What is a Confined Space?
A confined space can be any space of an enclosed nature where there is a risk of fatality or serious injury from hazardous substances or dangerous conditions, such as lack of oxygen. Some confined spaces are easy to identify, for example, enclosures with limited openings such as storage tanks, silos, sewers, pipelines, and pits. Even unventilated parts of a room can be classed as a confined space. However, confined spaces are not only limited to these as some work locations could then become confined spaces during construction or fabrication.
Dangers of Confined Space Entry
The number one rule of confined space working is ‘DON’T’ if it can be avoided! Worldwide, a large number of people are seriously injured in confined spaces each year with many more leading to fatalities. This happens in a wide range of industries, from those working in complex plant to simple storage vessels. Those killed include people working in the confined space and those who try to rescue them without the proper training, procedures, PPE, and rescue equipment. Below is a list of possible dangers that can be anticipated, but certainly not limited to:
The dangers may not be present when initially accessing the CSE, however, the type of work scope being carried out may bring its own dangers, and every aspect of the work scope must be risk assessed.
Alternative CSE Methods
Depending on the scope of work, alternative methods of entry such as drones or crawlers could be considered. These will be controlled externally by qualified UAV pilots and carry out scopes of work such as visual inspections, NDT techniques, survey and mapping, or certain physical scopes such as unblocking or debris removal.
Requirements for CSE Working
If alternative methods cannot be used, then it is imperative to ensure:
A part of the procedure – however not limited – is to be working under a permit to work, having all the necessary isolations in place and a sign-in/sign out log. Initial gas tests should be carried out and maintained throughout the duration of the work scope. All equipment taken into the confined space, such as lighting, should be intrinsically safe and if additional ventilation cannot be opened or given, then an alternative form of ventilation should be considered, such as a venturi and air moving system. Each member working in the space must have a portable gas monitor and escape set, such as an Elsa set.
The team should always have a sentry outside the confined space who monitors the access/egress log and can maintain communications between the work team and the rescue team. Depending on the type of CSE, a rescue team may be required and should have all relevant rescue equipment present such as, but not limited to, a rescue stretcher and tripod. The rescue team must all be trained and qualified for the role and have all the first aid provisions at their disposal. A full rescue plan should be written out, discussed, and signed by all attendees during the toolbox talk prior to work commencing.
Further Information and Guidance
TEXO Asset Integrity has the capabilities to provide safe working conditions for any CSE required, including all rescue provisions. Additionally, depending on requirements, we can provide alternative means of access utilising specially equipped drones and crawlers from TEXO Survey & Inspection (DSI). For any additional information or guidance, please get in touch: firstname.lastname@example.org