Working in a confined space can be dangerous. A confined space typically has a limited number of entryways and exits. This makes it difficult to evacuate in an emergency. As a result, you need a comprehensive confined space rescue plan to ensure your workers can get out if their safety is at risk.
The following guidelines can help you create a confined space rescue plan to reduce the risks of job site injuries.
Understand the Risks of the Confined Space
A confined space is large enough for a worker to enter and perform a task but not continuously occupy. Examples include storage tanks, crawl spaces, service tunnels, sewers, pipelines, silos, grain hoppers, and underground vaults.
Confined spaces have poor ventilation and few points of entry. This means that the presence of carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, chlorine gas, or other hazardous gases can reduce the amount of oxygen in the air. Exposure to these gases can lead to short- and long-term health concerns, including fainting and death.
Confined spaces tend to have poor lighting and visibility and easily can flood. Airborne flammable materials can be ignited and cause a flash fire. Grain silo dust can explode and create a fire. Workers who are lowered into a confined space or work near openings in the ground can fall and injure themselves.
Reduce the Risks of Injury in the Confined Space
You may require your workers to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) and use safety equipment while working in a confined space. This may include hard hats, helmets, or a lanyard and fall arrest system.
Be sure to test the confined space for the presence of hazardous gases before and while your worker is in the confined space. A multi-gas detector can determine whether there are hazardous gases present. If there is not enough oxygen, your team needs to use blowers to increase the ventilation. They also need to wear respirators or a self-contained breathing apparatus while working in the confined space. Have your workers leave immediately if the gas monitor goes off because the toxic gases get too high or the oxygen level gets too low.
Customize Your Confined Space Rescue Plan
Your confined space rescue plan must be based on the potential hazards your workers are facing. For instance, if the gas monitor goes off or a flash fire occurs, instruct your team to immediately leave the area. You may need a confined space retrieval system to facilitate the process. This may involve a tripod and winch to life the worker out of a confined space. Or, it may include a rescue ladder to help workers climb out of the space.
Ensure your workers are trained on your confined space rescue plan. This may involve being skilled in the latest extraction techniques and equipment to help with worker evacuation. These actions reduce the odds of your workers getting injured while trying to help team members.
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