“There is no darkness like that of a confined space.” – Lauren De Stefano, Fever
When it comes to occupational safety, working in confined spaces is one of the riskiest activities workers can be involved in. Why? Before going into that, let’s first define what a confined space is.
What Is Confined Space?
It’s easy to think of a confined space as a place that’s merely closed such as a tunnel or a room. They’re not. Confined spaces aren’t about a particular place or space’s physical dimensions, but are determined by the hazards or risks that people working in such places face. As such, we can consider confined spaces as those that present foreseeable risks for:
- Asphyxiation arising from free-flowing solid materials;
- Drowning due to flooding;
- Serious injuries that can arise from an explosion or fire; or
- Workers losing consciousness due to significant increases in body temperature, or from asphyxiation due to lack of air and presence of vapors, fumes, and gasses.
Such places include but aren’t limited to:
- Building voids;
- Inspection pits;
The Need For Training
The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has identified work activities conducted in confined spaces as one of the major contributors to work-related deaths in the United States. To be more specific, this is due to most workers’ ignorance of confined spaces’ work-related risks and how to manage and address them when they happen. That’s why in countries like the United States, employers are compelled to give their employees adequate safety and risk management training to ensure their safety, especially when working in confined spaces.
When it comes to fatal confined space accidents, the 2 biggest factors are poor risk management and erroneous response to confined space emergencies. Often times, the latter makes things worse because instead of easing the situation, rescuers contribute to injuries or they themselves get into accidents in an attempt to rescue colleagues.
Training programs should emphasize risk management first (i.e. risk identification and mitigation). Prevention is truly better than a cure and in terms of preventing the likelihood of confined space accidents, training programs need to educate workers and management on the major risks involved with working in confined spaces. This is so that they’ll be in the best position to implement measures and install the necessary equipment or fixtures that can significantly reduce the possibility of identified potential accidents from happening.
Since risks can’t be totally eliminated. Training programs must also include “cures” or the ability to manage accidents, contain its effects, address injuries on the spot, and evacuate injured workers from the scene as quickly and safely as possible.
If you or your company are involved in regular work activities in confined spaces, getting trained for entering and rescuing people in confined spaces is crucial because working in confined spaces is one of the top causes of workplace fatalities. The only way to win the war against confined space accidents and keep yourself and your people as safe as possible is to know your enemy – the risks involved – so that you can employ a 2-punch knockout system of risk minimization and effective risk containment via entry and rescue.