October 15, 2014

Confined Space Safety

This year, a company in California was fined $82,090 by OSHA, for an accident in a confined tank space. The accident, a flash fire inside of a metal tank, resulted in serious burns to an industrial painter. Fortunately, the employee was rescued but spent three days in a burn unit. OSHA’s investigation found that the company did not meet the requirements for working in a confined space. Read article here.

What is a confined space? A confined space is a space that is not necessarily designed for people and has a restricted entrance or exit due to its location, size or means. While the space is large enough for a worker(s) to enter and perform a certain task, the space is not large enough for continuous occupancy. According to OSHA’s website, “Confined spaces include, but are not limited to, tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, hoppers, vaults, pits, manholes, tunnels, equipment housing, ductwork, pipelines, etc.”

The term, “permit-required confined space” refers to a confined space that has one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere. This can refer to poor air quality with insufficient amounts of oxygen for the workers to breath.
  • Contains a material that has the potential to engulf an entrant.
  • Has walls that converge inward or floors that slope downward and taper into a smaller area which could trap or asphyxiate an entrant.
  • Contains any other recognized safety or health hazard such as unguarded machinery, exposed live wires or heat stress.

Every year, many workers die from accidents in confined spaces and many of these deaths occur when co-workers attempt to rescue a victim without the proper equipment. Many of these deaths can be prevented by the use of fall protection, rescue, air monitoring, ventilation, lighting, and communication equipment. Suggestions by OSHA to workers would be to understand and follow procedures regarding when and how to exit the confined space. Identify what the physical hazards might be prior to entry. Monitor and test the oxygen for flammability, toxicity or explosive hazards. Maintain constant contact with a trained attendant which would allow for an evacuation or being able to send in a rescue team as soon as possible.

Here at W.S. Safety, we carry many confined space safety equipment products and have engineered many custom solutions to assist with personnel retrieval and rescue from a confined space. Contact us for a complete turn-key engineered confined space system and for all your personal fall protection needs.

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