Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Permit-Required Confined Space Personnel

   Last time, we took a look at confined spaces, and I wanted to explore it a little further in this post.
   Once the employer has determined that a space meets all the requirements in the OSHA standard for Permit-Required Confined Spaces, a few roles have to be filled if employees intend to enter the space. The Permit itself will also contain the names of the relevant employees. Training must be provided to designated employees prior to the entry.
   The first designated employee will be the Entrant. Entrants are the employees that will perform whatever task is required in the confined space. The authorized entrants are the only employees that may enter the confined space during normal (non-rescue) operations. They should be aware of the relevant hazards to the confined space, as well as the task they intend to perform. They must also stay in contact with the Attendant while they perform their tasks in the confined space. Communication methods will vary, depending on the exact nature of the space, but the main requirement is that the attendant must be able to effectively communicate emergency information back and forth with the entrants.
   Next on the list is the Attendant. The attendant is an employee stationed outside a permit-required confined space to convey information to and from the entrants. The attendant must also be aware of the exact nature of the hazards that may be present in the confined space.  The attendant may not perform any task that interferes with his primary role as the attendant, but may perform ancillary tasks such as air-monitoring or passing tools back and forth to the entrants. The attendant has the main authority to evacuate the confined space if a threat is detected, so, again, effective communication is paramount. The attendant will also be in the best position to summon emergency help if it becomes necessary. The attendant must not enter the confined space for any reason, and may not leave the space unless properly relieved by another attendant.
   The last role that must be designated by the employer is that of the Entry Supervisor. The entry supervisor is the person responsible for coordinating the entry. This is the employee that will make sure that the permit is properly filled-out, that attendant and entrants are designated, and assume responsibility for ensuring that procedures related to the entry are followed. The entry supervisor’s duties are mostly administrative in nature, and this employee may not be physically on the jobsite where the entry occurs. The attendant and the entry supervisor might even be designated as the same person. The entry supervisor, like the attendant may not enter the confined space, although either may perform non-entry rescue.
   Through effective hazard recognition and reduction techniques, entry into permit-required confined spaces may be made safely and efficiently. Training and detailed programs and procedures are also required both for regulatory compliance, and employee safety. Employers who demonstrate dedication to these practices benefit from reduced injuries and related costs.


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