Confined Space: Deadly If Not Prepared

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | April 2010 Vol. 65 No. 4

“With any below grade and/or underground confined space there are all of the general hazards that you can find in many permit required confined spaces, plus the additional hazards of flowing products and gas accumulation,” Lastinger says. “These can be complicated by the physiological effects that many workers experience when working in dark, underground spaces. Access and egress from these types of spaces can be difficult as manholes are generally a tight fit for most employees, and removing an employee from such a space during a confined space emergency can be very difficult, even for well trained employees.”

Basic procedures when preparing to send personnel into a confined space are to complete the permit, establish monitoring of the atmosphere in the space, provide proper ventilation and use all required safety equipment.

The entry team must be composed of personnel trained for working in confined spaces, Lastinger continues. They include:

Entrant: The person who enters a confined space to perform work must be trained and knowledgeable of the hazards of working in confined spaces;

Attendant: A person trained and knowledgeable of hazards of confined spaces, who is stationed and remains outside of the confined space to oversee the safety of the entrant. The person maintains communication with the entrant, and performs a non-entry rescue through the use of retrieval equipment; and

Entry supervisor: The person responsible for the overall entry into confined spaces. This does not have to be a company supervisor/foreman, but can be an employee that is trained and knowledgeable of the hazards of working in confined spaces, and who is authorized to oversee entry work in permit required confined spaces. This person can also serve as the entrant or the attendant.

Each person of the entry team has specific responsibilities that are addressed in 29 CFR 1910.146 (g-j).

Basic equipment
Basic personal safety equipment includes full body harness, eye protection, hard hat, work shoes, gloves and lighting. Depending on the tasks being performed in the confined space personal protective equipment could include: respiratory protection, chemical protective clothing, face shields, communication equipment, intrinsically safe lighting and other related safety items such as pipe plugs to control flow of products in pipes, lockout/tagout equipment, and other devices as necessary to prevent products from entering the space as entrants.

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