No two confined spaces are exactly alike. Type, size, and hazards vary greatly, along with different standards, regulations, and company policies applicable to each working environment.
In the United States, since 2011, an average of 129 deaths occur within confined spaces each year. In 2018 there were 148 lives lost.
Generally, the loss of life was due to physical hazards or atmospheric conditions within the space. The percentage will vary from year to year, but on average, 61% die from physical hazards and 34% from atmospheric conditions.
- Oxygen Deficiency
- Toxic Chemicals
- Combustible Dust
Source: BLS, 2018
If you are responsible for many types of confined spaces, it may be helpful for you to walk through each of the major elements, which may be categorized as follows:
- Plan: Know your confined spaces, the hazards that may be in them, and any hazard you may introduce based on the work being conducted.
- Access: Provide a method and equipment necessary to get the workers in and out of the confined space.
- Work Inside: Provide the appropriate PPE, monitoring equipment, and ensure a method to clearly communicate between all those involved in the confined space.
- Rescue Retrieval: Be prepared with the right equipment if someone needs to be removed, and have a plan based on the space and work.
DEVELOPING A CONFINED SPACE PLAN
Be ready before getting to work, so your team can safely handle all entries and exits.
Four Steps Of A Plan
Before working in a confined space, always start with:
- A site evaluation that identifies all confined spaces.
- Identification of proper safety equipment and other required tools.
- Ensure all employees involved in the confined space entry receive certified training that involves practice and hands-on experience.
- Identify a trained rescue team and ensure that they have the capability to perform rescues from the spaces.
Watch 3M's Key Training Requirements for Confined Space Video:
Confined spaces vary in size and shape, and your confined space system should be adjustable and adaptable. Pay close attention to the maximum and minimum hole size and shape that you need to access, and choose a system that can be flexible.
VERTICAL OR HORIZONTAL ENTRY
If entering spaces such as a manhole on a street, a vertical system is needed. Some spaces require entry from the side, such as a tank, and for these, you'll need a side-entry or horizontal type system.
VERSATILITY AND ADAPTABILITY
One-piece tripods are extremely easy to use, set-up, and fit a variety of applications. Multi-piece davit systems are often more complex and offer more versatility with various arm sizes and base options.
PORTABLE OR PERMANENT SYSTEMS
Temporary jobs require lightweight and easy-to-use portable confined space systems that can be moved from one location to another. If a hazardous work area is accessed often, such as a vat or tank, a davit system with a permanently mounted base may be the best option.
Lifeline type and length are just a few of the options to consider. Typical mechanical devices include man-rated winches and 3-way self-retracting lifelines, which incorporate both fall protection and emergency rescue winch capabilities. In some situations, a back-up system may be required.
Your systems must provide you with the ability to handle a crisis simply, efficiently, and immediately. During an emergency, time is of the essence. Choose a high-quality system to ensure optimal performance when it is needed the most.
Your system must be rated for your application, such as fall arrest, rescue, man-riding, or material handling. Choose one that maximizes strength and minimizes weight. Versatility in this area is often a high priority so your system can accommodate different scenarios in your work environment.
All system components should be made from quality materials strong enough to endure the rough conditions that they can be exposed to during normal work. Powder-coated and anodized aluminum construction offers durability and reduces overall weight for added ease-of-use.
In addition to descent and rescue equipment, you’ll also need to perform risk and hazard assessments to evaluate the proper PPE for the worker to safely perform their job while in the confined space.
There is a lot to consider when managing and working in and around confined spaces. If you are not sure where to start or need help, contact one of our knowledgeable reps today.