More workplace accidents occur in confined spaces than in any other setting. A confined space has limited means of entry or exit and is never designed for continuous occupancy.
These spaces include, but are not limited to, vessels, silos, pits, manholes, pipelines and tanks.
OSHA describes some of these areas as “permit-required confined space,” those that:
- Contain a hazardous atmosphere
- Contain material that has the potential to engulf an entrant
- Contain any hazardous materials such as exposed live wires, heat stress, etc.
- Is made up of walls that converge inward or floors that slope downward into a smaller area, which can trap or asphyxiate an entrant
According to EHS Today, there are many requirements employers must follow to ensure employee safety is maintained while permit-required confined spaces are accessible on a job site. These include:
- A professional engineer’s written approval ensuring employees understand the provisions and limitations of using a specifically designed personnel hoisting system.
- A program detailing the confined space.
- Certified documents detailing alternative entry procedures and safety methods for employees who are known to work near or in confined spaces.
- Danger and warning signs alerting workers of the confined space.
- Employee training records to ensure workers have completed confined space training requirements.
- Permits for safe entry operations, which also include atmospheric test results.
- Safety data sheets for the chemicals workers are exposed to while working in these confined spaces
A new ruling was passed by OSHA in terms of confined spaces on August 3, 2015. This new ruling said that employers must determine what kind of spaces their workers are in, what hazards may be present and how those hazards can be made safe. In addition, training should be determined to ensure employees are capable of playing a part in their own safety, as well as how to rescue one another if something does go wrong.
“This rule will save lives of construction workers. Unlike most general industry work sites, construction sites are continually evolving, with the number and characteristics of confined spaces changing as work progresses. This rule emphasizes training, continuous work site evaluation and communication requirements to further protect workers’ safety and health,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr. David Michaels.
The construction industry is one of the most dangerous for employees to work in. These workers face the “fatal four” on a daily basis: falls, electrocutions, struck by object and becoming caught between machinery.
If the “fatal four” were eliminated, more than 500 worker lives would be saved each year.
Employee safety and development training are critical for preventing injuries, illnesses and death. Be sure your workplace has an effective training plan in place today.