SAFETY FOCUS | Confined Space Awareness
At Walbec, confined spaces are present in most of our work locations. They vary greatly ranging from an asphalt plant dryer drum to a water truck tank to a sewer manhole. Working safely in confined spaces is something we train our team on annually and then offer reminders throughout our construction season. Since confined spaces are a common but often unappreciated hazard in the construction industry, we thought a few reminders would be helpful in this week's safety focus.
You should consider all confined spaces to be dangerous. Common hazards include toxic atmosphere, oxygen deficiency, oxygen enrichment, explosive atmospheres, flowing liquids or solids, or even excessive heat. If you haven't been trained on the hazards of the confined space, DO NOT ENTER IT.
Confined spaces come in all shapes and sizes. OSHA defines confined space as:
"An enclosed space that is large enough for a human to enter and perform work, not designed for normal human occupancy, and the space has limited means of entry or exit."
People often think that a confined space is defined by having only one way in or out. That is not always the case. An open pit only needs to be 4' deep to be considered a confined space. Again, do not enter spaces that meet these criteria if you have not been trained to do so safely.
Entering a confined space takes a lot of training, preparation, and special equipment:
- All employees involved in the entry must be trained on the task that they have been assigned
- Safe access into the space must be provided
- Required equipment often includes a 4 gas confined space meter, some form of ventilation like a confined space fan, and rescue equipment such as a tripod and harness
- One person, called an attendant, must be present to monitor the individuals inside the space.
- For certain spaces, a permit must also be completed
The safety of our Walbec workforce and all contractors who work on our sites is something we do not take lightly.
Our contractors follow the same rules as all Walbec employees and have completed the same required training prior to working in any confined spaces at our sites. This training often includes topics such as the responsibilities of the Entry Supervisor, Entrant, and Attendant. In addition, the training covers what to do before entering a space as well as what to do in an emergency.
Remember - knowledge and proper preparation is key! Take your time to be sure the team understands how to complete the task at hand and each person's responsibility. Double-check your equipment and question your training. If you have any questions or are unsure of how to safely enter the space - DO NOT ENTER. Reach out to a safety professional, obtain the necessary training, and safely perform the task when ready.
Confined space safety must be taken seriously as serious injury and even death can occur. Most often, this is due to a failure to follow safety rules.
This Safety Focus has just reviewed the basics about the hazards of work in confined spaces and is not a comprehensive guide on confined space entry. FOr more information regarding confined space hazards and procedures, be sure to reference the Occupational, Safety & Health Administrations website.