Upholding Standards of Safety and Health When Handling Confined Spaces

There are certain industrial project site categories that are considered as confined space under federal regulations. These areas are not built for permanent worker occupancy due to potential health and safety issues. However, there may be cases when professionals are required to visit the space to perform specialized industrial-type jobs. Only permitted and experienced professionals can safely perform these tasks as required by regulations.

What Constitutes a Confined Space?

Confined spaces can be described as an area with limited access, exit, and room for movement. The areas are often enclosed. While they are space-restrictive, the area allows room to perform limited tasks. With the limited configurations, they cannot safely accommodate long-term occupancy. Workers could be exposed to significant health and safety hazards when staying in a confined space for more than the required amount of time.

Examples of confined spaces include storage tanks, underground utility tunnels, agricultural silos, and sewer manholes and vaults. Certain sections of buildings may be placed under this category such as crawl spaces, and boiler rooms. Specific transportation carriers such as commercial shipping vessels also have areas that are considered confined space.

Professional Safety Requirements

Certain tasks are performed in confined spaces, including cleaning, change-outs, monitoring, and inspections. However, without the necessary training and skills, workers could be exposed to hazards and risks when the task is not done properly. With these considerations in mind, confined space entry services should be provided by qualified companies with expertise in this area.

OSHA categorizes these sites as permit-required due to these potential risks and hazards. The agency uses the term “permit-required confined space” to describe areas that could potentially trap an occupant due to the limited configuration; expose to asphyxiating gases or an oxygen deficient environment; expose to other hazards and stress such as a live wire or any electronic or mechanical hazard. Moreover, workers could also be exposed to a combustible or heat-stressful environment when precautions are not followed.

Standards of Safety and Health

OSHA has a set of directives governing confined spaces. Prior to entry into a confined space, the agency requires a thorough testing and monitoring of the site to detect any potential issues. Once testing has been performed, the area is often continuously inspected and monitored to ensure all standards are maintained. By following this methodology, hazards and risks could be detected and addressed before any massive issues occur.

Confined spaces can be found across all industries, from construction, power generation, oil, and gas, to manufacturing and production. With this in mind, it is imperative that local and federal regulations concerning confined spaces are followed. Occupational health and safety standards include directives and guide on preventing injuries and fatalities in confined spaces.

When a confined space requires a specialized task, hiring a professional service would be the best option. Only trained personnel can safely handle these tasks, which could range from cleaning, change-out, to inspections. Professional services with the right training and experience can handle the job requirements in a safe manner, in accordance with local and federal regulations and handling protocols.