Many establishments have areas that can be considered as confined spaces. These spaces have their designated purpose and function in the establishment, and they are not designed for people. However, most of these confined spaces are large enough for certain people to enter and perform specialized jobs. These spaces give limited access to entry and exit points. Because these areas are not designed for people, continuous and long-term occupancy within confined spaces can be risky and hazardous. Thus, occupations involving maintenance, cleaning and installations within confined spaces need specialized equipment and training because of the hazards involved.
We’ll tackle the most common hazards in a confined space here:
Lack Or Excess Of Oxygen
Some confined spaces such as tanks, vaults, silos, tunnels and pipelines have limited to zero air circulation, which means that the level of oxygen can be limited or may fall below normal, healthy levels. When oxygen gets used up or gets replaced by a different gas, it results in an oxygen-deficient atmosphere and can lead to dangerous health problems such as dizziness, asphyxiation, fainting, lack of coordination, disorientation and in some cases, death. Thus, it is highly recommended that people working in confined spaces undergo confined space training in accordance with the requirements of government agencies and private organizations that handle occupational hazards. Enclosed and insufficiently ventilated spaces like the ones mentioned earlier present this type of risk for workers who venture into confined spaces. Thus, these workers will also need specialized equipment such as a ventilation hose, breathing apparatus and headlamp.
Confined spaces such as silos and tanks can often get partially filled. The stored materials in these large containers can pose a serious threat in the lives of those who work inside these spaces. The commonly stored materials in these spaces include solids like coal, grains, flour, fertilizer and sand; and liquids like water, sewage and industrial liquid waste. In the event of engulfment from any of these materials, a person can get crushed, drowned or suffocated. Safety harnesses and the presence of another outside the confined space are just a few safety precautions to do when working on partially filled confined spaces.
Explosions And Fires
Tanks, vessels, and pipelines often contain flammable liquids such as kerosene, petrol and methylated spirits. It’s not only the flammable liquids that pose a high risk of fires and explosions. Gases like natural gas and LPG and combustible dusts such as coal, sawdust, flour and grain dusts can also present explosion and fire hazards. Thus, extra care should be practiced under such environments and sources of ignition should be removed from the equipment of workers inside these potentially flammable and explosive environments. Flames, electrical equipment and internal combustion engines are just a few sources of ignition that should not be present in these environments. Burns, internal injuries, blindness, loss of hearing and even death can result from these explosions and fires.
Limited Area Of Entry And Exit
Most confined spaces have only one opening that serves as the entrance and exit. This can pose a problem, especially if the confined space is narrow and goes deeper or farther away from the exit. In some cases, exit ladders and hoists are needed to enter and leave such spaces. Thus, it is necessary to have an organized group to work under these environments where there will be persons on standby outside the door to listen for calls of help or monitor the activity of the people inside the confined space. In cases of emergency evacuation due to injury, there will be immediate assistance for the exit and delivery of first aid for the people inside. Thus, it is never advised to go into these confined spaces alone or not to have someone outside to assist you.
There are occupations that specialize in working inside confined spaces for maintenance, installation and repair purposes. Thus, it has become a requirement for professionals who work in confined spaces to undergo specialized training and to have specialized equipment to prevent the hazards that happen in these spaces. Knowing the dangers of working in these areas and knowing the proper precaution can help ensure the safety of workers in confined spaces.