Types of Confined Spaces in the Workplace and Their Risks
A workplace can feature numerous layouts, from wide spaces with aisles of shelves to small enclosures with barriers for walls and dividers for cubicles. Anywhere that workers can be confined poses risks to workers and employers alike, and it’s up to both parties to ensure that such risks are fully understood and mitigated.
One wrong move can mean the difference between life and death. And that’s why you need to read our guide to confined spaces.
Types of Confined Spaces
Three main types of confined spaces exist permit-required, alternate procedure, and non-permit-required spaces. It’s essential to know that not all confined spaces are the same; each type presents different hazards and safety requirements.
- Permit-Required Spaces
Permit-required spaces are considered hazardous in ways that require regulating a worker’s entrance into the space. These spaces are marked with regulatory signs and placards; in some cases, entry is prohibited.
- Alternate Procedure Spaces
These spaces are spaces that are considered potentially hazardous, but not always. Therefore, these spaces are considered acceptable for entry, but only if a worker follows specific procedures, usually set by the employer.
- Non-Permit Required Spaces
Non-permit required spaces are considered safe for entry, but not always. These spaces are considered safe for entry at certain times but not other times.
Dangers of Confined Space
With so many types of confined spaces, it’s easy to see why employers and employees alike must be on their guard for danger. As an employer, you must know the dangers that can plague a confined space and the safety measures your employees must take. The risks generally associated with confined spaces are as the following:
- Toxic Atmosphere
To keep a toxic atmosphere out of the workplace, you must install various safety equipment to help keep toxic substances away from your employees. That’s why you should always have the following:
- Gas detection systems
- Suction equipment
- Good ventilation controls
- Oxygen Deficiency
Oxygen deficiency hazards are the most common hazards associated with confined spaces. To prevent an oxygen deficiency hazard, you must be sure to have the following:
- Ventilation systems
- Emergency oxygen
- Dangers from Fire and Explosion
Fire and explosion are a genuine concern for confined space dangers, especially in areas with flammable gasses or other flammable materials. That’s why employers should take the following precautions before entering a confined space:
- Test for flammable vapors
- Install fire extinguishers
- Excessive Heat
Another danger of confined spaces is excessive heat, which is common during various jobs. This includes working in a furnace, burning debris, setting off certain types of bombs, and working in certain types of engines. To prevent and treat heat-related injuries, you must be sure to:
- Train employees how to handle the heat
- Have a heat index chart in place
- Test for heat
- Becoming Trapped
Being trapped in a confined space is always a concern, but even more so when it comes to emergency responders trying to contain a fire or explosion. That’s why emergency responders are told to always:
- Have more than one entry/exit
- Keep their tools accessible
- Keep their communications equipment accessible
So now you know a few of the different types of confined spaces and the dangers associated with them, you can better protect your workers and yourself when working in a confined space. But if you still have questions, don’t hesitate to contact our office. We’ll be more than happy to answer any questions you may have.
GrayMar Environmental Services, Inc. provides comprehensive environmental, hazardous waste, soil remediation, and national response services. Our competent confined space entry and rescue program fully complies with 29 CFR 1910.146 and 29 CFR1926 Subpart AA. Our trained personnel have performed hundreds of confined space entries in various permitted spaces, including railcars, tankers, tanks, deep sumps/trenches, utility holes, etc. Our remediation solutions are some of the best in the field! If you require assistance, call our 24-Hour emergency response hotline at (866) GRAYMAR.