A confined space is defined as either a completely or partly enclosed area that meets the following criteria:
- does not have a primary human occupation as its design or intent, has limited or restricted access or exit, or maybe even a layout that might impede basic care, emergency, evacuating, or other disaster response operations
- Anyone who enters it may be put in danger by the following: the nature of the building itself; the nature of the job being done there; the nature of the substances included within; or the nature of the mechanical, process, or safety dangers existing therein. present
- Confined areas may be either underground or aboveground. Any workplace is likely to have some confined area. Although its name suggests otherwise, a limited area might be rather large. Despite having a “blue sky” above them, certain ditches, walls, and trenches qualify as confined spaces because of their restricted access and escape. Barrels, shipping containers, and fish tanks are all examples of enclosed areas.
Is it dangerous to work in a small space?
Many people are hurt or die yearly because they work in tight quarters. At least 60% of the deaths have been among rescue workers. There are several ways in which working in a small area poses more risks than in a more open environment. The hazards of working in a confined area may be mitigated using a confined space hazard assessment and management program. Before implementing it, please verify that your program complies with all applicable laws and standards. There are rules on entering restricted spaces in effect across the board in Canada. In certain cases, the rules may shift somewhat from one region to another.
Employees should not enter the space unless extra measures can ensure the worker’s safety in the restricted area. Unless a risk assessment conducted by a qualified individual shows otherwise, all enclosed areas should be seen as potentially dangerous.
What dangers may someone face in an enclosed area?
All the dangers of the workplace are also present in a restricted environment. However, in a restricted location, they pose an even greater threat than on a typical construction site.
Dangers in tight areas may include:
- Worker safety is compromised due to low oxygen levels in the air.
- Toxic fumes might make people sick or knock them out on the job.
- Asphyxiants are gases that may deplete the oxygen in the atmosphere. High breathing, rapid Asphyxiants are gases that can take the place of oxygen in the air and make it hard to breathe Low oxygen levels can produce illnesses like fast breathing, a fast heart rate, being clumsy, feeling upset, and being tired. As there is less oxygen, people can feel sick and throw up, fall down, shake, go into a coma, or even die. After being exposed to a simple asphyxiant, a person could lose consciousness or die within minutes. Asphyxiants include carbon monoxide, argon, or ammonia.
- Chemical poisoning by eating or skin contact (as well as inhalation of toxic gases).
- A fire hazard is a potentially explosive or flammable environment caused by the presence of combustible clouds of dust and liquids.
- Process-related risks are posed by lingering chemicals or a supply line’s contents spilling out.
- Physical dangers include excessive or insufficient sound volume, temperature extremes, radiation, vibration, electricity, and a lack of suitable illumination.
- Dangers to safety, such as moving machinery or debris, or the possibility of being trapped or strangled.
- Commuters in cars and strollers alike.
- Constant or periodic movement of large amounts of material (engulfment).
- The breakdown of a barrier leads to the discharge of freely flowing solids or liquids.
- Detectability, as in the case of airborne particulates like smoke.
- Dangers from microorganisms such as viruses, bacteria found in feces and sludge, and fungus or molds.
Is there a specific reason why restricted areas provide a higher risk of injury than other types of workplaces?
Several variables must be considered when searching for dangers in a small area—reduced room for error. The stakes are higher when mistakes are made in spotting and assessing threats. Confined spaces provide inherent dangers in many situations. A life-threatening situation exists only when several factors come together unprecedentedly. Due to this uncertainty, it is crucial always to take the time to identify and evaluate potential risks thoroughly.
Here are a few examples:
- If there is a flood or a collapse of free-flowing solid, the worker may be unable to escape the restricted area by the entry or exit.
- Employee self-rescue is more challenging.
- The victim will be more difficult to rescue. The layout of the inside of the cramped room makes it difficult to move people and equipment around in there.
- In many cases, the air quality cannot be maintained safely with just natural ventilation. Constrained space’s interior design prevents the free flow of air.
- Changes in the weather and other factors may occur fast.
- Conditions outside the limited area might affect those within and vice versa.
- The course of work might uncover risks that were not previously apparent.
- There was a breakdown in communication between the on-site staff, the facility’s attendant, and emergency responders.
What safety precautions must be taken before entering the enclosed area?
Remember that every time workers enter a new area of work, they should check to see whether it is classified as a confined space. Verify the implementation of the confined space danger evaluation and management program.
The second thing to consider is whether the task must be done in the right location. A large percentage of fatalities in restricted places may have been avoided if the job had been performed elsewhere.
A qualified and experienced individual should assess the restricted area for any possible dangers before entering it. Taking stock of what’s happening within and outside the safe zone is important.
Before entering a restricted place, the outside air should be analyzed to ensure it meets safety standards. It is important to check the air quality in every corner and level of the restricted area. Continuous monitoring is a must when an employee is in an area where the weather might change unexpectedly. A skilled professional should perform air quality testing utilizing detection equipment outfitted with remote probes and sample lines. Check the calibration and upkeep of the testing equipment often. To demonstrate using sampling:
The oxygen concentration is within acceptable levels – not too little or too much.
There are no potentially harmful atmospheric conditions (such as poisonous chemicals or an easily ignitable environment).
Ventilation equipment is performing appropriately.
The Entry Permit should provide a detailed description of the testing equipment and procedures used to identify and assess these risks.
Depending on the job being done and the possible dangers present, air testing may be a continual process. While inside, conditions may deteriorate, and the employees may contribute to an unsafe working environment.
How do risks get managed inside such small areas?
In a limited location, the same tried-and-true approaches to hazard management used on conventional construction sites are likely to be successful. Engineering controls, administrative controls, and PPE all fall within this category. Engineering controls aim to eliminate the danger, whereas administrative controls and PPE aim to reduce employee exposure as much as possible.