Confined spaces are often found in many industries and workplaces and can present serious hazards to workers entering them. These spaces are not designed for continuous human occupancy, have limited means of entry and exit, and may contain hazardous materials or conditions that can lead to injury or death.
Understanding what constitutes a confined space and its potential risks is essential to ensuring the safety of workers who may need to enter it.
This blog will provide an overview of what is a confined space, why it is essential to take precautions when working in or around these spaces, and why you should take confined space training.
A confined space is an enclosed or partially enclosed space that is not designed or intended for human occupancy and has limited means of entry and exit. It may also have unfavourable natural ventilation and may contain hazardous substances or conditions that can risk the health and safety of individuals who enter it.
What Areas are Considered Confined Spaces?
Confined spaces are often defined as areas that are:
- Enclosed on all sides
- Difficult to work in
- Hard to get out of
Here are some areas that are considered confined spaces:
- Storage bins
- Utility vaults
- Crawl spaces
- Equipment housings
- Compartments on ships
- Any other enclosed or partially enclosed space with limited entry and exit.
Types of Confined Spaces
There are two main types of confined spaces: non-permit and permit spaces.
Non-permit spaces do not contain hazards that could potentially cause serious harm to workers and are not subject to the same level of regulation and safety requirements as permit spaces.
On the other hand, permit spaces can potentially contain hazardous conditions or materials that pose risks to workers and require special safety precautions, permits, and procedures to ensure worker safety.
The distinction between non-permit and permit spaces is essential in determining the safety measures that must be taken when working in confined spaces.
What are the Canadian Federal Confined Space Regulations?
In Canada, the federal government has established regulations for confined spaces under the Canada Labour Code Part II. These regulations require employers to:
- Identify and assess the risks associated with confined spaces in the workplace.
- Develop and implement safe work procedures and practices for confined spaces.
- Provide appropriate confined space training and education to workers.
- Establish and maintain an effective confined space rescue plan.
- Ensure that all equipment and personal protective gear used in confined spaces are inspected and maintained in good condition.
- Establish a monitoring and communication system to ensure worker safety and well-being.
These regulations are intended to protect the health and safety of workers who work in confined spaces and ensure that employers take the necessary measures to mitigate the risks associated with this type of work environment.
What are the Characteristics of a Confined Space?
The characteristics of a confined space include:
Limited entry and exit points: Confined spaces often have only one limited access and exit point, making it difficult to get in and out of the space quickly in an emergency.
- Poor ventilation: Confined spaces often have limited ventilation, which can lead to a buildup of hazardous gases or fumes that can be dangerous or deadly.
- Confined physical space: Confined spaces are often small, enclosed areas with limited room for movement or escape.
- Potential for hazardous conditions: Confined spaces can contain hazardous conditions such as toxic chemicals, biological and mechanical hazards.
- Difficulties with communication: The limited space and poor acoustics of confined spaces can make communicating effectively with workers inside the space challenging.
- These characteristics make working in confined spaces potentially dangerous and require special safety measures and precautions to ensure worker safety.
What Is Not Defined as a Confined Space?
Areas designed for human occupancy without significant hazards are not considered confined spaces. This can include areas such as offices, restrooms, corridors, and storage rooms that are not enclosed or partially enclosed, do not have limited means of entry or exit and do not contain hazardous materials or other safety hazards. However, it's important to note that the specific definition of a confined space may vary depending on the jurisdiction or workplace and the regulations or guidelines.
Confined spaces can pose significant risks to workers. Employers and workers need to understand what is a confined space, how to identify it, and how to mitigate the risks associated with working in or around it.
By implementing proper onsite or online safety training, procedures, and equipment, employers can help ensure the safety of their workers and prevent accidents or injuries. While working in a confined space can be challenging, it is possible to manage the risks and work safely and effectively in these spaces with the proper knowledge and preparation.