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Confined spaces: Keeping safe in small, tight spots

Working in confined spaces is very hard; some people struggle with claustrophobia, and others may be okay with the space but still want to know that it's safe to be inside. Because workers who are in confined spaces are at risk, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has provided facts about confined spaces and new construction standards to make them safer for those working inside.

What is a confined space? The OSHA has stated that a confined space is an area that is large enough to fit a worker inside, has a limited entry or exit point, and is not designed to have continuous occupancy. For example, a well could be considered a confined space.

A permit-required space may also be a confined space, but the difference is that there are other hazards involved. A hazardous atmosphere, like one that has the possibility to engulf or suffocate a worker, must have a permit before anyone can enter. A good example of this would be an underwater cave or mine that is just large enough for one worker and has only one exit.

Workers must be trained to deal with confined spaces and know how to exit dangerous situations. Workers shouldn't enter these spaces without authorization, so if you're ever asked to enter one without knowledge about the space, it's important to make sure your employer is legally allowed to require you to enter. Generally speaking, you'll need training before you can enter the space.

To make the space safe, you'll want to make sure there is someone there who understands the structure and can verify that it is sound. Then, identify how to enter and exit, and have a rescue worker on hand.

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, "Confined Spaces in Construction: Crawl Spaces and Attics," accessed July 22, 2015

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