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Confined Space Precautions

When preparing to work in a confined space, specific precautions must be taken to ensure your personal safety, as well as the safety of your co-workers and safety attendants.

Diesel oil tank - danger confined space

Diesel oil tank - danger confined space

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reports that for the past five years there have been an average of 92 deaths per year involving people working in confined spaces.

A confined space refers to a space which, by design, has limited openings for entry and exit, unfavorable natural ventilation which could contain or produce dangerous air contaminants, and which is not intended for continuous employee occupancy. Confined spaces include but are not limited to storage tanks, compartments of ships, process vessels, pits, silos, vats, degreasers, reaction vessels, boilers, ventilation and exhaust ducts, sewers, tunnels, underground utility vaults and pipelines.

Confined space hazards include:

  • Oxygen deficiency
  • Flammable/combustible gases and vapors
  • Toxic gases
  • Engulfment in solid or liquid
  • High noise levels
  • Grinding, crushing, or mixing mechanisms
  • Extreme temperatures
  • Chemicals
  • Lack of lighting

To ensure worker safety, the atmosphere inside the confined space must be tested for oxygen deficiency, flammable and combustible vapors, and toxic gases or vapors before the worker enters the confined space. Workers may need to wear full-face breathable filters or oxygen systems when working in confined spaces, depending on the type of atmosphere found inside.

Some confined spaces may not be safe for entry without first using a forced-air system to expel a hazardous or potentially hazardous atmosphere. Be sure that the source of air for a forced-air system is not near or downwind from any operating equipment that could draw exhaust fumes into the confined space.

Once workers are inside the confined space, they should periodically monitor the atmospheric conditions. If a hazardous atmosphere is detected, workers should immediately exit the confined space. All activities should stop, the hazard should be evaluated and protective measures should be taken to ensure worker safety.

When workers are inside a confined space, OSHA requires that one or more attendants are on alert outside the space to maintain an accurate count of the entrants, maintain regular communication with the workers inside the confined space, and continually monitor conditions inside and outside the confined space. Attendants cannot perform other duties while monitoring personnel inside a confined space.

If workers inside a confined space are injured or succumb to a hazardous atmosphere, attendants are required to summon rescue services; ensure that no unauthorized personnel enter the confined space or affect rescue operations; and perform non-entry rescues by removing individuals attached to safety harnesses.

Who is responsible for confined space safety?

The employer is responsible for providing atmospheric testing equipment; ventilation equipment; training, permits and a written safety program; rescue plans and emergency action plans; and responding to worker-identified hazards.

Workers are responsible for testing the confined space atmosphere prior to entry; following permitted procedures; ensuring there is at least one authorized attendant present at all times; correcting hazards, if possible, inside the confined space; and reporting hazards to supervisors that cannot be corrected.

Neff Rental delivers equipment to job sites that are used to excavate and shore confined spaces. Neff Rental also ensures that our employees comply with confined space safety rules at all of our branches.

For more information about Neff Rental, call 888-709-NEFF, or visit www.NeffRental.com .

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