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11 steps to protect your employees if they're working in a confined space

by , 23 January 2014
You're required to provide a safe working environment for your employees. This applies even when your employees work in confined spaces. So take these 11steps to prepare your workers who work in a confined space

If your employees' work in confined spaces you must lookout for these potential hazards.

While we're still on hazards, let's take a look at these stats to see which potential hazards are most common resulting in duty related injuries:

  • Almost 50% of incidents are because of oxygen deficiency or toxic atmospheres;
  • 25% involve explosions or fires;
  • 20% involve entrapments, crush injuries or injuries sustained as a result of falling objects;
  • 5% are due to electrocution, extreme changes in temperature or other factors relating to working in a confined space.

Sounds pretty scary, doesn't it! Luckily, there's something you can do about this.

Use these 11 steps to prepare your workers to work in a confined space

Step #1: Do a risk assessment and provide a control measure for each and every hazard

You must include control measures in the action column of the risk assessment and describe how you plan to eliminate or mitigate the hazard.

Step #2: Isolate!

Keep hazards away from workers while they're in the confined space.

Step #3: Purify (purge)

The process of purifying may be necessary. Clear any harmful substances from the confined space before anyone enters the site.

Step #4: Ventilate

Keep the space well ventilated so as to maintain the optimum atmospheric level at which your employees can work.

Step #5: Test before entering!

A competent person must test the atmosphere in the confined space to detect the presence of potential harmful substances. Test the area before and during the work phase.

Step #6: Provide personal protective equipment (PPE)

Providing your employees with the correct personal protective equipment is imperative to keeping them safe while working in the confined space.

Step #7: You must have a SWAR (safety watcher/attendant/rescuer)

There must always be a trained safety representative just outside the entrance to look out for the well being of those within the confined space.

Step #8: Plan!

Ask these 20 questions before you allow your workers to enter the confined space.

Step #9: Identify hazards and assess the risks

After asking the questions in Step #8, conduct a hazard and risk assessment exercise in the form of a mock emergency drill that represents a real life threatening situation. Once you're done, remove or mitigate any identified hazards or threats.

Step #10: Develop a method statement

Develop a method statement showing clear ways that employees are to address the hazards and threats.

Step #11: Your workers must have Permits to Work

Workers entering the confined space must have permission to do so and trained to carry out the work intended.

The Health & Safety Advisor says although these steps aren't a legal requirement, the process is counted as best practice and is used by employers who look out for the safety of their employees. Make sure you comply as well.

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