Last week in our Toolbox Talk about the new confined space regulation (29CFR 1926.1204 Permit-Required Confined Space Program), we defined and listed examples of confined spaces we commonly find in construction activities. Briefly, a confined space is one that:
- Is large enough and configured so that an employee can bodily enter it;
- Has limited or restricted means of entry and exit; and
- Is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.
Confined spaces can present many hazards or conditions that are hostile to your well-being. This week, we’ll cover steps to keep employees safe while working in a confined space.
Once the competent person has identified a confined space, it is the responsibility of the employer to do the following:
- Implement the measures necessary to prevent unauthorized entry.
- Identify and evaluate the hazards of the space before allowing employees to enter.
- Develop and implement the means, procedures and practices necessary for safe entry and operations in the space, including, but not limited to, the following:
- Specify acceptable entry conditions;
- Provide each employee authorized to enter (or his/her authorized representative) with the opportunity to observe any monitoring or testing of the space;
- Isolate the space and physical hazard(s) within the space; and
- Eliminate or control atmospheric hazards by purging, inerting, flushing or ventilating the space. [Note to paragraph §1204(c)(4): When an employer is unable to reduce the atmosphere below 10 percent lower explosive limit, the employer may only enter if he/she neutralizes the space to render the entire atmosphere non-combustible and the employees use personal protective equipment (PPE).]
- Put monitoring procedures in place that can detect an increase in atmospheric hazard levels in sufficient time for employee(s) to safely exit the space should the ventilation system stop working.
- Provide pedestrian, vehicle or other barriers as necessary to protect employees in the space from external hazards.
- Continuously verify conditions in the space are acceptable throughout the duration of the authorized entry.
- Ensure that employees have the appropriate PPE needed to work in a confined space with a hazardous atmosphere.
Remember: Manage or mitigate the hazards of a confined space before you enter. Your safety depends on it.