Emergency Escape Systems in Confined Spaces Are Vital to Protect Workers
Although confined spaces are dangerous and often challenging, by observing OSHA requirements and NIOSH standards, and providing workers the emergency escape systems in confined spaces and the correct PPE equipment such as gas monitors, air samplers and personal protective equipment (PPE), you will provide a safer environment and reduce risk. Approximately 100 of such workers die on the job each year, says NIOSH in emergency escape type situations. About half of the fatalities are workers attempting rescues, so it is important to provide ongoing training in equipment and specialized confined space training to workers as well as supervisors.
Not all confined spaces are "permit-required" (PRCS) as defined by OSHA. A PRCS is one that contains, or potentially contains, serious safety and health hazards. Such hazards might include oxygen-deficient, flammable or toxic atmospheres; materials that could engulf a worker, such as grain or rock / shale; or physical features that could entrap an employee, such as sloping walls.
You should identity each limited access space with a warning sign, such as “DANGER--PERMIT-REQUIRED CONFINED SPACE---DO NOT ENTER”. No one should enter a PRCS without a signed permit from the entry supervisor and something we wish to stress, you should have records of employee training and certification (Note item number 3 below).
Pre-planning is essential prior to any confined space entry and to determine the type of emergency escape system to have on hand. Let's look at four prerequisites that should be required to ensure a successful operation. You can get further information by visiting OSHA website, http://www.osha.gov/ and NIOSH website, http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ . Try using search terms like confined space permit, confined space equipment, emergency escape, etc. The following is a summary of OSHA requirements and is not meant to replace or supercede OSHA requirements. Standards and revisions are constantly being updated so it is your responsibility to keep up to date.
1 Test the air - The permit requires a review of the hazards of each space. If there are atmospheric dangers, the space must be monitored first by dropping a probe from a gas meter or some other monitor into the space and taking measurements throughout the space, from the top down to the bottom. These devices must be properly calibrated each time they are used. Testing should be conducted in the following order: 1) oxygen content; 2) flammable or explosive atmosphere; 3) toxic gases or vapors.
2 Plan the entry - Before your employees even enter the space, you must discuss the permit and review the work procedures in the space. The permit serves as a planning checklist. Determine what equipment will be needed, including explosion-proof tools and lights. Electrical lighting and equipment should be grounded. Fill out a hot-work permit if welding will be performed in the space. Use the proper personal protective equipment (PPE), including respirators if necessary. All lockout/tagout steps should be followed to isolate the space. Good ventilation of the space is another consideration. All Safety Products, Inc. sells a wide range of ventilation systems and blowers for various confined space requirements.
3 Give specific training - OSHA does require that all employees who work in PRCSs must be trained on the specific conditions of the work environment. Rescue-team members also require training, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) and first-aid training. With the new advances in defibrillators, this may now be a required first aid kit item. Check updated OSHA regulations and NIOSH standards.
4 Post the permit - Once all pre-entry conditions have been satisfied and all equipment has been assembled or put in place, the entry supervisor must sign the permit and post it on the outside of the space.
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*To ensure you are meeting OSHA requirements and other applicable safety standards and practices, it is best to hire a professional safety consultant (www.aiha.org) or call your local OSHA area office or your state OSHA Consultation Services for their interpretation of your situation.