Posted on: February 8, 2024
Common Hazards of Confined Space Entry
In certain industries, working in confined spaces is not something that can always be avoided. This can put people in dangerous situations. It's important to be aware of the most common hazards found in confined spaces to reduce workplace injuries. In this post, we'll go over the main hazards associated with confined space work and how to avoid them in order to keep you and your employees safe while on the job.
According to OSHA, a confined space is defined as an area big enough for an employee to enter and carry out their assigned work but has restricted or limited means of entry or exit. Confined spaces are not intended for staff to work inside for extended periods of time or on a regular basis. Some common examples of confined spaces are:
- Underground vaults
Common Hazards of Confined Space Entry
Working in a confined space has the potential to put you in extreme danger if there is an emergency. The risks connected with confined spaces include:
- Toxic Atmosphere - A toxic atmosphere can lead to impaired judgment, unconsciousness, and death due to the presence of hazardous substances in a confined space.
- Oxygen Deficiency - Oxygen can be confined due to gas displacement, biological or chemical reactions, and air absorption onto damp steel surfaces, all of which can result in oxygen lacking a limited space.
- Oxygen Enrichment - Oxygen-rich environments increase the risk of fire and explosion, as some compounds that do not ignite in the air may actively burn or spontaneously combust in an environment with too much oxygen.
- Combustible Atmospheres - Combustible atmospheres, such as flammable liquids or gases or a suspension of combustible dust in air, can increase the risk of fires or explosions in confined spaces.
- Flowing Liquids or Flowing Solids - Flowing liquids or solids into a confined space can result in drowning, asphyxia, burns, and other injuries.
- Extreme Temperatures - Extremely hot temperatures can increase the risk of heat stroke or collapse in confined spaces. Workers should take special precautions before entering equipment like boilers, reaction vessels, and low-temperature systems and allow sufficient cooling time for confined spaces.
In the United States, around 100 workers die every year in confined space accidents. While tragic, most of these accidents could have been prevented if workers had received adequate training.
Inadequate training leads to workers being unable to recognize the hazards that are a normal part of working in confined spaces. The good news is that working in confined spaces can be done safely, provided four basic practices are followed:
According to OSHA, all workers need to be adequately trained in order to perform their duties safely. A high number of confined space accidents and deaths occur each year among would-be rescuers as well as standard employees.
Even if staff will not be working in confined spaces, it is important that they receive training on the hazards of entering a confined place and performing a rescue.
OSHA's confined space regulation requires a risk assessment by a competent person before entering any confined spaces to ensure safe access. This assessment determines if the space is free of any harmful materials and substances and if additional precautionary measures are needed. Employees should be aware of potential hazards before entering confined spaces.
It is critical to continue monitoring the space after entrance since atmospheric conditions can change swiftly. A monitor with an alert capable of notifying employees approaching the confined space is ideal.
Confined-space risks are classified into three types:
- Atmospheric hazards - oxygen deficit, oxygen enrichment, combustible gasses or vapors, and hazardous substances such as carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide.
- Physical hazards - engulfment, falling or tripping, low visibility, noise, extreme cold or heat, biological threats, energy sources, insects, rodents, and reptiles.
- Psychological hazards - claustrophobia, fear of heights or darkness, or the worker's poor physical condition or limitations. Note: there isn't much to be done about psychological dangers other than avoiding putting afflicted workers in situations that cause them trouble.
It is important to identify and remove all potential threats. If complete removal is not possible, there must be a plan in place to control the hazards and protect workers.
Employers and employees in confined environments must plan for emergencies when someone becomes injured, incapacitated, or trapped. OSHA mandates employers provide appropriate rescue and emergency services, ensuring injured or trapped workers can be retrieved as soon as possible.
The rescue plan procedures should be clearly defined and documented, and employees should be thoroughly trained in their roles. Insufficient planning can lead to unsuccessful rescue or recovery.
When it comes to confined-space entry, we recommend that you err on the side of caution. Even minor confined-space emergencies require immediate and competent response. However, if training and execution are insufficient, even a minor emergency could turn into a fatal incident.
That is why we offer courses that comply with OSHA standards and contain all necessary safety information. We have Confined Space Entry Training for Construction and General Industry. Employees who are chosen to work in confined spaces will be trained to:
- Recognize hazards
- Alert attendants about the presence of a hazard
- Wear, store, and use suitable personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Communicate with attendants who are outside the confined space
- Conduct self-rescue methods in emergency situations
Visit OSHA.com to enroll in a confined space training course today!