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The Truth About Confined Spaces

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Based on years of gathering information on confined space fatalities and also on testimony of the hazards involved, the Final Rule for Permit-Required Confined Spaces became effective on April of 1993. Since the rule applies to all general industry, a performance-oriented standard was developed rather than a specification standard. The rule citation is 29.CFR1910.146.

Almost all industrial workplaces have spaces which are considered “confined” because their configuration restricts the activity of employees who enter or work in them. For example, an employee who works in a process vessel is required to squeeze through narrow openings to enter/exit and is cramped or contorted while working. For purposes of the rule-making, OSHA uses the term “confined spaces” to describe such spaces.

There are many reasons that employees working in confined spaces are at greater risk. Such spaces can pose entrapment hazards, the potential for asphyxiation or the possibility of contact with moving parts. OSHA’s term “permit-required confined space” or permit space, describes spaces that are both confined and pose health and safety hazards. Since a confined space is not designated for continuous employee occupancy, many employers do not realize how much permit space work can compound the risks of hazard exposure. This often causes the employer to “improvise” rather than follow OSHA standards for entry.

Asphyxiation is the leading cause of death in confined spaces. In most of these cases, the asphyxiation was caused from deficient oxygen, or toxic or particulate inhalation. Some cases involved employees being ground by augers or crushed by other moving parts. By their very nature and configuration, many permit spaces are “immediately dangerous to life and health (IDHL)”, since they are poorly ventilated. This makes them favorable to oxygen deficiency and the accumulation of toxic gases. IT IS YOUR OBLIGATION AS AN EMPLOYER to evaluate your workplace to determine if any spaces are permit-required confined spaces. If so, you must determine whether full permit entry rules apply or less restrictive, alternative rules apply. If an employee is ever authorized to enter such spaces, you must first have in place a written and implemented, comprehensive Permit Space Program in accordance with OSHA 29CFR1910.146(d). This can be a daunting task for those unfamiliar with the OSHA requirements.

Permit spaces should never be entered by employees who are not trained and certified (by an accredited OSHA trainer) to do so.

Safeway employees undergo rigorous initial and annual training for permit spaces and are recertified on an annual basis. Permit required confined space entry (PRCSE) is what WE DO! Whether we provide entry for machine maintenance or for annual cleaning, Safeway can safely and professionally complete the project. If your workplace contains areas which are permit spaces, you can trust our 24 years of experience to provide this service to your plant.

Call us today at 256-492-3704 or visit our website for more information.

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