When working in confined spaces, it’s critical that workers stay safe from hidden and potentially deadly dangers. These spaces - which, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration, are usually small and difficult to exit - can include places like coal mines, manholes, grain elevators or wine tanks, along with many others. OSHA recognized this and created more confined space regulations in 2015.
Why is OSHA Focusing on Confined Spaces?
The danger of these spaces is the buildup of colorless, odorless toxic gases like carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, or ammonia that can come from gas lines, HVAC systems or idling vehicles. Without any ventilation to ensure a moving airflow, they can quickly build to unhealthy - or even fatal - levels. In addition, when working in spaces like manholes, mines or a farmhouses, it can be difficult to enter and exit quickly should gas levels rise. As a result of these tight spaces with static air, it takes a smaller concentration of these gases to become deadly. Our latest white paper can help workers identify the risks of these enclosed spaces and help them stay safe.
There are three ways workers and managers can create safe work environments when working in confined spaces:
Use a Properly Calibrated Gas Detector
Going on-site with a properly calibrated gas detector ensures your device can measure noxious gases. This device will alert you when dangerous gases like hydrogen sulfide (H2S) reach harmful levels, before your senses can even detect them.
If a gas detector alerts to high levels of toxic gas (or a low level of oxygen), workers need to address this quickly. An important step is properly ventilating your workspace. Appropriate ventilation blowers and ducting that create a moving air supply will help move toxic gases out of the work area.
Have an Escape Route and Rescue Plan
Most injuries that occur in confined spaces are from people working to rescue someone. To avoid that outcome, have a rescue plan in place before entering a confined space. When faced with working in these tight quarters, knowing how to prepare - and how to respond should gas levels get too high - can help workers stay safe.