WHAT IS A CONFINED SPACE?The definition of a confined space is any fully or partially enclosed space can be deemed a confined space. Some important questions to consider when identifying confined spaces are:
- Is the space designed or intended to be occupied by humans for extended periods of time?
- Does the space have limited or restricted entrance or exit points?
- Is the space configured in a way that can complicate first aid, rescue, or other emergency response services?
- Does the space have the potential to house atmospheric hazards such as gases, loose materials and other environmental risk factors?
- Knowing all factors, can the space pose a risk to the health and safety of anyone who enters it?
EXAMPLES OF CONFINED SPACES IN THE CLEANING INDUSTRY INCLUDE:
RESTRICTED ACCESS AREAS: spaces such as cleanroom-controlled environments or automotive booths housing live automation equipment (paint line conveyors and robots).
AREAS WITH SPACE/TIME FLUIDITY: vats, tanks, boilers, ovens, trenches, pits, degreasers and digesters, heavy duty equipment and other potentially hazardous environments.
LESS OCCUPIED SPACES: mechanical, storage, and dispensing rooms (furnace, storage and cooling rooms, HVAC, laboratories, waste treatment facilities)
WORK FROM HEIGHTS OR UNDERGROUND: manhole and utility vaults, pipelines, sewers and subcellars to working from heights (such as rooftop or silos).
TRANSITIONARY SPACES AND/OR TRANSFER AREAS: elevator rooms, other arenas less frequently occupied such as access shafts
WHAT ARE THE POTENTIAL HAZARDS IN A CONFINED SPACE?
Recognition is the first step in preventing lost-time injury (LTI) and fatalities. All hazards found in a regular workspace can also be found in a confined space. However, confined spaces make it difficult to control or avoid these hazards, making them much riskier.
The Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) outlines the following potential hazards that can be found in confined spaces:
- POOR AIR QUALITY: This can include limited oxygen supply, poisonous substances, or lack of ventilation.
- ASPHYXIANTS: Asphyxiants are gases that can become so concentrated that they displace oxygen in the air. Asphyxiants include argon, nitrogen, or carbon monoxide.
- CHEMICAL EXPOSURES: These can be introduced through skin contact, ingestion or inhalation.
- FIRE HAZARD: There may be explosive/flammable liquids and gases present.
- PHYSICAL HAZARDS: These can include noise, extreme heat/cold, radiation, electrical, and insufficient lighting.
- MECHANICAL HAZARDS: Moving parts of equipment, structural hazards, engulfment, entanglement, slips and falls.
- BIOLOGICAL HAZARDS: These include viruses and bacteria that may be present.
WHAT PROCEDURES SHOULD TAKE PLACE BEFORE ENTERING A CONFINED SPACE?
Before entering any confined space, a trained and experienced employee should identify and evaluate the existing and potential hazards within the space. While employers and employees can implement numerous safety procedures to ensure the safety of everyone working in a confined space, we would like to place a special focus on the importance of lockout/tagout procedures.
LOCKOUT/TAGOUT IS A CRITICAL IN SAFEGUARDING WORKERS AROUND THE SPACES AND EQUIPTMENT THEY OPERATE, SERVICE AND MAINTAIN.
WHAT IS THE PURPOSE OF A LOCKOUT/TAGOUT PROGRAM?Recognition is the first step in preventing lost-time injury (LTI) and fatalities. All hazards found in a regular workspace can also be found in a confined space. However, confined spaces make it difficult to control or avoid these hazards, making them much riskier. The Canadian Center for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) outlines the following potential hazards that can be found in confined spaces: A LOCKOUT/TAGOUT PROGRAM WILL HELP PREVENT: 1. Contact with a hazard. 2. The accidental release of hazardous energy. 3. The accidental start-up or motion of machinery or equipment .
HOW CAN AN ORGANIZATION DEVELOP AN EFFECTIVE LOCKOUT/TAGOUT PROGRAM?The initial planning phase is your site’s opportunity for an investigative ‘reality check’. This will help you determine how many resources you’ll need to make the program effective and whether or not a third party will be required to make it possible. There are a number of steps that can be taken to implement a proper lockout/tagout program. Identify your program’s strength and performance. Proper instructions and training should be implemented and executed to identify how the lockout process is to be carried out in a step-by-step manner. This should include how stored energy is controlled and de-energized, how isolation can be verified, and how and where lockout devices are installed. Work instructions should always be machine, equipment or process specific and should include pictures or images of what is being described.
THE FOLLOWING KEY ELEMENTS FOR A LOCKOUT/TAGOUT PROGRAM WILL HELP YOUR ORGANIZATION KEEP YOUR EMPLOYEES SAFE WHILE WORKING IN CONFINED SPACES.1. DEVELOP A LOCKOUT/TAGOUT POLICY. THIS POLICY SHOULD OUTLINE:
a. Types of hazardous energy that may be encountered during various procedures and how to control them.
b. Types of energy-isolating or de-isolating devices.
c. The specific machine, equipment, or process involved in the shutdown and isolation process.
d. How and where the lockout devices are installed.
e. What needs to be done, when it needs to be done, what tools and training are required to do it.2. WRITE MACHINE-SPECIFIC LOCKOUT/TAGOUT PROCEDURES THAT ARE EASILY ACCESSIBLE.
One of the biggest gaps in lockout/tagout procedures is a lack of detailed, machine-specific procedures. These should be easily accessible to anybody who is working inside or around the machine.3. IDENTIFY AND MARK ALL ENERGY ISOLATION POINTS
Use labels or tags to indicate the location of valves, switches, plugs or breakers.4. IMPLEMENT A LOCKOUT/TAGOUT TRAINING PROGRAM.
Training is the best way to ensure your workers are receiving all the information required to perform their jobs to the best of their abilities. Training should involve both legal standards as well as the standards and practices put in place by your own organization.
HOW WE SUPPORT OUR CLIENTSDoes your facility have the resources necessary to support a safer working environment? If not, we can help! At TEAM Group, we always prioritize the safety of our staff as well as yours. We can provide everything from full facility cleaning services to health and safety training and confined space rescue. Check out our full list of services here. OUR TEAM MEMBERS ARE TRAINED AND CERTIFIED TO RESPOND IN CONFINED SPACE RESCUE
- OSHA compliant (workplace health and safety)
- COVID-19 safety related to industrial hygiene (Decontamination Training Services)
- First Aid, CPR, AED
- Emergency Response training (HAZWOPER)
- Hazardous materials awareness, identification and management