Safety Spotlight: Confined Spaces

Safety Spotlight: Confined Spaces

January 18, 2017
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A red warning sign with the words "Danger, Confined Space, Enter by Permit Only"

Confined spaces can be deadly.

Each year, a number of people are killed or seriously injured in confined spaces. This happens in a wide range of industries and includes those working in confined spaces, and those who try to rescue them.

Our hearts go out to the three workers who died last weekend while working in a confined space in Key Largo, and volunteer firefighter, Leonardo Felipe Moreno, who is in critical condition after attempting to rescue one of the workers.

A confined space can be any enclosed area where there is risk of death or serious injury from hazardous substances or dangerous conditions.

OSHA uses the term “permit-required confined space” to describe a confined space with one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere
  • Has walls that converge inward or floors that slope downward and taper into a smaller area that could trap or asphyxiate an entrant
  • Contains other recognized safety or health hazards, such as unguarded machinery, exposed live wires or heat stress

Dangers of confined spaces can include:

  • Lack of oxygen
  • Poisonous gases, fumes or vapors
  • Liquids, solids or gases that can suddenly fill the space or release gases into it
  • Fires and explosions from flammable vapors and excess oxygen
  • Dust present in high concentrations
  • Hot conditions leading to a dangerous increase in body temperature

Follow these rules to ensure your safety and the safety of others:

  1. Monitor the atmosphere
  2. Eliminate or control hazards
  3. Ventilate the space
  4. Use proper PPE
  5. Isolate the space
  6. Know the attendant’s role
  7. Be prepared for rescues with external equipment and a rescue crew
  8. Use good lighting and have backup lighting on-hand
  9. Plan for emergencies
  10. Keep communication constant

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