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To manage the risks associated with working in confined spaces, employers must develop and implement a confined space hazard assessment and control program. A confined space hazard assessment and control program, specific for the work being conducted, should be written for work in each and every confined space.
A confined space hazard assessment and control program should include the following:
More information about confined spaces is located in the OSH Answers document Confined Spaces - Introduction.
An entry permit is an administrative tool used to document the completion of a hazard assessment for each confined space entry. Someone fully trained and experienced in confined space work should complete the entry permit. Some jurisdictions require a permit for all confined space entries. An entry permit is required for confined spaces where the hazard and risk assessment determines that the measures to control the risk involve the following:
Before entering a confined space, an entry permit should be completed. It should contain at least the following information:
The entry permit should be posted at the confined space and remain so until the work is completed. The employer should keep a copy of the completed permit on file.
Use warning signs to prevent unauthorized entry to the confined space.
Anyone working in a confined space must be constantly alert for any changing conditions within the confined space. In the event of an alarm from monitoring equipment or any other indication of danger, workers should immediately leave the confined space.
At least one other worker, the attendant (also known as the safety watch or standby), is posted outside the confined space and continuously monitors the workers inside the confined space. The attendant has the following duties:
Should a worker leave a confined space for a short time (for example, coffee break, getting additional material for their work), the confined space should be re-tested before the worker re-enters. If the confined space has been continuously monitored by equipment that can show the details of the atmosphere during the time absent from the confined space and this information can be seen from outside the confined space, it can be re-entered without retesting. If there is not continuous air monitoring then the hazard assessment needs to be repeated.
No confined space should be closed off until it has been verified that no person is inside it.
After exiting the confined space, the time of exit should be noted on the entry permit.
The detailed plan for emergency response to an injury or other emergency within the confined space should be described in detail in the confined space hazard assessment and control program.
If a situation arises where there is a hazardous condition and the worker does not leave or is unable to leave the confined space, rescue procedures should begin immediately.
Rescue personnel who are qualified in confined spaces rescue procedures should be available immediately nearby the confined space to provide emergency assistance if needed. The rescue personnel should be familiar with the structural design of the confined space.
Rescue the victims from outside of the confined space, if possible. No worker should enter a confined space to attempt a rescue unless that worker is fully trained in the rescue procedures and is wearing the appropriate personal protective equipment. More than 60% of deaths in confined spaces are would-be rescuers, who are not fully trained and adequately equipped.
An attendant should remain outside the confined space to monitor the space while there are rescue procedures taking place.
Rescue personnel should not use the same air as the confined space workers they are rescuing. Wear SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) or supplied air respirator with an escape bottle where possible.
Personnel who can provide first aid and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) are also required. These persons can be the attendant or other rescue personnel, as long as providing first aid or CPR does not interfere with their other duties.
Some jurisdictions require a certain number of workers be present. For example, New Brunswick requires three - the entrant, a person standing at the entrance (attendant), and a back-up employee within sight and shouting distance with no obstructions or barriers to overcome to reach the space (for example, not in another room or a parking lot). Each person has to be trained to carry out their responsibilities.
Other jurisdictions describe the qualifications that must be fulfilled, which may vary in the number of people present. For example, Ontario describes this requirement as having an adequate number of persons trained in the following to be immediately available to begin on-site rescue procedures as required:
Yes, appropriate training is extremely important to working safely in confined spaces, as well as for attendant and rescue personnel. Hands-on training should be an essential part of the confined space training.
Every worker that enters a confined space must be fully trained on the following:
Workers with emergency rescue responsibilities will need additional specialized training. All confined space training should include some hands-on training with the safety equipment including the personal protective equipment and safety harnesses. Rescue procedures should be practiced frequently so there is a high level of proficiency. Employers should keep records of all confined spaces training including refresher courses.