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If you work in an industry requiring confined space entry, you know it can be dangerous work. OSHA reports that dozens of workers die in confined space accidents every year. These accidents are often preventable but occur when proper precautions are not taken. In this second installment of our three-part series on confined spaces, we will discuss what you can do to ensure safe and successful entry.
To ensure safe confined space entry, organizations must have a well-executed plan. This includes reviewing their program and entry permit, training workers, inspecting personal protective equipment, testing the space, having the right equipment, and notifying emergency services. Let’s look at each of these steps in more detail.
It is never safe to assume that a confined space is hazard-free or that employees are safe even when entering to perform minimal work. Workers can be quickly incapacitated by hazardous atmospheres, leading to injury or death by asphyxiation or explosion. Therefore, specialized instruments are needed for detecting dangerous atmospheres before entering any confined space.
Atmospheric conditions must meet specific criteria for oxygen, flammability, and toxic gasses. For example, employers must test for oxygen first, followed by explosive and poisonous gasses and vapors. They must also consider ongoing operations, potential hazards, or site-specific factors affecting conditions.
One of the most essential components of a confined space program is the confined space entry permit. The permit serves as a checklist to ensure that all necessary precautions are met. Entry supervisors must authorize permit operations by signing the completed permit, and authorized entrants must review the permit before entry.
Companies must post the permit at the entry point, include an estimated entry time, and when the operation is complete, or conditions change. Entrants must note unpermitted conditions on the permit, which they retain for one year for program review.
OSHA mandates that companies train workers who may be involved in confined-space work. Training must occur before employees begin their work or when their roles change. To maintain safety standards, organizations must provide training when new hazards arise or when there are deviations from permit-entry requirements. Employees are certified in their specific roles within the confined space process, which includes entrants, attendants, or entry supervisors.
Authorized entrants are employees trained and permitted to enter a confined space. They should be knowledgeable about potential hazards, the signs, and symptoms of exposure to such hazards. Authorized entrants should also know how to communicate with attendants in case of any prohibited or hazardous situations. They must exit immediately when ordered or when an alarm sounds. Full-body harnesses with retrieval lines must be worn by entrants, except in cases deemed unfeasible, in which case wristlets may be used.
Authorized attendants are responsible for monitoring the conditions inside and outside confined spaces and ordering authorized entrants to evacuate if a dangerous situation arises. Therefore, they should understand the confined space hazards, including the physical and behavioral effects of exposure, to recognize any symptoms in authorized entrants.
In emergencies, attendants must summon emergency services and perform any rescue operation for which they have been trained and equipped. Additionally, they must prevent unauthorized access to the confined space and can only leave once replaced by another attendant or when all authorized entrants have exited the space.
Entry supervisors must know the potential hazards present in a confined space and the signs and symptoms of overexposure to those hazards. They must ensure the completion of all necessary testing and procedures, the proper completion of the permit, and that all the required equipment is in place before permit operations can begin. The supervisor is responsible for deciding when to terminate the work and cancel the permit under certain conditions. They must also ensure the removal of unauthorized persons from the area and that rescue services are available and accessible in an emergency.
To ensure safe entry into confined spaces, a company must have extensive equipment, including atmospheric testing, ventilation, communication, lighting, and rescue. Additionally, any other equipment necessary for safe entry into and rescue from permit spaces should be provided.
To ensure the safety of employees when entering permit spaces, contractors are responsible for providing rescue and emergency services. Three types of rescue services are available: in-house, outside, and non-entry rescues.
In-house rescue services require a team to simulate a rescue once a year and have at least one member trained in first aid/CPR. Outside rescue teams must be evaluated for their response time and proficiency in performing necessary rescue services. Non-entry rescues require a full-body harness with a retrieval line attached to a mechanical device to pull out an incapacitated victim.
Confined space entry can be challenging and dangerous, but it can be done safely with proper preparation and knowledge. Gathering internal and external resources, understanding responsibilities and liabilities, and following OSHA standards is essential when setting up a legal entry.
Regular evaluations and updates to your confined space entry program can help ensure that it remains compliant with OSHA standards and that workers stay safe. By following these do’s of confined space entry, you can help keep your workers safe and ensure a successful entry.
Part three of our three-part series on confined spaces will discuss confined space rescue, including the equipment, procedures, and personnel needed to rescue workers safely in an emergency.
Organizations must recognize the dangers and potential liability associated with confined space entry. To ensure worker safety, employers must maintain an up-to-date program that includes training and necessary equipment, and continued education plays a vital role.
NTT offers hands-on safety and industrial skills development training programs led by experienced instructors. Our training programs can be customized to meet your team’s practical needs and operating schedule. Our comprehensive training, safety, and compliance approach reduces workplace accidents and increases productivity. Visit our website to learn more about how NTT can help you build a stronger company with safer, more skilled workers.
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