A confined space is large enough for a worker to enter and work in but has a narrow restricted entry and exit. Workers must enter, work in, and exit a confined space wearing and using personal protective equipment (PPE).
A confined space is not meant to be occupied continuously; most of the time there are no people inside a confined space. Tunnels, wells, manholes, cold storages, ship holds, sub cellars, tanks, culverts, silos, vaults, and open ditches are examples of confined spaces.
Because a confined space is enclosed, working inside it is hazardous. Unless workers are equipped with PPE that helps them enter, safely work inside, and exit they may suffer injury. Confined spaces may contain hazards such as an explosive or flammable atmosphere, harmful fumes, gasses, and vapours. Such spaces may also contain free-flowing solids, or liquids may continuously flow into and drain from them. They may also have excessively high concentrations of oxygen or high temperature.
Workers work inside confined spaces in the construction, mining, oil and gas, manufacturing, transportation and storage, and food and beverage industries. They face the following hazards.
Confined Space Hazards in the Construction Industry
In the construction industry workers often work inside confined spaces like manholes, tanks, crawl spaces, trenches, and drainage pipes. Because these spaces are not meant to be occupied continuously, should an emergency arise, exiting them safely will prove difficult. Workers inside such confined spaces face life-threatening hazards from toxic substances and explosions. Also, without proper PPE, they may be electrocuted or suffer asphyxiation.
In 2011 two young brothers working in a confined space died from asphyxiation by hydrogen sulphide. While flushing a drainage system with a high-pressure hose the younger brother asphyxiated and fell 10-feet into a shaft. The older brothers’ attempt at rescue failed and he died two days later in a hospital. Notably, in confined space related fatalities 60% of victims are rescuers.
To safely enter, work inside, and exit such spaces workers must be equipped with suitable PPE and be supported by a well-trained work crew outside the space.
Confined Space Hazards in the Mining Industry
Workers in confined spaces such as mines face hazards that can only be mitigated using suitable PPE and measures that ensure safe entry and exit. Inside mines workers face hazards from flammable, explosive, combustible agents. The atmosphere inside mines may also be hazardous. A mine where oxygen content in the atmosphere is less than 19.5 % or greater than 20% by volume is hazardous to occupy. Other hazards such as the accumulation of contaminants in the atmosphere such as gases, vapours, dust or mists, and fumes can lead to acute health problems and pose a danger to workers’ lives. The aforementioned hazards may also make it harder for workers to exit confined spaces unaided.
Accidents in mines are commonplace. Many result in fatalities. The safety record of the mining industry in the US has improved dramatically since 2000. That year 85 workplace fatalities occurred in mines. In 2018 the number fell to just 27. Better training and widespread use of PPE have made working in mines safer since 2000.
Confined Spaces Hazards in the Oil and Gas Industry
Workers in the oil and gas industry regularly work in confined spaces. They enter confined spaces for maintenance and inspections. They face hazards such as toxic gasses and vapours, flammable gasses and vapours, and exposure to oxygen-deficient or oxygen-rich atmospheres. They also face hazards such as loud noise and low visibility.
In 1999 an electrician working in a waste gas tower having dangerous levels of carbon monoxide, hydrogen cyanide, and dihydrogen sulphide fell unconscious. Fortunately, he was accompanied by an aide who rescued him. While rescuing the electrician the aide was exposed to hazardous gasses and fell ill. Luckily both were treated successfully. Instances, where workers fall unconscious working in confined spaces having toxic gasses, are commonplace.
Confined Space Hazards in Other Industries
Workers in the food and beverage, manufacturing, and transportation and storage industries often work in enclosed and partially enclosed areas from which entry and exit must be attempted cautiously. They need to wear suitable PPE while working in such areas.
PPE makes working in confined spaces safe. Safety spectacles, helmets, facemasks, safety workwear, earplugs, earmuffs, safety shoes, and safety gloves are PPE workers wear when working in confined spaces. Confined space entry equipment like tripods help workers enter and exit confined spaces safely. Workers must never enter a confined space without PPE. Doing so increases the risk of injury and fatality.
Equipping workers with PPE isn’t enough; they must be trained to use it. An investigation of confined space incidents revealed supervisors were present 85% of the time. 29% of the time supervisors suffered fatalities. Only 15% of teams that suffered incidents were trained to work in confined spaces. Without training teams working in confined spaces will come to harm.
KARAM Industries values those who work in confined spaces. They do crucial jobs and their safety is paramount. To ensure their safety KARAM Industries manufactures PPE that meets stringent global standards. Equipping workers with KARAM PPE ensures they remain safe inside confined spaces.
Driven by the zeal to keep workers safe inside confined spaces, KARAM Industries employs a large research and development team. Its adherence to global standards ensures KARAM PPE keeps workers productive inside confined spaces. Stringent manufacturing processes ensure the quality of every unit produced.
Continuously innovating, KARAM Industries has made working in confined spaces safer than ever.
Subsequent blogs will provide details about PPE essential for working in confined spaces. Details about PPEs features, uses, how to select and maintain PPE will be shared.