The oil, gas, and mining industries have significant workplace hazards, and confined spaces are often the riskiest places on a job site. Working in confined spaces is often essential. That’s why companies must take steps to mitigate the hazards. A confined space safety plan is vital for efficient operations and the safety of your team.
What Is a Confined Space?
According to OSHA, the definition of a confined space is any space that isn’t designed for people, but workers can enter to do essential work when necessary. This can be any area where workers aren’t free to move about or react to danger. Examples include a cistern, tunnel, equipment housing, or pipeline.
The regulatory body further denotes potentially dangerous confined spaces as “permit-required confined space,” or just “permit space” for short. These permit spaces include areas where a confined space poses additional risks to a worker. A permit space includes areas that could potentially trap or injure a worker, contain harmful chemicals, or don’t allow for easy escape.
All confined spaces must be approached with a thorough safety plan. However, permit-required confined spaces can be serious workplace hazards. Precautions must always be taken. OSHA and other regulatory agencies enforce certain safety measures in permit space.
Working in Confined Spaces
All employees who work in confined spaces must be thoroughly trained on the potential hazards and all the safety precautions available to them. While some work in confined spaces may be quick and urgent, ensure only workers trained to work in those conditions enter. Accidents are disruptive to the flow of your operation. More importantly, though, your workers have a right to a safe workplace.
Before entering any confined space, inspect the area to ensure all safety equipment is in place and functioning properly and that there are no unexpected hazards. Tests on temperature and oxygen levels should also be routine before work begins.
Once inside a confined space, the worker should maintain contact with a trained attendant the entire time. This can be done visually with a camera feed or by voice for permit space with an opening. It can also easily be accomplished with radios. While working, the technician should continue to update the attendant on their status. As they work, they should verify full function of any safety equipment like full protection, ventilation, and lighting. In many situations, the attendant can also monitor some of these factors outside the confined space.
The procedure should always be followed in confined spaces, and there should always be redundant steps to verify a safe working environment. Gauges and monitoring software should not be implicitly trusted, but instead verified for accuracy continually.
Planning for Safety
To ensure safety and smooth operations, every operation needs a well-crafted plan for working in confined spaces. The plan you use shouldn’t be a generalized solution. Instead, have specific measures for the confined spaces your workers face daily. Each space should have a plan specific to its particular hazards. Additionally, only workers trained in that space and its safety plan should be allowed inside.
When creating your safety plan, start with a thorough inspection of any confined spaces. Identify potential hazards and conditions that could complicate movement or safety precautions. Consider the type of work that may be done in the space. Lastly, create a checklist that verifies the safety of the space for workers before entry.
This is a start, but a comprehensive safety plan continually evolves to ensure the safest working environment possible. Learn from any unexpected hazards that present themselves in confined spaces, and continually update your safety plan. A hazard that occurs once will likely happen again. Therefore, adapt your safety measures to provide the best protection for your workers.
Always Stick to the Plan
If your safety plan for confined spaces isn’t followed, it does nothing to protect your workers. Furthermore, if safety precautions are being ignored in the most dangerous areas of your operation, you’re not providing the legally required protections to workers.
A culture of safety doesn’t happen overnight. Your workers need to know that safety is important, and the safety plan for confined spaces is non-negotiable. Supervisors in your operation should all be thoroughly trained on each safety plan, as well as on the importance of following them every time.
Culture flows from the top down, typically. As your workers see that it’s important to their supervisors, they will care more about the safety plan.
To ensure your safety plan for confined spaces is followed, keep logs of every activity in confined spaces. Workers should document who entered when and why every time work is conducted. This lets you know that your workers are taking safety seriously. In addition, this approach compiles a record of compliance for any inspectors. As your safety plan is implemented, records let you see any changes that need to be made.
Only authorized and trained workers should be working in confined spaces. Ensure they are entirely comfortable with the process and can document their work and any comments on the plan every time. Remember to get feedback from those workers on the plan, as they are your best resource for knowing when changes need to be made.
Automate Safety Plans with GoCanvas
Safety is about consistency and attention to detail. With any safety plan for working in a confined space, your workers need to be consistent every time in the precautions they take.
At the same time, you don’t want to create extra work for your team that could cause them to waste time or skip essential safety steps. With GoCanvas, you can automate your safety plan so that staying safe is straightforward for your workers.With GoCanvas, you can create custom mobile forms to automate your safety process without being a tech guru. GoCanvas makes it easy for your workers to stay compliant and safe. Come see how our confined space safety plan support can make your operation safer and smoother today!