When it comes to working in confined spaces, such asbasements, attics, tunnels, ducts, and pipes, you need to provide a certainamount of ventilation to prevent respiratory problems and other health issues.If oxygen levels get too low, you could put the health and safety of youremployees at risk. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) definesconfined spaces as, “[spaces and openings] large enough for workers to enterand perform certain jobs,” and having, “limited or restricted means for entryor exit,” and those, “not designed for continuous occupancy.”
Learn about ventilation requirements for confined spaces, soyou can better protect your workers.
VentilationRequirements for Confined Spaces
Ventilation is a way of making sure your employees haveaccess to enough breathable air. Any obstruction to the flow of oxygen could impact thehealth of your employees in a matter of minutes or less. It may causedizziness, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, headaches, orrestlessness.
Under OSHA regulations, you must provide the followingsafety measures:
- Oxygen (O2) levels need to stay between 19.5% and 22%.
- Gases and flammable vapors must be kept below 10% of their lower explosive limit (LE)L.
- Potentially toxic materials must stay below their personal exposure limit (PEL) levels, or immediate danger to life and health (IDLH) levels if you’re using anything less than supplied air respirator protection.
You need to continuously monitor your workspace in order tofind out if you need additional ventilation or if these levels become a hazard.You’ll need a quality gas monitor to test the air at all levels, including at thebottom, middle, and top of the space. Use a 4-gas monitor that can measure hydrogensulfide, carbon monoxide, oxygen, and the lower explosive levels of combustiblegases.
Test the air quality before putting your employees in thespace to learn what kinds of precautions may be necessary. Once the air in thespace has been cleared, you must continuously monitor the space in case theselevels change while your employees are working on the task at hand.
To speed up your timeline, youcan use equipment such as the Allegro 12-inch Axial Blower with Canister and Ducting to circulate the airflow. You can also use it to figure out how long itwill take for the air in the space to clear out. Set up the blower in a cleanair environment to make sure you’re forcing clean air into the space. Keep itaway from generators, vehicles, motors, and anything else that may affect airquality.
Training YourEmployees on the Dangers of Confined Spaces
According to OSHA, your employees have a right to thefollowing:
- Working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.
- Receive information and training (in a language and vocabulary the worker understands) about workplace hazards, methods to prevent them, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace.
- Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
- File a complaint asking OSHA to inspect their workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or that their employer is not following OSHA's rules. OSHA will keep all identities confidential.
- Exercise their rights under the law without retaliation, including reporting an injury or raising health and safety concerns with their employer or OSHA. If a worker has been retaliated against for using their rights, they must file a complaint with OSHA as soon as possible, but no later than 30 days.
Be transparent about your safety practices and potential hazards to keep your employees safe. Encourage them to ask questions to get everyone on your team on the same page.
For more information on ventilation requirements forconfined spaces, contact the workplace safety professionals at PK Safety. We can help you find allthe workplace monitoring and safety equipment you need to comply with theseregulations.