A Crash Course on Confined Spaces and Confined Space Training
Many occupations require employees to spend some amount of time working in confined spaces. It is important for business owners to understand what unique potential hazards exist in any confined space that people will be required to enter. In addition to this, having a good understanding of OSHA regulations and what types of training you and your employees should have before entering into a confined space is key.
What is a confined space?
A confined space is an area with limited or restricted means of entry or exit. In addition to this, it must be large enough for a person to enter and perform work, but not intended for continuous occupancy. Some examples of confined spaces include tanks, underground vaults, diked areas, silos, and manholes. Often times, employees working in confined spaces face a higher risk of serious injury or death from any combination of hazardous atmospheric conditions, engulfment and entrapment. Because of this, performing work in certain types of confined spaces without proper training is illegal.
Permit-required confined spaces
According to OSHA, a permit-required confined space is a confined space that has one or more of the following characteristics:
- Contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere
- Contains a material with the potential to engulf someone who enters the space
- Has an internal configuration that might cause an entrant to be trapped or asphyxiated by inwardly converging walls or by a 3 floor that slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross section
- Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazards.
Non-permit confined spaces
These are areas that, although considered confined spaces, do not contain the hazards mentioned above. Because of this, they do not require permits for employees to enter, however workplaces with these types of confined spaces must still have a good safety plan in place. It’s important for workers who enter these places to consistently exercise caution.
Your responsibility as an employer
As an employer, you are responsible for your employees’ safety. If any of your employees work in a permit-required confined space, you must have a written safety program for the space. Some of the requirements of this written program include:
- Identifying and evaluating hazards before allowing employees to enter
- Putting up signs and preventing unauthorized entry
- Testing atmospheric conditions of the space and monitoring it during entry
- Provide employees with the necessary personal protective equipment as well as any other equipment needed for safe entry and exit.
- Have at least one attendant posted outside the space while people are inside
- Have a well-defined plan for professional rescue and EMS in case of emergency.
Find a more exhaustive list here:
Who needs confined space training?
Anyone who is going to be working in a permit-required confined space must have the proper safety training. Furthermore, employers must evaluate employees after this training. This helps ensure that employees have a good understanding of what they learned and are able to perform their duties safely. Be aware that if any of the following changes occur, more training is necessary.
- Employee’s duties change
- A change occurs in the permit space, including any new hazard
- The employee’s performance on the job diminishes in any way
Any person who is required to go into a permit-required confined space must be an authorized entrant. It is of vital importance that all of these people:
- Know potential hazards in the space
- Recognize symptoms of any harmful exposure
- Wear appropriate PPE
- Stay in contact with attendants who are monitoring them
The duty of the attendant is remain outside of the permit space and monitor those inside. For this reason, it is a position of the utmost importance. The attendant must be trained, trustworthy and professional in order to properly protect the lives of those inside. The attendant’s duties include:
Being aware of all workers in the space and staying in communication with them
Performing non-entry rescues if appropriate with the company rescue procedures
Knowing all potential hazards in the space and how they can affect those inside
Order evacuation of the space when conditions inside or outside make being inside unsafe
Notify rescue and other emergency services when necessary
Keep unauthorized people out
Entry supervisors have a very important job. They are the ones that make sure everyone follows the rules around confined spaces. They are responsible for:
- Knowing all potential hazards in the space and how they can affect those inside
- Making sure an emergency plan is in place before anyone enters
- Making sure that all appropriate entry conditions such as proper equipment, permits, tests, and procedures are met by everyone in and around the space.
- Restrict access when operations in the space are completed or if there is a change in conditions.
- Making sure rescue and emergency services are available and able to be reached.
- Have systems in place to remove unauthorized people from the space
- Make sure all workers in and around the space are adhering to the appropriate safety procedures.
Rescue service personnel
It is important to have a trained rescue team in case of emergency. This rescue team must be able to respond quickly. Depending on the conditions of the confined space, rescue personnel must either be on-site or on standby and able to respond within minutes. All rescue service people must be trained in CPR and first aid. In addition to this, they must have all necessary PPE and rescue equipment. They must be versed in authorized entrant training as well as rescue procedure for the specific space. They also must perform yearly practice for rescue procedures in the space.
Need help with confined space training or a rescue team?
Let us help you. Our team of safety and rescue professionals can guide you through every step of creating and maintaining a safe work environment. We can design a safety program for your workplace. as well as provide confined space training and rescue services. Our rescue team is available for round the clock assistance. Contact us or learn more.
To contact OSHA
To report an emergency, file a complaint, or seek OSHA advice, assistance, or products, call (800) 321-OSHA