Working in Confined Spaces - Spotlight on Safety

safety in confined spaces

Contributor:  Mike Kelly, Project Manager of F.E. Moran Special Hazard Systems
Writer:  Sarah Block, Marketing Director of The Moran Group

In September 2013, Richard "Rick" Whitney Jr. was killed when he was welding a pipe inside a methane gas dome and an explosion occurred. A co-worker, Richard Sterling, was injured in the blast. OSHA investigated and found that the employer failed to train the workers on the hazards of working within confined spaces. The companies involved received $45,720 in fees from ten citations.

Confined spaces are dangerous and can be deadly. Not only for the employees that work within them, but also for rescue workers trying to save employees from confined spaces. 60% of confined space fatalities are rescuers.


Confined space safety hazards include
• Lack of oxygen.
• Poisonous vapors, causing asphyxiation.
• Gases, vapors, or other hazards that can be flammable as shown in the example above.
• Physical hazards such as drowning, engulfment, or becoming trapped.

Confined space is any space that is enclosed on five sides. It can be a storage tank, process vessel, bins, broilers, ducts, sewers, pipelines, or any other space that has an open top and is 4+ feet deep.

To stay safe in confined space, follow the tips below:
• Regularly test the air quality.
• Ventilate the area according to company policy.
• Follow lock out/tag out procedures.
• Maintain continuous communication with a trained attendant.

While working in confined spaces cannot always be avoided, by following these tips, you can work safely within these spaces.

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