Working in Confined Spaces? You Need the Right Training
A safety checklist for confined space entry.
If you work in confined spaces on a regular basis, you know the importance of training to mitigate the risks.
And those risks are very real. Sewers, tunnels, silos, tanks, and other environments that qualify as confined spaces all have a number of specific hazards, many of which can be fatal when not approached properly. Entering into any of those spaces careful planning, preparation, and procedures.
Training sessions will cover the essentials. Carefully studying the applicable regulations will give you all the details you need. But given the hazardous nature of confined spaces, it's better to brush up on safe working procedures regularly, rather than waiting for your next refresher training session.
With that in mind, here is a brief checklist you should run through before entering a confined spaces.
What You Need to Know Before Working in Confined Spaces
Before entering a confined space, you will need to perform a thorough risk assessment. This will ensure that you understand the exact conditions you'll be facing and how to do your job safely.
Here's a quick checklist that covers all the basics:
- Is entering the confined space necessary? Elimination is the highest form of hazard control, so avoiding confined space entry altogether will always be the safest option. If the work can be done remotely (by sending in a drone, for instance), if the area can be opened up (say, by removing a portion of the wall so it no longer qualifies as a confined space), or if the tasks are deemed inessential, assess the feasibility of these alternatives before performing an entry.
- How much oxygen is available in the confined space? Many confined spaces are poorly ventilated, which means you can never take oxygen for granted. If the atmosphere is oxygen deficient, anyone entering is at risk of suffocation. Conversely, an oxygen rich atmosphere will carry a higher risk of combustion. Also be sure to assess whether the oxygen levels may drop at any point while the work is being done.
- Are there airborne contaminants (and in what concentration)? The poor ventilation also increases the likelihood that airborne contaminants will reach dangerous concentrations. Use gas monitors to detect the presence of any airborne hazards and use a respirator that provides adequate protection.
- What type of work will be performed? If the procedures that must be performed are likely to increase the risk of airborne contaminants and suffocation (welding, for instance, can produce harmful fumes), you may need to rethink your approach or upgrade your PPE.
- Is there an emergency response plan? When something goes wrong, you need to know exactly how to respond without having to think about it. Leaving a confined space is difficult, which means time is of the essence and there is little room for error. A fire, for example, could quickly engulf you and use all the available oxygen. In such a situation, you cannot afford to waste any time considering your next move.
- Will you be able to communicate with someone outside the confined space? It is vital to have reliable communications equipment when working in confined spaces so that you can be alerted to any dangers spotted by the team monitoring your progress from outside - and so you can alert them to any dangers you notice. This will also notify those outside of the space if a rescue is needed.
While this checklist will be helpful, it's not substitute for a comprehensive confined space safety program. Everybody involved should undergo thorough confined space training and acquire a permit before entering a space with limited access. Warning signs should be posted to ensure unauthorized personnel do not enter.
Even with all the precautions in place, you'll still be entering a risky environment. It pays to take a moment to run through the basics and make sure that you'll be doing it safely.
For all things Confined Space, check out our Confined Space Knowledge Center.