5 Confined Spaces Employer Responsibilities
Develop a program. Develop, implement, and oversee a written permit-required confined space program that complies with appropriate standards. Enforce the program among employees, including preventing unauthorized confined space entry. Also, review the program if any unauthorized entries, injuries or near-misses, new hazards are discovered, changes in the use of the space, or employee complaints occur.
Post warning signs. Place large, noticeable, and legible warning signs close to the entry points of confined spaces. The signs must inform employees about space conditions and entry requirements such as PPE and procedures. Additionally, replace any damaged, illegible, or missing signs immediately.
Protect the entrance. After posting signs, establish barricades in order to help prevent unauthorized or accidental confined space access. Position the barriers so it guards the entryway, even if someone removes the entrance cover.
Enforce permit requirements. Require employees to post authorized permits signed by a supervisor at all entrances before entering a permit space. Permits must detail the employee’s name, what work they’ll perform, where they’ll work, and entry/expected exit time at a minimum. Certain tasks such as hot work may require additional permits, therefore make sure all necessary permits are available.
Train all employees. If employees understand their assigned responsibilities, then they can better foster a safer work environment. Train members of a permit-required confined space team to understand how to safely execute their specific duties. Additionally, train other employees who may have an active confined spaces entry role.
Confined Space: What You Should Know
It is dangerous to work within confined spaces. Some risks of working in confined spaces drowning in water tanks, inhaling hazardous chemicals, or structure collapse. One of the largest sectors that has confined spaces is the tank cleaning industry with trucking, road and rail transportation, material recovery, and waste management services.
Did you know that within the last five years there have been 36 fatalities due to confined space? Majority of the fatalities were due to cleaning the tank before they could be refilled. Recently there was an incident where a worker was cleaning inside a tank in Pasadena but became unconscious due to the hazardous vapors inside the tank. The coworkers that tried to rescue him also fell victim and all three passed away.
Whenever there is an accident, OSHA conducts an investigation. They try to investigate to see if a safety violates occurred or if the accident could have been preventable. In the last five years, OSHA has conducted 136 inspections to this sector. What you should know is that OSHA is raising awareness by several means to reduce these fatalities. OSHA is most concerned with the following states: Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Texas. In the next three months OSHA will schedule and inspect targeted industries in these states.
OSHA recently started mailing employers and leaders to encourage them to take steps to identify, reduce, and eliminate these hazards. They are also offering free on-site consultation services to implement safety strategies and alignment to standards. What you should know is that with the proper training these injuries and fatalities are reduced significantly.
Confined Spaces: A Case Study
A peanut factory in Georgia faces nearly $310,000 dollars in OSHA penalties. The company, which OSHA placed in their Severe Violator Enforcement Program, failed in their confined spaces employer responsibilities.
OSHA defines confined spaces as areas large enough for an employee to enter, has limited means of entry/exit, and isn’t intended for prolonged occupation. Confined spaces include locations such as storage tanks, silos, hoppers, vaults, pits, and other restrictive areas.
OSHA regulations require employers to follow strict confined spaces standards to help keep employees safe. Sadly, failure to do so has led to many employee injuries and deaths.
Below are some employer tips from our confined spaces training. Follow them to keep employees safe and avoid OSHA violations or worse: an employee fatality.
Confined Space Accidents
Are you prepared to work in a confined space? Confined spaces can be dangerous, and even deadly. Check out this recent accident that occurred:
“Cal/OSHA has cited Kittyhawk Inc. $73,105 for serious safety violations following a March 13, 2016 confined space accident in which a worker was asphyxiated. Cal/OSHA investigators found the Garden Grove-based metal processing company failed to comply with confined space regulations that resulted in the serious illness.
On March 13, a Kittyhawk supervisor sent an untrained production assistant into a pressure vessel furnace to perform maintenance on it. The assistant did not have an oxygen sensor with him when he descended into the unit, which is only 49 inches wide and 98 inches tall, and was filled with argon gas. Argon is a noble gas that is chemically inert under most conditions and is colorless, odorless, and much heavier than air.
When the worker was overcome by the argon gas and collapsed inside the unit, a second worker went in after him and became dizzy and lost consciousness. A third employee then took a nearby fan and blew fresh air into the confined space, which provided air to breathe. The first worker spent four days in a hospital receiving treatment for his illness, and the second employee was transported to the hospital and was treated and released.
Cal/OSHA cited Kittyhawk Inc. for nine safety violations including three serious, three serious accident-related and three general in nature These violations involved Kittyhawk’s failure to identify permit-required confined spaces, train the employees to safely perform their work in these confined spaces, failure to monitor the atmospheric conditions in a confined space during maintenance, and failure to develop effective rescue and emergency procedures for rescuing endangered employees from confined spaces.
Cal/OSHA first adopted confined space regulations in 1978 in order to prevent fatalities and serious injuries. California defines a permit-required confined space as one that has limited entry and exit openings, is not designed for continuous worker occupancy and has one or more of the following characteristics:
- Has a hazardous or potentially hazardous atmosphere including too little or too much oxygen, and/or presence of toxic gases.
- Has a material that can engulf an employee, such as grain, sand or sugar.
- Has an internal layout (such as floors that slope downwards) that can trap or asphyxiate a worker.
- Has any other serious safety or health hazard, such as machinery with moving parts, sources of electrical shocks, burning or drowning hazards.”
Confined Spaces: What Kinds Are There?
Confined spaces are definitely not a place to be careless. In these working environments, entering and exiting are limited or restricted. Confined spaces like these are not designed for people to be there for long periods of time. There are between 81 and 92 deaths in confined spaces every year, so the safety of those workers in such tight quarters should not be taken lightly.
Some examples of confined spaces are tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, hoppers, vaults, pits, manholes, tunnels, equipment housings, ductwork, and pipelines. There are many more that can be named, but these are some that OSHA has listed. There have been
Along with being cramped and not necessarily designed to accommodate people, some places are considered by OSHA to be “permit-required” confined spaces. In these situations, there are other major hazards beyond being cramped. It also has:
- the potential for a hazardous atmosphere
- the potential for the entrant to be engulfed
- walls that taper into a smaller area that could trap the entrant
- other major hazards like live wires and possible heat stress
Confined Space Regulations Temporary Enforcement
OSHA declared a 60 day temp enforcement of its Confined Spaces in Construction standard; it goes into effect August 3rd, 2015.
Instead of handing out citations, there is an interim period where employers are expected to make good-faith efforts to come into full accordance with the new standards. Training is still not optional, it is mandatory to be following either the new or old regulations up until October 2nd (the new date that standards go into full-effect).
Hard Hat Training’s Confined Space Trainings
Visit our friends at construction equipment for more information and for a list of items that must be happening to comply with the good-faith requirements.
If you need to provide training for employees, Safety Provisions and Hard Hat Training offers a confined space training.
Whether it is a silo or a sewer, you need to always have a rescue plan in case something goes wrong. If the worker in those cramped quarters becomes trapped or unresponsive, you need to know who to contact and how best to get them out of that area. If you want more information about how to handle confined space work, you can check out our OSHA Aligned Confined Spaces training and Confined Space 8-hour training.