The Importance of Confined Space Entry Certification for Construction Practices

19 November 2021

Many workplaces contain areas known as “confined spaces” because while they are not for people, they are large enough for workers to enter and perform certain tasks. A confined space also has limited or restricted means for entry or exit and is not designed for continuous occupancy. Confined spaces include, but are not limited to, tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, hoppers, vaults, pits, manholes, tunnels, equipment housings, ductwork, pipelines, etc.

OSHA uses the term “permit-required confined space” (permit space) to describe a confined space that has one or more of the following characteristics. First, it contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere. Second, it contains material that has the potential to engulf an entrant. Third, it has walls that converge inward or floors that slope downward and taper into a smaller area which could trap or asphyxiate an entrant. Lastly, it contains any other recognized safety or health hazard. These include unguarded machinery, exposed live wires, or heat stress.

Confined spaces – such as manholes, crawl spaces, and tanks – are not designed for continuous occupancy and are difficult to exit during an emergency. People working in confined spaces face life-threatening hazards including toxic substances, electrocutions, explosions, and asphyxiation. Construction workers often perform tasks in confined spaces – work areas that are large enough for an employee to enter, have limited means of entry or exit and are not designed for continuous occupancy.

These spaces can present physical and atmospheric hazards that can be avoided before entering the space to perform work. Confined spaces can present conditions that are immediately dangerous to workers if such conditions are not identified, evaluated, tested, and controlled. Confined space hazards in sewer systems have led to worker deaths.

The Importance of Confined Space Entry Certification for Construction Practices

The new Confined Spaces standard requires employers to ensure that their workers know about the existence, location, and dangers posed by each permit-required confined space and that they may not enter such spaces without authorization. Employers must train workers involved in permit-required confined space operations to perform their duties safely and understand the hazards in permit spaces and the methods used to isolate, control or protect workers. Unauthorised entry rescuers must still be trained on the dangers of attempting such rescues.

Safe Entry Requirements

The new Confined Spaces standard includes several requirements for safe entry.

Before workers can enter a confined space, employers must provide pre-entry planning. This includes having a competent person evaluate the work site for the presence of confined spaces, including permit-required confined spaces. Once the space is classified as a permit-required confined space, identifying the means of entry and exit, proper ventilation methods, and elimination of all potential hazards in the space.

Ensure that the air in a confined space is inspected before workers enter. Check for oxygen levels, flammable and toxic substances, and stratified atmospheres. Secure the space, and remove or control hazards in the area while determining rescue procedures and necessary equipment. If the air in a space is not safe for workers, ventilate or use whatever controls are necessary, so the employees can safely work in the confined space.

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