How to Keep Safe When Working in an Enclosed Space

June 17, 2024

Working in an enclosed space is sometimes necessary due to various factors related to the nature of the work, safety considerations, and environmental conditions. For instance, certain jobs inherently require working in confined areas, such as inspection, maintenance, or repair of equipment like boilers, tanks, and pipelines. Builders also work in enclosed rooms, like basements and crawl spaces, or during the construction of tunnels and underground facilities.

Although performing these activities is generally considered safe, working in confined spaces presents unique challenges and dangers. Learn more about them and how to avoid the associated risks.

What Are The Dangers of Working in an Enclosed Space?

The main risks are:

  • Overheating and Lack of Ventilation

Even in winter, working in enclosed and poorly ventilated spaces can cause a dangerous increase in temperature, affecting workers' health. This happens due to the use of heat-emitting machinery, such as lighting systems, and from the human body itself, which releases heat into the environment. This excessive heat can lead to heat stress, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke.

Poor ventilation can also result in the accumulation of toxic gases, making it difficult to breathe and increasing the risk of asphyxiation.

  • Entrapment

Workers can become trapped in confined spaces, especially if there are unexpected equipment malfunctions or structural collapses. The limited escape routes in these environments heighten the danger. The risk is increased when these workers need to wear body-attached equipment, such as backpacks, which can get caught on structures and impede the worker's mobility.

  • Hazardous airborne particulates

In facilities like garages, fumes from vehicles and machinery can build up, leading to potential poisoning from carbon monoxide or other harmful substances. Additionally, dust is a common problem in enclosed spaces due to reduced air circulation, making it difficult for particles to dissipate. This is especially problematic when performing activities such as grinding, cutting, or working with materials like wood or asbestos.

Welding processes also produce hazardous fumes and particulates that can be inhaled, causing severe respiratory issues and long-term health problems.

  • Flooding and drowning

In environments such as drainage systems or sewers, there is a risk of sudden flooding, which can trap workers and lead to drowning. The issue is particularly perilous in tiny, confined spaces where escape may be difficult.

  • Fires and explosions

The presence of flammable substances creates a high risk of fire. If ventilation is poor, the buildup of flammable gases can lead to explosions. Furthermore, sparks from equipment, electrical faults, or static electricity can ignite these gases. The consequences can be severe, as in enclosed spaces, escape routes can become inaccessible or blocked by fire or by people trying to escape the incident.

Tips to Keep You and Others Safe

The risks are numerous, but fortunately, workers have various solutions at their disposal to keep these dangers under control.

Firstly, ensure there is adequate ventilation. This helps maintain a safe temperature and prevent the accumulation of harmful gases. Providing personal protective equipment (PPE) and other suitable clothing or equipment is also essential to protect workers from potential hazards.

Isolating local utilities, such as gas, water, and electricity, is also paramount.

Regularly testing the atmosphere is vital to check for dangerous levels of low oxygen, toxic gases, or other hazardous substances. Proper extraction systems should be in place to remove harmful fumes and particulates.

They are particularly important if the workers are using techniques such as brazing and soldering. In these scenarios, the best solution is investing in welding fume extraction systems. Several types of products are available. Extraction arms, for instance, are equipped with centrifugal fans that capture fumes at the source. Downdraught benches, in turn, serve as fixed workstations for employees to perform their duties without inhaling dust and fumes. On-torch welding extraction devices can also be used.

Having a supervisor in place can ensure that safety protocols are followed and provide oversight. Also, remember to conduct a thorough risk assessment before starting any work, as this will identify potential dangers and help in planning safety measures.

It is advisable to work in groups rather than alone in order to provide immediate assistance in case of an emergency. Proper training for all personnel is essential, and having a first aid person on-site can be crucial in dealing with any injuries or health issues that arise.

Moreover, determining emergency procedures beforehand and educating everyone on-site about them ensures that all workers know how to respond in case of an emergency.

By following these tips, you ensure the work in enclosed spaces is carried out in a safer and more productive manner.

 

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