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Working safely in Confined spaces

by Abhay Choubey

Every industry has to follow certain safety measures to ensure the safety and wellbeing of every employee. However, there’s a difference between certain industries when it comes to risk factors involved. For example, working in enclosed and confined spaces is considered quite different from working in an open office or at a supermarket. But, with proper training and other safety measures, working in confined spaces can be safe and risk-free.

Make sure everyone knows the definition of a confined space

Every person on your team should be familiar with the definition of an enclosed space. If you have a novice among your workers, you can’t expect them to have the experience needed to recognise an enclosed and potentially hazardous area. That’s why you should check whether everyone knows what can be categorised as a confined space. A confined space is an area that is limited in space, partially or entirely enclosed. These areas can have a different point of entrance and exit or the point of entrance and exit can be the same. Each confined space is different but should be treated with equal precaution.

Identify possible risks and hazards

Just as every confined space is different, there are different hazards and risks involved. Some of the possible risks involve lack of oxygen, presence of toxic gases, or flammable substances, physical hazards, working at a height, free-flowing liquid, extreme heat, collapsing environment. If these risks and hazards aren’t identified, the chances of being in a potentially dangerous situation increase simply due to a lack of knowledge. Fortunately, certain legal requirements have to be met before you even get a permit to work in an enclosed space, and these risk factors have to be recognised before you even qualify for the permit.

Conduct risk analysis of each workplace

A detailed risk analysis is mandatory before workers go into an area defined as an enclosed space. You have to outline details like physical characteristics,  the size of the space, point of entry and exit and other parameters. Next, you should take into account hazards and risks, whether poisonous gas is present,  if the space is prone to collapse and other risk factors. Risk assessment can further define which equipment should be used within a confined space, which should be avoided, the number of people allowed in the space and other rescue team considerations.

Professional training is a must

Before workers are even allowed to enter an enclosed area to perform required work, certain rules and regulations have to be met. This is the first step that ensures safety factors are being met. Secondly, you should provide confined space training to all your workers so they’ll know how to identify hazards, how to work safely and how they can use required pieces of equipment. You’ll also learn a lot about the correct safety equipment you’ll need for swift rescue missions.

Develop a rescue plan

Once you finish your confined space training, you can combine the obtained knowledge and professional experience to come up with a rescue plan. An employer or anyone in charge is responsible for developing such a plan and it should be the organization’s priority. Not only that, but you should also drill this rescue plan and assign people to the rescue team. Each member of the team should be able to act swiftly, keep calm and know how to work with rescue equipment. A clearly defined rescue plan is the key to making the right steps in an emergency. Make sure every worker has the rescue plan in print and remember to repeat the rescue drill regularly.

Create a safety protocol before each confident space project

working safely

Each time a team is required to work in a confined space, they should follow the safety protocol. This means they should test every piece of equipment they plan on using to ensure it works properly. Next, they should establish who goes in first and who is responsible for handling certain pieces of equipment and other unique tasks. Lastly, there should be one person outside, trained to perform the rescue mission or call an emergency team.  Just make sure there is someone on watch in case of an emergency.

Risk is part of our everyday lives, but some risks are hazardous than others. That’s why safety should be the top priority for people working in enclosed spaces. These six steps can be used as a guide by anyone who needs to increase the safety of their workers.

 

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