October 5, 2022

A team approach to confined space hazards

Does your team often work in confined spaces? If you're in construction or general industry, the answer is likely yes.

Confined spaces have their own unique set of challenges and hazards. Most accidents in this area happen due to a lack of communication, training, or planning.

The good news is that by using a team approach to train and plan for confined space hazards, you can reduce risk and stay safe on the job site.

To prioritize your workers' safety, register for Confined Space Awareness Training hosted on November 2 in the Denver metro area.

Here's a look at common questions and important recommendations for working in and around confined spaces.

What are the different types of confined spaces?

According to OSHA, confined spaces are not designed for continuous occupancy and are difficult to exit in the event of an emergency. Although they are large enough for someone to enter, they don't have ventilation or lighting.

Confined spaces include crawl spaces, pits, vaults, manholes, storage bins, sewers, and tanks. They are often used to hold materials, water or grain.

Certain confined spaces require a permit to enter. A confined space requiring a permit has at least one of these characteristics:

  • Contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere
  • Contains a material with the potential for engulfing an entrant
  • Has an internal configuration that could trap or asphyxiate an entrant by inwardly converging walls or by a floor that slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross-section
  • Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazard

What are the requirements for working in a confined space?

Getting the right permits for the confined space and training your employees on how to enter the space are two critical initial steps.

Employers must also provide the appropriate equipment to their team and ensure they use it properly.

Once you survey the confined space, you'll need to create and implement a plan and mitigate any hazards.

While working inside and around a confined space, each member of the safe entry team has an important role. Authorized entrants, attendants (who monitor the safety of the workers in the space) and supervisors each have certain duties and requirements to fulfill.

What are the hazards related to working in a confined space?

The three types of hazards associated with confined spaces include:

  • Hazardous atmosphere, including exposure to toxic substances, asphyxiation, noise, and explosions
  • Physical hazards, such as entrapment, electrocution, and thermal (cold or hot)
  • General safety hazards, such as wildlife

What are the best practices for working in a confined space? 

When you're training an entrant, attendant and supervisor, it's vital you keep them fully informed and take a team approach. This means encouraging cooperation between the three positions and emphasizing the big picture of how their role fits within the rest of the entry team. Rather than a siloed or fragmented view, the team-focused method has built-in checks and balances. This helps ensure each individual's actions are safe.

One essential action is to make sure you document all training and complete annual refresher training.

More key tips for working in and around a confined space include:

  • Follow the correct procedures for testing the air in the confined space for oxygen, flammability and toxicity.
  • Use the right natural or mechanical ventilation appropriate for the space.
  • Determine methods of rescue for the space and establish written procedures.

Want to learn more? Sign up for Pinnacol's Confined Space Awareness Training hosted on November 2, 2022 in the Denver metro area.