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Safety Articles

Article # 9500

Safety in Confined Spaces

"OSHA is enforcing the regulation, and they are serious about issuing fines to those not following the regulation." - Ron McMahon

Many workplaces contain spaces that are considered to be confined," because their configurations hinder the activities of any employee who must enter into, work in, and exit from them. In many instances, employees who work in confined spaces also face increased risk of exposure to serious physical injury from hazards, and work in confined space may keep employees closer to hazards, such as an asphyxiating atmosphere.

"Confined space entry is the single most dangerous task facing health and safety professionals today," says Ron Roberson, corporate industrial hygienist at Sensidyne, Inc. "At Sensidyne, we believe that devices used to monitor the atmosphere of confined space should be both reliable and simple to operate. Our experience as a major supplier of detector tubes has taught us the value of simple-to-use monitoring devices. That is, the simpler the device, the more likely that people will use it and use it properly."

OSHA's confined space regulation covers 12.2 million workers in more than 240,000 workplaces. OSHA created the rule to protect workers from toxic , explosive, or asphyxiating atmospheres.

"A primary concern of OSHA is air quality ," says Ron McMahan, vice president of AIM USA, manufacturer of Air Monitoring Equipment. "OSHA is enforcing the regulation, and they are serious about issuing fines to those not following the regulation."

To comply with OSHA regulations, a written program must establish procedures and practices for safe entry, including testing and monitoring conditions. The system requires that an "entry supervisor" sign a written permit for entry and cancel the permit when the work is complete. It also includes provisions for attendants.

"The new OSHA regulations are not specific when it comes to rescue," says Scott Andres , national sales manager for Rose Manufacturing Company. "The standard basically says that there must be a rescue system available and that you must use a mechanical device anytime the space is more than five feet in depth. The standard also calls for specific training, which I believe is essential "

"The key is training on the proper use of equipment in confined spaces," says McMahan. "It is important that everyone knows that they must test these environments, and if they don't, they are out of compliance. And unfortunately, there are a lot of companies today that are not meeting the OSHA regulation. "