What exactly is confined space entry?
Many workplaces contain areas that are considered “confined spaces” because while they are not necessarily designed for people, they are large enough for workers to enter and perform certain jobs. A confined space also has limited or restricted means for entry or exit and is not designed for continuous occupancy. Confined spaces include, but are not limited to, tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, hoppers, vaults, pits, manholes, tunnels, equipment housings, ductwork, pipelines, etc.
OSHA uses the term “permit-required confined space” (permit space) to describe 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 that has the potential to engulf an entrant; has walls that converge inward or floors that slope downward and taper into a smaller area which could trap or asphyxiate an entrant; or contains any other recognized safety or health hazard, such as unguarded machinery, exposed live wires, or heat stress.
In many cases the facility does not have confined space entry trained personnel and need to contract with a qualified confined space entry contractor.
Before even considering Confined Space Entry, one must have completed the proper mandatory training.
In order for confined space entry contractors to perform the duties needed in a confined space, one must seek out the training required. In order to get this training, a class must be taken instructed by confined space entry companies over the safeties and dangers of confined space. Confined space entry is an extremely serious task and should be treated as such. The proper training and guidance is absolutely necessary to ensure the safety of all parties involved.
Confined space entry should only be handled by professionals who recognize the dangers they entail.
These numbers should tell you something:
· Fifty four % of the people exposed to oxygen deficient conditions died.
· For every fire within a confined space, one person died.
· Fire at the point of entry caused multiple fatalities in a single event.
· Cave-ins left 100 % of the victims dead.
Perhaps the worst statistic of all is the fact that for every person that dies in a confined space incident another 1.3 would be rescuers die trying to save them.
Still think the safety rules pertaining to confined spaces are overkill? It is important to know what you are getting into. Has the space been recently inspected by certified industrial hygienist, marine chemist or shipyard competent person? Have instruments been used to determine the presence or absence of combustible or flammable vapors? Do these instruments show the oxygen level to be between 19.5 and 22%? Is a “safe for hot work/safe for workers” permit required? Are the conditions of the permit or certificate being followed to the letter?
Are the contents of the space stable? Construction workers beware. Confined spaces are not limited to tanks and the like. Trenches, utility vaults, and large diameter pipelines all present similar dangers. In fact, trench cave-ins are a leading cause of construction fatalities.
Confined space work is dangerous. However, it can be done safely if appropriate precautions are taken. The hazards in most cases are invisible, so take those precautions before entering.
Now that you understand the dangers of confined space entry, here is a list of safety guidelines that should be followed
- Ensure proper training for entry & rescue teams
- Provide proper equipment for entry & rescue teams
- Ensure confined space assessments have been conducted
- Ensure all permit required confined spaces are posted
- Annually review this program and all Entry Permits
- Evaluate Rescue Teams/Service to ensure they are adequately trained and prepared
- Ensure rescue team at access during entry into spaces with IDLH atmospheres
- Follow program requirements
- Report any previously un-identified hazards associated with confined spaces
Entry supervisors are responsible for the overall permit space entry and must coordinate all entry procedures, tests, permits, equipment and other relevant activities. The following entry supervisor duties are required:
- Know the hazards that may be faced during entry, including information on the mode, signs or symptoms, and consequences of the exposure
- Verifies, by checking that the appropriate entries have been made on the permit, all test specified by the permit have been conducted and that all procedures and equipment specified by the permit are in place before endorsing the permit and allowing entry to begin
- Terminate the entry and cancel the permit when the entry is complete and there is a need for terminating the permit
- Verify that rescue services are available and that the means for summoning them are operable
- Remove unauthorized persons who enter or attempt to enter the space during entry operations
- Determine whenever responsibility for a permit space entry operation is transferred and at intervals dictated by the hazards and operations performed within the space that entry operations remain consistent with the permit terms and that acceptable entry conditions are maintained.
At least one attendant is required outside the permit space into which entry is authorized for the duration of the entry operation. Responsibilities include:
- To know the hazards that may be faced during entry, including information on the mode, signs or symptoms, and consequences of the exposure
- To be aware of possible behavioral effects of hazard exposure on entrants
- To continuously maintain an accurate count of entrants in the permit space and ensures a means to accurately identify authorized entrants
- To remain outside the permit space during entry operations until relieved by another attendant (once properly relieved, they may participate in other permit space activities, including rescue if they are properly trained and equipped).
- To communicate with entrants as necessary to monitor entrant status and alert entrants of the need to evacuate.
- To monitor activities inside and outside the space to determine if it is safe for entrants to remain in the space and orders the entrants to immediately evacuate if: the attendant detects a prohibited condition, detects entrant behavioral effects of hazard exposure, detects a situation outside the space that could endanger the entrants; or if the attendant cannot effectively and safely perform all the attendant duties.
- To summon rescue and other emergency services as soon as the attendant determines the entrants need assistance to escape the permit space hazards.
- To perform non-entry rescues as specified by that rescue procedure and entry supervisor
- Not to perform duties that might interfere with the attendants’ primary duty to monitor and protect the entrants.
- To take the following action when unauthorized persons approach or enter a permit space while entry is under way:
- Warn the unauthorized persons that they must stay away from the permit space,
- Advise unauthorized persons that they must exit immediately if they have entered the space, and
- Inform the authorized entrants and the entry supervisor if unauthorized persons have entered the permit space.
All entrants must be authorized by the entry supervisor to enter permit spaces, have received the required training, used the proper equipment, and observes the entry procedures and permit. The following entrant duties are required:
- Know the hazards that may be faced during entry, including information on the mode, signs or symptoms, and consequences of the exposure;
- Properly use the equipment required for safe entry;
- Communicate with the attendant as necessary to enable the attendant to monitor the status of the entrants and to enable the attendant to alert the entrants of the need to evacuate the space if necessary;
- Alert the attendant whenever; the entrant recognizes any warning signs or symptoms of exposure to a dangerous situation, or any prohibited condition is detected; and
- Exit the permit space as quickly as possible whenever; the attendant or entry supervisor gives an order to evacuate the permit space, the entrant recognized any warning signs or symptoms of exposure to a dangerous situation, the entrant detects a prohibited condition, or an evacuation alarm activated.
- Explosive / Flammable Atmospheres
- Toxic Atmospheres
- Slips & falls
- Chemical Exposure
- Electric Shock
- Thermal / Chemical Burns
- Noise & Vibration
- Locked entry points
- Temporary ventilation
- Temporary Lighting
- Employee training
- Entry procedures
- Atmospheric Monitoring
- Rescue procedures
Use of prescribed PPE exactly.
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