Good Morning Team,
This week’s topic on Confined Spaces is one that can be somewhat complex with a lot of information to consider. I am going to try to keep it as simple and short as possible and provide a broad overview here, but as with all safety related concerns, it does need to be addressed. Some of our properties may have places that are, or could be classified, as confined spaces and though we may have actually been working in these areas for years with no issues at all, for us to be truly safe we must all understand the risks involved when we do. The first step then becomes how to determine if an area on our property is considered a confined space. The answer for this is actually pretty straight forward and we’ll take our definition directly from OSHA.
OSHA classifies a confined space as having these three qualities:
Did you immediately think of a place on your property that fits these three qualities? Here are just a few examples you may, or may not have thought of:
But wait you say, we’ve never had any issues working in these areas before so why are they so dangerous now? Unfortunately, no matter how familiar employees may be with those spaces there are always risks. Consider for just a moment how an employee, should they become injured in one of them, might get back out and you’ll begin to understand the issue. We have to be very sure that all understand the risks before that employee does enter the space and that action plans exist to deal with any emergency that might arise. And once a confined space has been identified then there are additional concerns to consider. It’s the possible hazards those confined spaces might have within them that can quickly turn them deadly. The following are some hazards a confined space might have and remember that multiple hazards can exist at the same time.
|Too Much or Too Little Oxygen Hazards||Toxic Atmosphere Hazards||Flammable and Explosive Hazards||Engulfment Hazards||Configuration Hazards||Energy Hazards||Slip and Fall Hazards|
NOTE: If any of these could exist within a confined space on your property, OSHA considers it then to be a permit-required confined space. Do not enter these areas without appropriate equipment and employee training!
I’ll provide some further details on all of them in later emails, but of the above, not having enough oxygen to breathe, or asphyxiation injures or kills more workers yearly than all the rest. Whenever there is too much, or too little oxygen or when toxic or poisonous substances are present, the atmosphere is considered asphyxiating. Such conditions are not only dangerous to the employee entering the space, but to any would-be rescuers as well. In fact, more than 60% of confined space deaths happen to rescuers. In a very recent news story from India, a single individual collapsed and became non-responsive while working in a septic tank, one after another, 6 others entered attempting rescue. Unfortunately, they also became unconscious, with all 7 dying, before properly trained and equipped emergency personnel could rescue them. A 100% preventable tragedy.
As I stated in the beginning, this topic can cover a lot of ground and we will in upcoming emails, but let’s get started today by making a list of those areas on our properties that meet the definition of a confined space as specified by OSHA. Once identified, action plans can be developed to deal with any emergency that might arise. Making sure that those working on the property have access to this information and that appropriate training is provided for these situations would then be the next step. It is only then that we can be sure that we have done all that we can to make our workplaces as safe as possible and ensure that we all get to go back home at the end of the workday. I want to reiterate that if you do have a confined space on your property and any of the possible hazards listed above might be within, then do not, under any circumstances, allow anyone to enter that area that is not properly trained and has the equipment necessary to do so. Always act with your own safety, as well as that of others, in mind.
Have a great week and stay safe!
Director of Facilities Services