Workplace Safety in Small or Confined Spaces

Posted on: February 23, 2015

Workplace SafetyMany people are unaware of how important workplace safety is in small or confined spaces. It is common to think about how dangerous it can be on a tall ladder, when operating a tractor or in other obviously hazardous situations. Much less common is the awareness of how dangerous things like bins, vats, storage containers, ducts, and crawl spaces really are. These are only a few of the examples of potentially hazardous confined spaces.A confined space is one that is fully or partially enclosed structure that is not large enough for a person to walk into. It also lacks a good entrance or exit, making it difficult to escape. These spaces are not designed for people to stay inside of them. These spaces are particularly dangerous if they have an atmosphere that is flammable or potentially hazardous from elements like chemicals or air toxins. Think about your workplace and identify any areas that might fit within this destination.It is important to realize that when you make a workplace safety plan, provisions must be made for including safety guidelines for these spaces as well. Perhaps one of the largest risks that a person will face is the risk of becoming trapped. For example, a worker entering ducts to perform a service on them, may become trapped in the space, not receive the fresh air that they need or be unable to escape after an injury. Consider what you would do if a worker had a heart attack or some other event while servicing ductwork. How would you pull them out? This scenario may seem unlikely, but that’s the point with workplace safety – you must plan for every possible event because when you do, you may be saving the lives of your workers.Another risk that workers face is that since there is typically only one exit, and it may be small or limited if that exit accidentally gets blocked, they will have no way out. This is true for most small spaces whether a storage bin or vat. The key is that you must make provisions to ensure that no one gets trapped anywhere on the job site, including in small spaces. With that in mind, you may want to consider implementing a policy where one worker remains outside of the space while the other goes inside. By watching out, the second worker can be sure that the exit isn’t closed or blocked off until the other worker is able to safely exit the area. After all, a simple mistake like placing another storage bin in front of the occupied one, could trap a worker.You may also want to consider giving your employees cell phones or walkie-talkies when they are entering a small or confined space. That way if something happens and they are in a crawl space, for example, they can call for help, and someone can retrieve them. Taking a simple step like this as part of your workplace safety procedures can help to keep your workers safe.Follow these suggestions for workplace safety so that your worker can stay safe in a confined space.

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