Confined spaces: we hear about them a lot, but there’s so much confusion surrounding what they actually are. Several workers are injured and killed every year when working in confined spaces, and it’s estimated that 60% of those fatalities are from individuals attempting to perform a rescue. That’s concerning, and a huge reason why there needs to be a clear distinction in your mind regarding exactly what constitutes a confined space.
Your organisation should have a Confined Space Hazard Assessment and Control Program in place. Make sure yours observes all the regulations that are in place for your area of the country, since they can vary between jurisdictions.
By definition in most jurisdictions in Canada, a confined space can be defined as follows:
- a fully or partially enclosed space:
- (a) that is not both designed and constructed for continuous human occupancy, and,
- (b) in which atmospheric hazards may occur because of its construction, location or contents or because of work that is done in it.
Every worker who works in a confined space must receive adequate training in the recognition of hazards associated with confined spaces and training to be able to safely perform the assigned duties for that specific confined space.
Rescue personnel require training in on-site rescue procedures, first aid and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation and the use of the specific rescue equipment required.
Every worker that enters a confined space must be adequately trained in accordance with the plan. Elements of the plan may include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:
- Recognition and identification of potential hazards associated with the confined spaces that will be entered.
- Evaluation and control procedures for the identified or potential hazards.
- All equipment such as ventilation equipment (blowers), harnesses and air quality monitors (e.g., Oxygen/combustible meters) that will be used while in the confined space.
- All personal protective equipment (e.g., respirators) that the worker will be using while in the confined space.
- All procedures for entering the confined space.
- Procedures to follow in the event of a situation developing that could present additional risk to the worker or an emergency.
- The specific work to be done while in the confined space.
There’s so much to consider when working in a confined space. You don’t have the same margin for error you might have when working in a regular work area. Even the slightest error in identifying or evaluating the potential hazards in the confined space could have devastating consequences. Don’t even think about entering until you know all the facts.