What is a Confined Space?
Confined spaces incidents aren't the most common, but they can be the most deadly. That's because the hazards tend to be misunderstood or underestimated. And many confined spaces fatalities involve not one, but two, victims: the worker and the rescuer.
The determination of whether a space is a permit-required confined space is contingent upon two factors.
The first factor is solely based on physical characteristics of the space itself. A "confined space" must be large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work, have limited or restricted means for entry or exit, and not be designed for continuous employee occupancy.
If the space is so configured, then the second factor is whether the space contains or the activities introduce any hazard capable of causing death or serious physical harm. A space would be classified as a "permitrequired" confined space if it either contained, or has a potential to contain, a hazardous atmosphere, a material which has the potential to engulf an entrant, an internal configuration such that an entrant could be trapped or asphyxiated, or contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazard.
When an Emergency Occurs
A confined space rescue emergency occurs whenever the person operating within the designated confined space is unable to remove themselves from the area. This may be due to a physical accident (i.e. a broken leg), a medical emergency or the presence of a hazardous atmosphere. Common confined spaces include underground vaults, storage silos, storage tanks and sewers. Confined space rescue can be technically challenging due to the environment in which they occur. Confined spaces are often narrow and constricting preventing easy access by confined space rescue teams. They are usually either unlit or poorly lit confined spaces so rescuers must provide their own light source. Finally, confined spaces often contain hazardous materials in liquid or gas form which can be harmful or fatal to humans.
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