A confined space is defined as an enclosed area with very few entry points. Some examples of confined spaces include vessels, tanks, manholes, trenches, silos, storage bins, vaults, pits, tunnels, pipelines, and so on. These places should not be occupied for long periods of time because they pose a significant risk to those within them.
However, some people must work within confined spaces because their job requires them to. Therefore, these people need to know what the main dangers of working in confined spaces are, so they can introduce preventive measures to protect themselves and others. That’s why we have written this article today.
1. Oxygen Deprivation
As we mentioned before, there aren’t very many entry points in confined spaces. This means they have poor ventilation, so the workers inside of them are not getting any fresh air. That isn’t the only problem, though. Sometimes, the environment of the confined space can affect oxygen levels. For example, the chemicals in the soil of tunnels can react with the oxygen in the air, creating carbon dioxide. This means that workers could slowly become deprived of oxygen without even realising it.
2. Becoming Trapped
People who work in confined spaces are always at risk of becoming trapped inside them. This is, once again, thanks to the lack of entry points. As a result, people often have to conduct a confined space rescue to help their trapped co-workers. However, this can also endanger the would-be saviours. In fact, research shows that rescuers account for almost 60% of all confined space deaths. This means that you need to create a failproof plan before enacting a rescue operation. Follow these rescue planning tips for help when doing so.
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3. Gases, Fumes and Vapours
Sometimes, people are completing work inside confined spaces which requires them to use toxic substances. For example, decorators might inhale paint fumes. As the air circulation in confined spaces is so appalling, this means that workers could be breathing these poisonous gases in for prolonged periods of time. And that’s not all. Employees might be sent into confined spaces to complete maintenance or repairs. These repairs could easily be for something like a gas leak. Once again, this puts them at risk of breathing in toxic fumes.
4. Fires and Explosions
As gases tend to accumulate in confined spaces, this means that the slightest of sparks can cause an explosive reaction. The poor ventilation in enclosed areas also means that dust tends to collect in them, which can sometimes lead to fires or explosions, too. When you combine all these factors together – and then throw a worker using electrical/heat-generating equipment into the mix – you have an incredibly hazardous environment on your hands.
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These are some of the main dangers involved in working in confined spaces. Now that you have identified these risks, you can begin putting control measures in place. These should prevent accidents from occurring and ensure that you know what to do in an emergency.