If you’re unfamiliar with all of the regulations associated with workplaces, you might be surprised to learn that entering confined spaces carries a hefty assortment of rules and regulations. It’s no simply a brief acknowledgement of a few rules, either – these procedures are critical enough that workers entering a relevant confined space has both a permit and closely adheres to a special set of procedures and precautions. There’s a bit more to it, though – in this article, we take a look at what these precautionary measures are all about.
What is required of a worker entering a confined space?
In order to legally enter and work in a confined space, a worker must first do a number of things to ensure they are appropriately familiar with regulations. In addition to qualifying for confined space entry permits, there is a need for the completion of a risk assessment before someone can work in a confined space. This assessment serves to identify hazards, tasks necessary for the successful completion of the job, associated risks of the space, judging whether the worker is fit to perform the task and the establishment of emergency response procedures. there is also a very important need to ensure that the space is made as safe as possible, and with this in mind it’s up to the supervisor to ensure that signage and barricading are put in place. For example, a sign is required to prevent people not involved in the work from entering a confined space and if deemed necessary barricades will also be introduced to further isolate the area from unauthorised personnel. Related to this is the isolation of hazards that are found in the risk assessment. This will include locking, tagging or closing any area where potential contaminants or dangers are established – these hazards will only be unlocked once people leave the confined space.
Managing the environment
Many confined spaces are not fit for work as they are, and in these instances it’s important to introduce cleaning, purging and ventilation in addition to atmosphere testing and monitoring. Cleaning, purging and ventilation steps are designed to remove any potentially hazardous contaminants out of the air in a confined space – the space itself will determine which of these is required (sometimes all three are needed), but they all serve to dilute or displace harmful gases in some way and ensure better oxygen flow for any workers involved. In terms of the atmosphere testing and monitoring, it will be important to ensure that any concentration of flammable gases, vapours or mists in the confined space remain less than 5%. In the event that the concentration is equal to or exceeds 10%, it is important that all personnel be evacuated from the confined space.
Ensuring a rescue and emergency plan is in place
One of the most important things to consider when working in a confined space is a rescue and emergency plan. It’s important that this plan follows regulations and is rehearsed appropriately before any work commences. These plans should always be considered when teams design or review a confined space to ensure that steps can always be taken in the safest way possible – entry ways should always allow teams unimpeded emergency access, for example.