Confined spaces come in all shapes and sizes, but they share one particular characteristic: they pose unique risks to workers and must be carefully assessed prior to every entry attempt. The threat to life posed by entering confined spaces cannot be overstated, so organizations must invest in the right tools, training and processes to successfully mitigate the risks that their workers will face while carrying out their duties.
7 essential tools for supporting confined space safety
Many of the hazards that workers will face in confined spaces cannot be detected without the use of specialist equipment as they are colourless and odourless. Continually monitoring air quality while inside the space alerts workers to the presence of toxic gas and enables them to make an informed decision about whether evacuation is necessary.
When air quality is poor, it is often necessary to artificially ventilate a confined space to allow workers to conduct their duties safely. Portable ventilation systems can help to maintain an adequate airflow and mitigate the dangers associated with poor air quality.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Workers must wear appropriate PPE for the space they need to enter. This may include helmets, gloves, eye protection or other specialized clothing to act as a physical barrier between the worker and the risks they will encounter.
For safety reasons, it is essential that a dedicated lookout is situated outside of the confined space who can be in continuous contact with the workers deployed inside. Communication devices such as two-way radios allow information to be relayed and issues to be reported promptly.
Access control systems
It is crucial that access to confined spaces is rigorously controlled to prevent unauthorized entry and to enable swift evacuation when needed. Appropriate systems must be put in place to enhance confined space safety and provide a means of escape.
An emergency can occur even with the best planning in the world, so before any entry is made, ensure that the rescue equipment needed to facilitate a quick exit is in place and in good condition. This may include tripods, harnesses and winches, along with additional PPE for any rescue teams that are deployed.
Nobody should enter a confined space unless they have been trained to do so safely, can recognize the risks that they are likely to encounter, and are equipped to navigate them successfully. Workers must be trained, participate in regular safety drills, and empowered to contribute to an effective safety culture.
The risks associated with confined spaces are high, but by prioritizing the safety of their workers, organizations can fulfil their moral and legal obligations, empower their workers, and create an environment in which work in confined spaces can be conducted safely and effectively.
The cost of purchasing and maintaining the tools needed to ensure the safety of workers should be seen as an investment in safety and celebrated. Workers will derive great satisfaction from the knowledge that their employer is committed to their wellbeing, and this will ultimately enhance the operating culture of the organization.