By Nancy Pearce
For NFPA Today
The first step in developing a confined space program is to identify these spaces in your workplace. Many confined space fatalities have occurred because an employer failed to recognize the presence of a confined space. While there are several different definitions of what constitutes a confined space, one characteristic is consistent and stands out above the rest-a confined space is NOT DESIGNED FOR HUMAN OCCUPANCY. I once heard an instructor say that if you cannot or would not comfortably put your desk in a space and work there all day then your radar should go up and you should think “possible confined space”. A confined does not necessarily have to be small and “confined” it simply has to be “not designed for continuous human occupancy”. While spaces such as sewer manholes, vaults and tanks may be more readily identified as confined spaces, there are other spaces such as tunnels, vaults, crawl spaces, pipelines, boilers, water reservoirs, ship holds and elevator shafts that may not be as recognizable as confined spaces. A tank that held petroleum may be clearly recognized as a confined space due to the chemical vapors. However a tank that has only held water may not be recognized as a confined space. Yet a rusted water tank could contain a low oxygen atmosphere.
Another key characteristic of a confined space is that it has a limited or restricted means for entering and exiting the space. What does this mean? It means you cannot just walk directly into the space through a doorway or down a set of standard stairs to access the space. Typically access to confined spaces is via a ladder or perhaps a spiral staircase or through a hatch or small opening. Sometimes you must contort your body or crawl to work in, get into or get out of the space. One such example would be a shallow crawl spaces with lots of pipes obstructing access or egress.
Read the full blog post on NFPA Today.