Confined Space Hazards
Written by Steve Hudgik
A confined space is a space which has any one of the following characteristics:
- Limited openings for entry and exit
- Unfavorable natural ventilation
- Not designed for continuous worker occupancy
Examples of confined spaces include, but are not limited to:
- Storage tanks
- Compartments of ships
- Process vessels
- Reaction vessels
- Furnaces, incinerators, boilers and steam drums
- Ventilation and exhaust ducts
- Underground utility vaults
Hazards associated with confined spaces include:
- They may contain a hazardous or potentially hazardous atmosphere (fuel storage tank).
- They may contain a material which can engulf an entrant (grain silo)
- They may contain walls that converge inward or floors that slope downward and taper into a smaller area which can trap or asphyxiate a person (coal silo)
- They may contain physical hazards such as unguarded machines or exposed live wires (process vessels)
Confined spaces with these potential hazards are permit-required confined spaces that must be identified by the employer. Typically a sign or label will be used to identify permit-required confined spaces. Workers who are exposed to a permit-required confined space must be informed of their existence and location, and be informed about their hazards.
The existence of one or more permit-required confined spaces requires that the employer have a program for controlling, and where appropriate, for protecting employees from permit-required confined space hazards and for regulating employee entry into the permit-required confined spaces.
What should you do should you need to enter a permit-requited confined space?
- Do not enter any confined space without being full informed about the space and the hazards of that confined space. Do not rely on there being a sign or label identifying a space as a permit-required confined space. Don't make assumptions.
- Do not enter permit-required confined spaces without having a permit to enter that space.
- Be sure you have the appropriate training before entering a permit-required confined space.
- Review, understand and follow the established procedures before entering a permit-required confined space.
- Identify and know how and when to exit the confined space.
- Before entry, identify any physical hazards.
- Before and during entry, test and monitor the atmosphere in the confined space for oxygen content, flammability, toxicity or explosive hazards.
- Follow the entry procedures for the permit-required confined space you are entering. Use the required fall protection, ventilation, air-monitoring, rescue, lighting and communication equipment.
- When in a confined space maintain contact at all times with a trained attendant either visually, using a wired phone, or using a two-way radio. Should there be a problem, the communications system allows the attendant or entry supervisor to order you to get out of the confined space evacuate or to call on trained rescue personnel.
Reliable Marking of Confined Spaces
Turn to DuraLabel custom label and sign printers and tough-test supplies for reliable, durable marking of permit-required confined spaces. You'll have a quick, convenient way to make the confined space warning signs you need, with exactly the right message on each sign. And you'll be getting the only vinyl signs and labels that have a five year warranty.