Every company that has confined spaces on site needs to have a written plan: period.
Whether it is a food production plant, manufacturing facility, construction site or just a simple warehouse, roles and responsibilities need to be established, a list of every confined space needs to be created and, most importantly, every employee regardless of their position needs to complete confined space training in all of the skills and tasked they are assigned to perform.
But what exactly is considered “need-to-know” information when it comes to confined space training? Former firefighter and current Pearl Engineering safety consultant Scott Burkart walks through exactly what is needed to ensure your company is meeting the necessary standards.
Initial training, annual training for rescuers, and follow-up training to account for any changes (whether they are internally related to an issue or changes with equipment or confined spaces) are required by all employees that fill one of the four key positions as identified in the permit-required confined space standard.
What kind of training?
The necessary training for confined spaces comes from a combination of classroom work, hands-on skills work and group exercises. The OSHA standard requires the worker to demonstrate proficiency for all skills and tasked used in confined space entries and rescues.
“Trainees must not just be trained but are required to demonstrate skills in real-life like situations,” Scott said. Hands-on training is the primary and most important method of training we teach in our classes.”
Basing solely on written or classroom exercises, Scott says, doesn’t always accurately reflect what someone does or doesn’t know. Imagine being able to get a driver’s license based only on the written test portion.
Whether it’s in a classroom setting or a hands-on group scenario, demonstrating proficiency in the skills needed to safely work in and confined space is what we will focus on.
Even with every confined space required to be identified and recorded, the ability of every employee to identify a confined space is mandatory. Confined spaces and the hazards associated with confined spaces can change without any indications.
A confined space is an area or vessel that is large enough so configure that an employee can bodily entry and perform assigned work, is not designed for continuous employee occupancy and has limited or restricted means of entry or exit. Confined spaces can include tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, hoppers, vaults, pits, manholes, tunnels, equipment housings, ductwork and pipelines.
Scott estimates the typical manufacturing facility could have as many as 100-200 permits required confined spaces.
Employees that are designated as the entrant, attendant or entry supervisor need to be able to identify potential hazards within confined spaces, signs, symptoms and consequences of exposure such as identifying an IDLH (immediately dangerous to life or health) atmosphere. This kind of atmosphere can cause death, incapacitation or irreversible heath affects even as a result of exposure of as little as 20 minutes. This is generally considered to be the exposure limit in an IDLH atmosphere.
Ensuring safety for entrants in confined spaces requires they have a complete understanding of the necessary equipment, namely personal protective equipment (PPEs) like harnesses, retrieval systems, breathing apparatus, ladders as well as air monitors.
Workers that wear SCBA and air purifying respirators need to be tested annually with a “fit” test and demonstrate proficiency in wearing the SCBA during normal use and emergency procedures. This determines whether the equipment physically fits and works for the worker. Annual medical surveillance is also required and determines if the employee is physically fit to wear the assigned respiratory protection equipment.
Employees need to demonstrate an understanding and proficiency in air monitoring meters and equipment. What are their limitations and how to interpret the data they provide such as chemical and physical properties of the hazardous gasses in the atmosphere, flammability range, vapor density and oxygen levels. How to take this information and identify hazards and how to protect themselves and others from these hazards.
Employees assigned to the designated rescue team also need to be skilled in basic first aid and CPR training.
Being physically able to withstand the strains and requirements of a confined space is one thing, but the mental aspect is something Scott focuses on as well during training. Drills for evaluating claustrophobia and whether the entrant will be able to withstand the mental strain.
Based on these drills, instructors like Scott can determine if they are up for the challenge and cut out for the work inside of a confined space or if they are better suited for other necessary roles surrounding confined space entry.
Scott Burkart is dedicated and passionate about the safety and security of homes, businesses and the people in them. His services are available as a consultant, inspector and educator of a number of safety, prevention and construction safety courses.
For questions or inquiries, contact Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org.