Monday, May 23, 2011

Confined Space Training

   One of the more common training types our company has been asked to perform over the last year or so, has been Confined Space Training.  Requests come from very diverse sources; from an oil refinery in the Bahamas, to a slaughterhouse outside of Amarillo, TX. (I’ll leave you to guess which of those I taught personally, and which I didn’t!) The one thing they all have in common, is the fact that they recognized the need for confined space training, and understood that OSHA requires employers to provide relevant training to employees exposed to hazards on the job.
   The first part of the process is to determine if employees will be exposed to confined spaces on the job. Even if employees will not actually enter the confined spaces onsite, awareness training regarding the hazards may still be needed. Under OSHA guidelines, a confined space:
“(1) Is large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work; and
(2) Has limited or restricted means for entry or exit (for example, tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, hoppers, vaults, and pits are spaces that may have limited means of entry.); and
(3) Is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.” - 29 CFR 1910.146(b)
   A wide range of spaces may fit this description on a given jobsite, so it is important for each employer to assess the worksite to identify these confined spaces. Then next step is to determine if any of the confined spaces qualify as ‘Permit- Required Confined Spaces.’ Basically, if the confined space contains, or has the potential to contain, some other serious hazard (such as bad air, engulfment hazards, etc.) then it becomes a Permit space. You can consult OSHA’s 1910.146 standard for further guidance, or engage a safety consultant to help audit your particular jobsite and needs.
   Either way, once the types of confined spaces have been identified, employers must provide training to employees to make them aware of potential hazards on the jobsite. The training should be relevant to the jobsite, and specific enough to address the controls and procedures that will be used on the jobsite. The type of rescue to be used will also play a key role in the extent of the training, because employers wishing to maintain their own onsite rescue teams must also train those teams in the proper use of additional equipment as well as provide practical exercises annually to retain proficiency.
   Confined Spaces can be deadly. About 65% of fatalities in confined spaces occur because of bad air, and of those incidents, almost 100% have no air monitoring equipment or powered ventilation. Approximately 60% of deaths in confined spaces are would-be rescuers who lack the proper training to effectively assist a coworker, and about 29% of fatalities are supervisors.  All of these statistics point to one thing: a lack of awareness of the hazards of confined spaces that could be mitigated through proper assessment of the workplace, and effective training of employees. Both easily addressed with the resources available to employers.
   Stay tuned, and we will look at Permit-Required Spaces more closely in the future.

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