What is a Confined Space?
A confined space is defined as a space not designed for continuous occupancy but large enough for workers to enter with limited or restricted means for entry or exit. Confined spaces include tunnels, pipelines, tanks, vessels, silos, shafts, hoppers, vaults, trenches, chambers, machine interiors, pits or manholes.
Why Working within Confined Spaces is Dangerous
Everyday, employees plunge into confined spaces, these employees include construction workers, sewage workers, miners, transport workers, agricultural workers, maintenance workers and utility workers. They face a variety of hazards when they do this. These hazards include:
The low levels of oxygen can cause asphyxiation, oxygen gets replaces by other gases such as nitrogen and carbon dioxide which can be harmful. The inhalation of toxic gasses, vapours, fumes and dusts can make rescuers lose consciousness, creating a risky situation for all
Due to the quantity of flammable or explosive gasses within confined spaces, there is a risk of fires or explosions breaking out, causing injury to workers or rescuers.
Often, workers are sent down to pipes and tunnels full of liquids such as oil and water. This can lead to potential drowning. Engulfment can also be caused by free-flowing solids like rocks or dirt, where workers get stuck underneath and can’t move.
There is a risk of falling from heights, getting struck by falling objects and electrocution when working within confined spaces.
Confined Space Rescue
When an emergency happens, a confined space rescue procedure must be put into place, these emergencies include:
- A worker has lost consciousness
- A worker falls, is injured and can’t get out of the space
- The atmosphere changes and an alarm goes off to warn the workers to evacuate
- A fire or explosion happens
There are three main types of confined space rescue:
- Self-rescue – the worker can get themselves out using emergency breathing apparatus
- Non-entry rescue – rescuers do not enter the confined space, instead they winch out the worker with a tripod and lifeline
- Entry rescue – rescuers have to enter the confined space to get the worker out
Confined space rescuers have to go through training and rescue plans before they’re able to be called out to the scene of the accident. According to the approved code of practice, rescue plans and teams should include:
- Resuscitation and rescue equipment – defibrillator, harnesses, lifelines, lifting equipment and emergency breathing apparatus. Anyone who uses this equipment should be trained to do so. Confined space rescue & safety equipment from Reax.
- Raising the alarm and rescue – other workers need to be able to be alarmed to an emergency inside the confined space and be able to call for rescue – radios, air horns, tugging a rope and personal alarms.
- Safeguarding rescuers – reduce the risk of people involved in the rescue
- Fire safety – firefighting measures like extinguishers and hoses
- Controlling plant – the plant may need to be shut down before an attempted rescue
- First aid – rescuers trained in first aid, first aid equipment and defibrillator
- Public emergency services – communicating with the emergency services in the event of an accident
- Training – trained in safety, emergency procedures, risk management and rescue plans
Preparing for a Rescue
It’s not enough to just have a plan, rescuers have to practice emergency procedures, they do this by carrying out drills. These drills can either be with dummies or volunteers. They learn which equipment to use and how to use it, the success of the practice drill is then reviewed. Without these emergency drills, rescuers may not fully know what to do in certain situations, by practicing over and over again, they’re more likely to have a successful rescue attempt.
There have been many cases of rescuers going into confined spaces without the proper procedures or equipment and passing away because of this, which is why these practice drills are extra important.
Confined space training needs to be carried out so that casualties are prevented, by teaching workers how to recognise hazards and providing them with adequate safety gear, a rescue team won’t be needed and injuries will be prevented. Working within confined spaces can be fatal, and the proper training needs to be given before going anywhere near a sewage pipeline, tunnel or trench.
Confined Space Training by Reax
Reax is a leading provider of confined space training, many companies sign up with us to send their workers to receive adequate training before going into confined space work. We offer a variety of courses including low risk, medium risk, high risk, rescue training, supervisor training, hydrogen sulphide training and tank and vessel entry training. As you can see, we offer these courses to both workers and rescuers.
Book A Confined Space Training Course Today