Confined spaces present a hazard to any work site and employers and workers should treat them as such. A confined space is any work space that has limited entry and exit openings, is large enough for a person to enter, is partially or completely enclosed, and is not designed for continuous occupancy. These can include places like manholes, storage bins, access shafts, tunnels, pipelines, crawl spaces, sewers, hoppers, silos, and tanks.
Confined space rescue training is required for workers who work in or around these spaces. Training is provided by the employer, local government safety agencies, or private firms specializing in such training. Employers must adhere to strict government regulations that include having a confined space rescue training program and rescue procedures in place.
Know the Hazards
Workers should never enter a confined space without this training. The hazards are too real and can be life-threatening. They include asphyxiation, toxic substances, explosions, drownings, and electrocutions. This is why workers should practice good entry and exit procedures and should have the same training as professional rescuers.
Have a Plan
Before entering a confine space, workers should have a plan of the space and understand the work required once inside. The key is to spend as little time as possible to do the job once inside the space, so precautions should be taken beforehand.
Wear a Harness
Workers should wear a full body harness upon entering a confined space. If an accident occurs, the harness helps rescuers lift or pull an injured person from the space.
Use Testing Equipment
Workers should be trained on the proper use of testing instruments, such as electrochemical gas sensors, and know how to use them before entering a confined space. These instruments test for oxygen content, flammable gases, and potential air toxicity. Examples of toxic gases are carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide, two of the most common toxic gasses found in confined spaces.
Confined spaces are dangerous and present rescuers with unique problems. By being properly trained and using approved procedures, workers can help alleviate many of these problems.