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Working in Confined Spaces? Understand the Risks.


Unfortunately, we frequently come across news reports that detail accidents that
occurred within the workplace, many of which due to working within a confined space.
Many of these incidents transpire because an individual did not know or recognize the
risks associated with entering a confined space for an extended period of time. With so
many workers required to complete various tasks and forms of maintenance within
confined spaces, educating your team about the risks associated with this line of work
must be a priority.

What is a Confined Space?

A confined space is an area that is designed for an intended function but does not offer a
suitable working space that an individual can occupy for a long period of time. These
areas may contain restricted or limited entrances and exits or are not easily accessible in
the event of an emergency. While there are confined spaces that may not seem to pose
any visible risks, there are several factors that must be considered such as:

  • The atmosphere within the space and how its construction contributes to that.
  • Substances and materials inside the area.
  • Its overall function and purpose in the workplace.
  • Visible safety hazards such as poor ventilation.

Industries in which confined spaces are seen most often are food production, farming,
and manufacturing. In these cases, confined spaces can become clogged with materials,
dust and so forth, that require cleaning and maintenance. When this occurs, workers are
required to enter the space and remove this build-up but are then exposed to additional
hazards.

What Are These Hazards?

Confined areas are not only challenging to work in (both physically and mentally) but
also pose severe health risks. Poor ventilation is one of the most common hazards a
worker can face as they must perform tasks but may be unable to gain the appropriate
airflow. Poor ventilation can also lead to the build-up of dust and particles, many of
which have combustible properties. For example, dust created from processing corn is
highly combustible and can result in an explosion when altered or impacted by human
activity.

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety provides an extensive list of
the hazards that can exist within a confined space, no matter its size.

  • Poor air quality, and the presence of asphyxiants
  • Chemicals and chemical residues
  • Fire or highly combustible materials
  • Physical hazards such as noise, temperature, poor lighting, and radiation.
  • Safety hazards such as structural composition and integrity, equipment, and tools.
  • Biological hazards such as bacteria, mould, diseases, and so forth.

Providing the appropriate training for individuals who are working within the space
must be implemented, to properly assess these risks and mitigate accidents from
occurring. In addition to training your team, it is also recommended that team members
work in tandem with each other, to provide support when needed.

How Can We Help?

While employers are responsible for implementing the appropriate policies and
procedures for working within a confined space, it is imperative that employees be able
to physically complete the work to the best of their abilities. Our team specializes in
performing medical assessments to determine if an individual is capable of completing
work in these environments. To learn more about our Confined Space Assessments,
please visit our website or contact our team.