Historically, many workers have crawled into vessels, tanks and sewers to unclog a drain or to troubleshoot a maintenance issue. Subsequently, they died from the hazards in a confined space without analyzing in advance the dangers present. Due to the lack of analysis, journalists tended to call it “death from heart attack or suicide”. In fact, the reason for death was due to a severe atmospheric or physical hazard within a confined space.
As a safety consultant, I recall my first client that this happened to. I recall the tradesman, a very hardworking and loyal employee of a grain company. He made the deadly error of sitting on top of a cat walk, smoking a cigarette, beside a huge silo of grain. At the time, there was no fall protection or confined space training available. No anchor points or gas detection equipment or breathing apparatus was available at the worksite. He disappeared and was missing a week before the company made a serious attempt at searching for the worker. They were very alarmed as he had never missed a day of work in 30 years. Eventually, they discovered him at the bottom of the silo. Their conclusion was that he committed suicide, since he was depressed and was going into forced retirement at age 65, which was 2 years away.
Today, safety consultants would predict that this death was either due to a lack of oxygen from the oxidization process of rotting grain or rusting metal, or an explosion as a result of the cigarette igniting the small bits of grain. Since he was not anchored to anything, he fell into the silo and was crushed by the grain. Today, this would be called engulfment in a confined space. Since his ribs would be broken by the heavy weight of the grain, he would quickly suffocate from mechanical expiation.
Employers must ensure, under Part 5 of the 2009 Safety Code – Alberta Act and Regulation , that workers do not enter a confined or restricted space without proper training and a safety program to protect them. This legal responsibility is necessary due to the number of disabilities and deaths yearly from work in confined spaces, such as wells, vessels, manways, pits and elevator shafts.
One simple and reasonable way to learn about confined spaces is by enrolling in the Online Confined Space Basics program at www.safetymom.ca It outlines the basic program, such as gas detection, respiratory and skin protection, analyzing the risks of confined and restricted spaces and a rescue plan.
In approximately 2.5 hours, the student can obtain crucial information to avoid the pitfalls of entering a confined space without proper preparation. Supplemental materials are available online so that the training can be reinforced.
Avoid legal issues and educate your workers with our online course!
Courses for Online Confined Space are available at Allstar Enviro Safety.