6 Hazards that Make Confined Spaces Dangerous Places
Working in confined spaces is a risky business. And unfortunately, some industries can’t avoid it such as mining, oil & gas and industrial cleaning. Your movement is restricted in a confined space, meaning you can’t always move as you would on the ground, should something happen. But with the right confined space training and knowledge, you know what hazards to look out for and what to do to avoid problems. This post details the six hazards that make confined spaces dangerous.
What is a Confined Space?
A confined space is an enclosed or partially enclosed area that offers risk of injury or death from dangerous conditions or hazardous substances. Examples of enclosed spaces are drains, tanks, sewers or silos.
These are areas that were not made for people, but occasionally need to be entered for inspection or repair work.
What Are the Main Hazards Encountered in Confined Spaces?
1. Reduced Oxygen Levels
Naturally occurring reactions can cause oxygen levels to be reduced in a confined space. An example is when groundwater and limestone or chalk mix, producing carbon dioxide, which lowers oxygen levels. Old tanks filled with rust can also cause oxygen levels to deplete.
2. Poisonous Gases and Fumes
The lack of ventilation in confined spaces can lead to the build-up of poisonous gases and fumes. If a gas pipe leaks for example, this can create a toxic atmosphere for workers. Working with paint and adhesives in a small space can also cause dangerous fumes to build up, when there is minimal ventilation.
3. Crushing or Trapping Hazards
The possibility of crushing or trapping while working in a confined space is a real risk. Especially when working with the earth, making parts unstable. PPE (personal protective equipment) must be worn at all times like safety gloves, hard hats and goggles.
4. Risk of Flooding
The risk of flooding while working in a drain or sewer is high. If this happens or a trench collapses, trapping and even drowning is a possibility. Because confined spaces are small, a flood can cause problems in a matter of seconds, giving little time to escape.
5. Fire and Explosions
Fire and explosions in a confined space impose great risk from the smoke and heat. Not only this, but there can be fewer options to escape. When working with flammable gases, liquids and vapours, the risk of fire is increased. And the dust build-up from drilling or grinding adds further risk, when the ventilation is minimal.
6. Increased Noise Levels
Working in confined spaces with high noise levels can lead to hearing loss if not using the right safeguards. Employees working in power plants and under rail lines should ensure they use adequate hearing protection such as earmuffs and earplugs.