Many Canadian industries, including mining, construction, and manufacturing, occasionally require personnel to enter a confined space while carrying out their duties. A confined space is defined as a space that is not intended for continuous human occupancy and which may have limited access and egress opportunities.
Because confined spaces are by their very nature hazardous, it is essential that employers and the workers that are deployed to work within them follow the golden rules detailed below.
Golden rules for confined space safety
1. Comply with training and certification standards
The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS)  provides guidance and resources to businesses that require workers to access confined spaces. Employers would be wise to enroll workers in specific training courses to equip them with the knowledge and experience that they need to work safely within these spaces, use the equipment that they will require, and practice safe evacuation techniques.
2. Conduct risk assessments
A comprehensive risk assessment must be conducted prior to every confined space entry attempt. This will identify any hazards and risks that exist and allow sufficient time to develop appropriate mitigation strategies prior to entry.
3. Provide the correct equipment
The Confined Spaces Regulations outline the confined space safety measures and equipment required for working safely in confined spaces. This includes personal protective equipment such as respirators and gas detectors, as well as appropriate tools and maintenance equipment for the type of work that will be conducted within the space.
4. Put in place appropriate ventilation measures
Many confined spaces are dangerous due to the way in which toxic gasses accumulate within them. To ensure operational safety within the confined space, workers must be provided with means to ventilate the space and to continuously monitor the air quality within it. Should air quality levels deteriorate, workers should immediately be evacuated to safety.
5. Develop rescue plans
As part of a risk assessment, businesses should determine the way in which they will evacuate workers safely from a confined space should conditions deteriorate or an emergency situation occur. It is wise for workers to undertake space-specific safety drills prior to entry to familiarize themselves with the risks and the emergency evacuation procedures that apply.
6. Station attendants outside the space
For the safety of workers within the space, it is essential that attendants are located outside of the space and in constant communication with those working within. By putting this safety measure in place, rescue plans can be immediately enacted should any worker report concerns.
7. Records must be maintained
Records pertaining to every confined space owned or operated by a business must be held in order to comply with confined space regulations. These include risk assessment, training records, and incident reports, among others. These documents can form an essential part of a business’ continuous improvement processes, allowing near misses and incidents to be thoroughly investigated and measures put in place to prevent reoccurrence.
By following these golden rules and prioritizing confined space safety, Canadian businesses can remain compliant with safety regulations, ensure the safety of their workers and create a safer environment for everyone.