Working in a confined space can be dangerous, but it’s not always something that can be avoided. Before you start working in a confined space, it’s important to know which hazards to be on the lookout for so that it’s easier for you to avoid them and ensure that you are protected from harm.
Hazards create risks that can compromise your safety. In a confined space, your freedom of movement may be restricted, which can make it harder to get out if an emergency occurs. Enclosures that have limited openings, such as tanks, silos, sewers, and drains, are typically classed as confined spaces. Some areas may become confined spaces during construction work due to the tasks being carried out.
So, what are the main hazards to prepare for and protect yourself against?
The confined space becoming flooded can quickly cause a very serious hazard. Liquids can quickly engulf a confined space and the risk of this occurring is even higher in sewage or drain work. And, liquids are not the only flooding hazard. Confined spaces can also be flooded by solids, for example, if a trench collapses and there’s a high risk of people inside the trench becoming trapped beneath the material. Since confined spaces can be quite small, the flooding can happen in minutes or even seconds, making it very difficult to escape before it is too late.
Confined spaces are at a higher risk of suffering a lack of oxygen. Oxygen can be removed from a confined space’s atmosphere through a range of naturally occurring reactions. Poor ventilation can lead to a lack of oxygen when a person is in a confined space, or certain materials can produce carbon dioxide which will displace the oxygen. Inside some confined spaces like tanks, rust can also lead to a lack of oxygen.
Confined spaces do not tend to be very well-ventilated, which can lead to an extreme rise in the body temperature of anybody who is conducting strenuous physical work inside the space. This is an especially high risk during hot weather conditions and can lead to a very dangerous body temperature incline that increases the risk of collapse, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke.
Dust can build up quite quickly in a range of enclosed spaces. This can be dust that occurs naturally or dust that is generated by the activity that is being carried out, such as sanding, grinding, or drilling. A build-up of dust can lead to serious respiratory trouble, so it’s important for anybody working in a confined space to wear a suitable dust mask. Dust can also increase the risk of explosions and fire in the confined space, particularly if it is lacking in ventilation.
Another factor that can often make some confined spaces dangerous to work in is that once somebody is inside a confined space, it can often be difficult for them to get out. Many confined spaces can be difficult to access, particularly those that are located underground, which not only restricts escape for anybody working inside the space, but also makes an emergency rescue difficult. It’s important to have a rescue system in place when working in any confined spaces. The LifeGuard Rescue System by Pelsue is designed to quickly bring anybody working in a confined space to safety in the event of an emergency. Check out the range of rescue products available from Pelsue to choose one that is suitable for the confined spaces that you or your employees work in.
In certain confined spaces, poisonous fumes, gases, and vapors can quickly build up, especially in spaces where there is a lack of suitable ventilation. These gases and fumes could be a result of the work being carried out. For example, there is a higher risk of this occurring in a confined space where certain paints, adhesives, or other toxic liquids are used. Poisonous gases and fumes can also leak into a confined space from outside. Either way, it can create a very toxic atmosphere within the space that can be extremely dangerous to the health of anybody inside.
A fire in a confined space can be an extremely dangerous situation for anybody to find themselves in as a quick escape is often limited, and fire can spread very quickly in a small enclosed space. Those working in a confined space where there are hazards such as flammable liquids, gases, vapors, and dust should have a rescue system for confined spaces in place to ensure that anybody working in the space can escape quickly if a fire or explosion occurs.
Sometimes, working in a confined space is unavoidable. Being aware of the common hazards, risks, and dangers and having a rescue and escape plan in place is crucial.