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Confined Space Entry Training for Your Employees

Confined space entry accidents are far from common but they are often the deadliest, usually involving at least two people — the victim and the rescuer. That’s one of the reasons that the Occupational Safety and Hazards Act, or OSHA, requires special training for this occurrence. You don’t want your workers rushing into a confined space without first accurately assessing the risks.

What Is a Confined Space?

Confined spaces are defined as being large enough for workers to enter and to perform their duties, but they are not designed for workers to spend extended periods in them. Further, they also typically have limited entry and exit points. Some typical confined spaces would be these:

  • Silos
  • Tanks
  • Storage bins
  • Pits
  • Tunnels
  • Ductwork
  • Hoppers
  • Vaults
  • Manholes
  • Equipment housings

OSHA refers to “permit-required confined space” as a confined space with one or more of these characteristics:

  • Contains or potentially could contain a hazardous atmosphere
  • Contains other recognized safety hazards, such as heat stress, live wires or unguarded machinery
  • Has walls that converge inward
  • Has floors that slope downward, tapering into tighter area that might trap or asphyxiate the worker

OSHA’s rules concerning worker safety in confined space are exhaustive and extensive, dealing with almost every conceivable type of industry. In addition to any training you plan for your employees, you should regularly meet with employees and go over the sections of this law that pertain to your business or industry. It’s helpful to create scenarios and discuss safe procedures for rescue that will avoid serious injury.

Deaths in Confined Spaces

Asphyxiation is the most common cause of death in confined spaces. Other common causes of death in confined spaces are fire, electric shocks, falls, chemical overexposure, explosions, and even drowning, as in the case of a worker who drowned in a tunnel during a sudden thunderstorm.

In many cases of injury or death in confined spaces, the host employer was held responsible for “wrongful death” or gross negligence claims and successfully sued. All too often, it was proved that the host employer and contractor’s confined space training program was inadequate — sometimes nothing more than a perfunctory reading of the OSHA standard.

Often, even with a more elaborate program, it was found the employer had not discussed the training with the employees or implemented it in the workplace. There are even cases where it was shown that the employer did not explain sufficiently the hazards related to the job in the confined space.

As you can see, thorough training for employees working in confined spaces is key, not only because it can save lives and spare employees serious injury, but also because it could save the employer from being sued for large sums of money.

Rescue in Confined Spaces

Any training you schedule for your employees regarding confined spaces should include rescue training. OSHA outlines three ways to accomplish a rescue if a worker is injured or unable to exit from a confined space:

  • Non-entry rescue
  • Company employees attempt a rescue.
  • Emergency responders from outside the company mount a rescue.

It’s crucial to plan for these rescues, assessing the situation before rushing in to avoid creating additional victims. If emergency responders from the outside are called in, they should be apprised of whatever hazards might be associated with this confined space.

The Case for Good Training

As mentioned above, the OSHA rule directs employers to provide training to employees who need skills for safe performance in confined spaces. The trainee should have a good understanding of any potential hazards in the confined space, as well as methods to protect employees from the hazards. Although the standard does not mention training frequency, it’s important to review the important points periodically. Some employers may opt to provide confined space training as often as every 18 months.

Some of the topics a typical confined space training should cover are these:

  • Entry conditions
  • Hazards associated with confined spaces
  • Entry permit
  • Personnel and responsibilities
  • Overview of 29 CFR 1910.146 (OSHA’s Permit-Required Confined Spaces)
  • Atmosphere testing equipment
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Rescue operations

If you have any of the following employees, they should be included in the training:

  • Building engineers
  • Electricians
  • Warehouse employees
  • Owners and managers
  • Service center employees
  • Environmental health and safety personnel
  • Apprentice and experienced HVAC technicians
  • Maintenance technicians
  • Safety directors
  • Building managers and superintendents
  • Building engineers

Every year, an average of 1.6 million jobs are performed in confined spaces. You can help your employees avoid being among the few who are seriously injured or killed in a permit area by providing good training, and providing it at regular intervals.

NTT Training’s one-day seminar on Confined Space Entry could be the training your employees need to work safely in confined spaces, and if need be, perform rescues safely and effectively. Connect with us today for more information.

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