The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) presents some interesting facts about confined space incidents in Canada:

  • Only 15% of victims had confined space training.
  • 85% of the time a supervisor was present.
  • 0% were ventilated, had a rescue plan, or working on spaces that were tested prior to entry.

These figures are alarming as about 2.1 million workers enter permit confined spaces every year. Ideally, employers should take the necessary steps to ensure that the confined spaces are safe to enter. In fact, unless a risk assessment by a competent person shows that a confined space is safe, it should always be considered hazardous.

Let’s learn more about what a confined space is and what safety risks does it present.

What is a confined space?

To put it simply, a confined space is a partially or fully enclosed space:

  • not suitable for continuous human occupancy(due to its inherent design); or
  • has a limited number of entrances or exits, which can cause problems in an evacuation, first aid response, rescuing, or other activities pertaining to emergency response.

Health and safety risks can arise due to numerous factors, including the atmosphere, construction, design or location, materials stored in the space, work activities, among several others. Unfortunately, these risks are more likely to occur in small, confined spaces.

What are the hazards in a confined space?

In addition to general safety hazards such as structural hazard, slips and falls, structural hazards, and others, there are several other safety risks present in small confined spaces present. Here are a few significant ones:

Poor quality of air

If there’s an inadequate amount of oxygen present inside a confined space, workers can have trouble breathing. If there’s a toxic substance inside the area, it can contaminate the area and can lead to severe health complications.

Hazards from Asphyxiants gases

Asphyxiants gases such as argon, nitrogen, or carbon monoxide are concentrated elements that can displace oxygen in the air. The reduction in the oxygen levels can result in minor symptoms like clumsiness, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting, to severe ones, including fainting, convulsions, rapid breathing and rapid heart rate. In some cases, even death can occur.

Exposure to harmful elements

Exposure to harmful substances like toxic chemicals, liquids, or gases either by skin contact, ingestion, or inhalation can lead to health complications and may require immediate medical attention.

Residual chemicals or harmful substances, therefore, are among the top threats to workers’ health and safety.

Fire hazard

A small confined space contains a higher risk of a fire hazard because if there’s explosive or flammable liquid, gas, or other combustible material present in the site, it can lead to fire or explosion. There’s also a risk of electric fire due to short circuit, and the damage would be of much higher magnitude in a compact area compared to a big, open space.

It’s important for organizations to understand these threats and mitigate them by ensuring that all confined spaces in their building or premises are safe for workers. One good idea to ensure security is workplace safety courses for confined spaces.

Metro Safety Training offers two courses: Confined Space Safety for Entrants and Confined Space Standby Person Training.

So if you’re looking for quality confined space training courses in British Columbia, get in touch with Metro Safety Training today by calling them at 604-521-4227 or visiting their website to learn more.