Performing tasks in confined spaces which are not planned and carried out with safety measures can pose serious problems. Working in confined areas requires excellent care and attention. That’s why specific laws exist when performing tasks in such places. Thus, workers and employers in a workplace must be aware of their general duties. This blog will describe the requirements for working in confined spaces and the following topics.
Definition of confined workspaces?
Confined work spaces are those areas in a workplace not designed for continuous human occupancy. Such places have limited entry and exit points and are difficult to access in an emergency. In most cases, only employees assigned specific responsibilities can enter these areas. Confined spaces at some workplaces might contain hazardous substances. The presence of such dangerous materials requires extra precautions to ensure worker safety. An employer must identify and assess confined work spaces before allowing entry. Showing irresponsibility while working may result in injuries or even death.
Characteristics of confined workspaces
- Limited entry and exit points
- Restricted movement
- Difficult access
- Not necessarily made for continuous human occupancy
- Large enough for authorized workers to perform their jobs
- Hazard conditions (in some cases)
- Poor ventilation
Examples of confined spaces:
- Maintenance holes and shafts
- Inspection pits
- Storage vessels
- Equipment housing
- Sewers and tunnels
- Boilers and furnaces
Six risks presented in confined spaces
- Explosions: Hazardous substances in confined places increase the chances of outbreaks. Any carelessness while handling these hazardous substances can cause explosions as these will threaten the workers’ health and safety.
- Poor air quality: Lack of ventilation systems in confined spaces makes the air quality poor, causing breathing problems. Asphyxiation is the expected result of poor air quality, which means unconsciousness or death due to suffocation. Too many workers working in a small area would be harmful. With too many workers, the oxygen level in the air would decrease time by time.
- Entrapment: Workers handling sand or grain in a confined area are at a higher risk for entrapment. As these materials can easily change their shape, trapping the worker beneath. Entanglement leads to suffocation which in some cases can kill someone.
- Falls: Uneven surfaces and limited spaces are joined in confined areas. These elevated areas may subject the worker to lose balance and fall from height. Workers performing their tasks near pits and tanks are also in danger of falling into them. Thus, injury from falling is common thing in confined areas. Courses like slips, trips, and falls training are some of the easy to learn courses that can teach the workers on how to maintain their balance on elevated platform. As it is easy for a person to lose their balance, slips and falls from high places can be lethal. Thus, it is important to take all the considerations in mind and prioritizing such trainings would be useful.
- Noise: Loud noise-making machines in confined areas causes massive noise pollution. In the case of the closed wall, these loud noises can echo, further creating a disturbance. Such prolonged exposure to loud noises may result in hearing loss.
- Equipment or machinery hazards: Workers in a confined place are always at risk of moving machinery. The sharp edges, moving parts, or electrical leaks can cause serious harm to a worker when coming in contact.
Why are the requirements for working in confined spaces important?
Taking requirements before carrying out a task in a confined workspace is vital to safety. It should be the prime concern of an employer to ensure that the workers are ready to perform their functions. These measures help employers and workers identify and assess the risks related to confined spaces. These risks can range from poor air quality to machinery hazards. Employers can help cut the risk in a confined space by implementing safety measures. Failure to do so can bring many harmful consequences for businesses. These consequences range from financial fines to government restrictions.
Additionally, it is the sole responsibility of an employer to provide their employee with a safe environment. Their health should not be at any risk or, in this case, at less risk. Hence, taking the specific requirements before working in a confined space is crucial.
Eight Requirements for working in confined spaces
Employers in control of work in confined spaces must adequately plan for it. The prime responsibility of an employer should be to check the worker’s competency. An employer should also keep in mind planning, monitoring, and carrying out duties. Thus, training is a crucial need for working in confined spaces as It solves half of the problems associated with risk and planning.
It is vital to take an example to understand the importance of training. A confined space often has an elevated platform or pits and tanks. Workers working on an elevated platform or near tanks or pits have to be very careful so that they might not fall off or into the holes. Thus, in this case, an employee should provide his workers with proper training to ensure that they remain safe while working in such areas. An easy and effective solution to cover the training can be to take online working at height training courses. These courses explain how workers and employers can ensure safety at dangerous heights. Some topics that the height training course includes are:
- Hazards and risks present at heights
- Legislation and Regulations
- Risk assessment
- Usage of proper protective equipment
- Inspection and Maintenance
- Emergency procedures
- Safe working practices
- Permit to enter confined spaces.
Permit to enter workspaces is usually required where obvious risks and hazards are present. Meaning that only authorized personnel can come in and exit the confined spaces, along with proper permits. The permit must identify some of the following:
- Identification of confined space
- Purpose of entry and exit
- Date and time of entry
- Personnel involved
- Hazards presented in the confined space
- Implementation of safety measures
The regular signing of the permit by both the supervisors and employees is essential. Doing so helps maintain the permit’s credibility and ensures everyone knows their responsibilities.
- Emergency procedures
The rule of Confined Spaces Regulation 1997 states that emergency arrangements must be in a confined area. This regulation helps a business understand what safety measures it should install in the workplace. The law also states that the safety measures should include the following:
- Reduction of risks to the injured
- Resuscitation equipment such as oxygen masks should always be ready for emergency purposes.
- Steps to ensure the emergency arrangements
- Fire safety arrangements
- Training should be mandatory for the person in charge of rescuing responsibilities.
To maximize safety, the training of all workers must be mandatory. The sole responsibility of implying and ensuring these emergency procedures lies on the shoulders of the employers.
Communication is a crucial safety factor that businesses and their employers often ignore. In the case of confined spaces, it is an essential part of the safety plan. Effective communication between those inside and outside the area is a must. So that in case of an emergency, outside workers could be aware of it. Communication devices such as two-way radios could create an effective communicational channel. While many would prefer wireless communication methods over the wire, wireless systems could result in connectivity and reception problems in an emergency.
- Personal protective equipment (PPE)
Although personal protective equipment is part of confined space training and emergency procedure, personal protective equipment is an essential aspect to perform while working in confined spaces. Safety equipment is the first shield to protect a person in an emergency. Safety tools like helmets and protective clothing can help save a person from many accidents. Proper training would enable workers to wear and use the safety equipment. It is crucial to remember that the selection of PPE differs from the types of hazards presented in a confined space.
- Testing and monitoring
Prioritizing the workers’ safety and assessing the functionality of the machine. Damaged equipment in a confined space may not operate and risk the worker’s life. Health and safety experts should conduct daily tests on machinery in confined spaces to ensure they are in good shape. Prioritizing the testing of these machinery is essential to prevent further downtime.
Injuries ranging from slips to bone fractures can occur because of insufficient lighting in the workplace. Moving around in the dark provokes accidents that can harm workers.
Proper ventilation is necessary for confined spaces dealing with toxic fumes and gasses. Improper ventilation would result in a lack of oxygen availability to the workers making the air quality poor. Less content of oxygen in the air can cause a worker to suffocate and pass out or, in some extreme cases, cause death.
Importance of following requirements while working in confined spaces
- Identifying and assessing risks
Confined spaces pose a range of risks to workers. These threats range from injuries due to falls, entrapments, and machinery hazards. Identifying and assessing the risk that leads to these injuries would help prevent injuries in confined areas.
- Minimizing risks
An employer can lower accidents in a confined area by implementing safety measures. These safety measures range from installing proper ventilation systems to providing adequate training. It is vital to understand that installing safety measures is a firm’s sole and primary responsibility.
- Legal compliance
Providing a safe work environment is a legal responsibility and a moral obligation for all companies. In case of failure to provide a safe working environment, a firm can face financial fines and restrictions from the government. Taking safety measures would help create a secure environment where fewer employees would be at risk.
- Financial costs
Injury in workplace areas such as confined places contributes to the expenses of a firm. Workplace injuries trigger compensational claims and medical insurance, which means that the firm would have to bear the injured workers’ medical costs. Workers in a firm have their medical insurance as well as compensation claims.
A decrease in customer base and interest in stakeholders’ interest are two of the aspects that follow by loss in reputation. In case of an accident in the workplace, it is likely covered in the country’s news. Leading to a loss of reputation, as the company would be less likely to attract customers and stakeholders. Losing reputation would lead to the firm being less competitive with rival organizations. Altogether, it is vital to understand that the loss of respect affects a business in various ways.
- Loss in productivity
Workplace accidents and injuries would mean the non-availability of skilled labour. An injured worker would be unable to perform his job and would need rest for a few weeks. In the meantime, a firm would lose productivity, meaning no or less competent labour will be available for work. The lack of availability of qualified workers will harm a firm’s productivity and efficiency. Employees seeing their co-workers facing injuries would create negative thoughts in their minds. Negative thoughts lead to negative word of mouth from one employee to another. This would cause hindrance for the firm from hiring more skilful labour, as the workers would want to avoid joining that specific firm.
To summarize the contents written in this blog, an employer needs to understand the importance of implying requirements before carrying out work in confined spaces. A business must take safety measures, given the risks of working in restricted areas. This blog explains that these safety measures can be of various types. Each safety measure has its own specific and beneficial role, from training to using appropriate safety equipment. One common aspect found in many modern companies is that they lack focus on workplace productivity. Firms fail to train their workers on procedures and precautions against hazards. And as mentioned in this blog, the firm faces the consequences of not creating a safe workplace.