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Confined Space Entry Part 1- What is a confined space?

Home » Confined Space Entry Part 1- What is a confined space?

In North America, approximately 1.6 million workers enter a confined space each year and because of the lack of understanding regarding confined spaces and working in them, there are approximately 53 deaths, 5,000 lost time days and 5,700 other incidents related to confined spaces on an annual basis. That’s too much.

Unfortunately, most of the incidents described by these statistics could have been be avoided if employers and their workers took time to recognize, plan, and control hazards related to confined spaces.

According to The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) “generally speaking,  a confined space is a fully or partially enclosed space that:

  • is not primarily designed or intended for continuous human occupancy
  • has limited or restricted entrance or exit, or a configuration that can complicate first aid, rescue, evacuation, or other emergency response activities
  • Can represent a risk for the for the health and safety of anyone who enters, due to one or more of the following factors:
    • its design, construction, location or atmosphere
    • the materials or substances in it
    • work activities being carried out in it, or the
    • mechanical, process and safety hazards present”

Most people imagine a confined space as a subterranean tank where access and exit are limited, and a number of hazards might present themselves. This is generally true, but the CCOHS suggests that a list of confined spaces could also include:

  • open ditches
  • wells
  • tunnels
  • vaults
  • culverts
  • silos
  • tanks
  • sub-cellars
  • ship holds
  • manholes
  • cold storage

Any of these structures, if combined with a variety of hazards, can lead to HSE management issues. The CCOHS also identifies the following hazards that might be encountered in confined spaces:

  • Poor air quality. (There may be an insufficient amount of oxygen for the worker to breathe).
  • Hazards from asphyxiants (Simple asphyxiants are gases which can become so concentrated that they displace oxygen in the air )
  • Chemical exposures due to skin contact or ingestion as well as inhalation of ‘bad’ air.
  • Fire Hazard
  • Process related hazards
  • Physical Hazards
  • Safety Hazards
  • Vehicular and pedestrian traffic
  • Shifting or collapse of bulk material
  • Barrier failure resulting in a flood or release
  • Visibility
  • Biological hazards

As part of our STELLAR HSE Management and Tracking System, we include extensive guidance regarding confined spaces and the hazards workers can run into. Part of our service includes regulatory monitoring and updates to all our documents are incorporated regularly. This way you can be sure that your HSE program is always up to date and your workers are safe. Our goal is to help you protect your workers. To learn more, give us a call at 1-888-295-2808.

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