confined space rescue process providing relevant information needed to facilitate a rescue.
For startup companies, you would eventually need to assign team leaders or supervisors to handle or supervise confined space responsibilities. An entry supervisor coordinates all permits, monitoring, and equipment, and overall entry procedure.
Here are the responsibilities of an entry supervisor:
- Ensures that all employees involved in the confined space job are physically fit and receive the proper training to properly perform the tasks.
- Evaluates possible hazards during entry with in-depth knowledge and skills in determining the mode, the signs and symptoms, and exposure consequences.
- Confirm that all specified tests by the confined space permit have been carried out and all equipment and procedures are in place before the permit is signed and allow the start of entry of personnel in confined spaces.
- Assign entry roles and responsibilities to all workers before entering a confined space.
- Terminate the entry when the entry is finished or cancel the permit as needed.
- Ensures the availability of rescue services.
- Prevent unauthorized access in confined spaces.
- Verifies the barricade system’s effectiveness around any openings.
Confined space training is necessary, so your employees will be able to recognize and deal with potential hazards posed by confined spaces. A professional training and education business can help you in ensuring that your employees are properly equipped with the right knowledge and skills to perform work in confined spaces.
Also, it’ll help you choose the right people to be assigned to higher level positions, like supervisors and entry attendants. Prioritize the safety of your employees to also establish a good reputation for your business by complying with confined spaces safety standards.