Podcast Title: Health and Safety to Go!

Episode #: 153: Confined Spaces: No Small Danger


Introduction: Welcome to Health and Safety to Go, broadcasting from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.

Host: Toxic air, flammable vapours and the only way out is through a small opening Ė this situation is just one of many scenarios that describe what itís like to work in a confined space. While hazards can be found in every type of workplace, confined spaces have the potential to be even more hazardous.

What is a confined space?

Generally speaking, a confined space is an enclosed or partially enclosed space that is not primarily designed or intended for human occupancy. It has a restricted entrance or exit, and can represent a risk to the health and safety of anyone who enters, due to one or more of the following factors: its design, construction, location or atmosphere; the materials or substances in it; work activities being carried out in it, or the mechanical process and safety hazards present.

Confined spaces can be found in almost any workplace. Examples include: silos, vats, hoppers, utility vaults, water cisterns, clean water wells, tanks, ship holds, sewers, pipes, access shafts, truck or rail tank cars, aircraft wings, boilers, conveyors, cellars, tunnels, manholes, manure pits, storage bins and other such spaces that workers could enter to perform work. Ditches or trenches may also be a confined space when access or a way out is limited.

All hazards found in a regular workspace can also be found in a confined space. The main hazards associated with confined spaces include: oxygen deficiency or enrichment, fire or explosion, toxicity, and drowning.

These hazards may not be obvious so a person qualified with the proper training and experience must conduct a confined space hazard assessment before any workers enter the space, considering these factors:

Many factors need to be evaluated when looking for hazards in a confined space. An error in identifying or evaluating potential hazards can put the worker's life in danger.

To effectively control the risks associated with working in a confined space, a Confined Space Hazard Assessment and Control Program should be implemented. Before putting together this program, make sure to review the specific regulations that apply to your workplace. All jurisdictions in Canada have varying regulations dealing with confined space entry.

Workers should not enter the confined space until it is made safe to do so by taking precautions.† For each job, determine if it is absolutely necessary that the work be done inside the confined space. In some cases it may be possible to do the work outside the confined space.

Air quality testing needs to be performed by a qualified person trained in using detection equipment. Always make sure that the testing equipment is properly calibrated and maintained. Air sampling should show that there are safe limits of oxygen content in the confined space, hazardous gases are not present, and that ventilation is working properly. This testing should be ongoing while work is being done.

Remove or restrict any liquids or free-flowing solids in the confined space to eliminate the risk of drowning or suffocation. All pipes should be physically disconnected or isolation blanks bolted in place; closing valves is not sufficient.† Entry and exit openings for the confined space must be large enough to allow the passage of a person using personal protective equipment.

To protect workers, employers can:

 What can workers do? They can:

For more information and resources about working in confined spaces, please visit www.ccohs.ca. Thanks for listening everyone.