A confined space isn’t the place for trial and error. You can’t make things up as you go and hope for the best, unless you’re willing to risk your life (and the life of anyone who might be with you). Confined spaces remain one of the most dangerous places for employees to work, and there’s no shortage of terrible advice about them going around. Don’t make any of the common mistakes listed below – the results could be deadly.
1 – Not Knowing What a Confined Space Is
If you don’t even know what a confined space is, you definitely shouldn’t be working in one. But don’t worry, you aren’t alone. Confined spaces are unique and complicated, covering a variety of structures, underground areas, equipment, and more. Check out our last blog post that explains exactly what a confined space is, and how to identify one.
2 – “I’ll Only Be In There For a Minute or Two.”
Guess what? Whether you’re in a confined space for two minutes or two hours, the hazards remain the same. Spending a short amount of time inside a confined space doesn’t make it any safer – especially since so many of the atmospheric dangers inside them can affect you in seconds. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can just get in and out – you can’t. There are very specific procedures and legislation that need to be followed for confined space entry, regardless of how long you plan to spend inside.
3 – “We Tested The Air Once – It Was Fine!”
Oh, you tested the air once and it was safe? It’s great you performed some initial gas detection, but guess what? Confined spaces require continuous monitoring. There’s no telling when a hazardous gas can enter a confined space, and you don’t want to be suddenly caught off guard. Make sure you’re continuously monitoring your confined space to protevt yourself – especially since some gases can’t be detected by smell. Which leads us to…
4 – “The Air Smelled Okay!”
While it’s true that many gases have a distinct smell (like the “rotten egg” smell of hydrogen sulfide), some of them can only be detected at lower concentrations – and believe it or not, higher concentrations can actually paralyze your sense of smell. What’s more, there are tons of hazardous gases that are completely colourless AND odourless, making them impossible to detect by relying on your senses. The only way to properly monitor the atmosphere in a confined space is to use appropriate gas detection instruments that are properly calibrated.
5 – “I’ll Be Able To Get Out If Something Goes Wrong.”
Are you sure about that? Do you really want to test that theory when the situation’s become critical? You’ve got to have a thorough and comprehensive rescues plan in place before you even think about stepping foot inside a confined space. First off, make sure you’ve assigned an attendant. The attendant is there to maintain contact with the person entering the confined space, and is only there to ensure the safety of that person. They shouldn’t enter the confined space under any circumstances, should know the hazards inside, and what symptoms to look for in the event of the entrant’s exposure. It’s not the attendant’s job to rescue the entrant if something does go wrong: up to 60% of confined space fatalities are made up of would-be rescuers. The attendant’s job is to provide ventilation of the space (if necessary), calling for assistance, or operating a non-entry, mechanical rescue system. No matter what, the attendant has to try to maintain contact with the entrant to assume them help is on the way, and to get any information that may be helpful to EMS.
Confined spaces are no joke. If you don’t know how to keep yourself or your coworkers safe, or if you aren’t sure of the hazards inside – don’t go in! And if you need help creating a confined space entry and rescue plan that meets all provincial standards, legislation and recommendations, get in touch with us today.