Contractors and construction workers have to work in all kinds of adverse conditions — high, open air spaces, spaces where falling debris is a danger and tight, enclosed areas. These confined spaces are not always designed for people, but are big enough for workers to get inside to work. This creates its own hazards that must be accounted for, and there are safety standards that have to be addressed to limit liability and injury potential.
Confined spaces cover a wide range of tight spots where workers can fit to get the job done, but are not intended for human occupation and thus can be very dangerous. They have limited means of entrance and egress, and can be uncomfortable and risky if occupied for too long. Risks of injury and death from such spaces can include toxic substances, explosions, asphyxiation and even electrocution.
These spaces can include the following, among others:
- Storage bins
- Equipment housings
- Sewer systems
- Attics and crawl spaces
Permit spaces, or permit-required confined spaces, are those areas which OSHA has designated risky enough that they require specialized permits and training to occupy. The characteristics that go into determining a permit space are varied. If a space has any of the following qualities it can be a permit-required confined space:
- Can contain a hazardous atmosphere
- Has the potential to engulf the occupant or contains material that can do so
- Has walls that can move in and crush the occupant
- Floors slope and taper to create a slide into a narrow space that can trap the occupant
- The space can affect the breathing or asphyxiate the occupant
- Contains unguarded heavy equipment, exposed electrical wires or can have heat stress
If you or your workers will need to do work in a permit-required confined space, make sure that the following guidelines are followed. Workers should never enter such a space without proper training and a permit. Be sure that staff are well-versed in and follow all safety procedures and are trained in when and how to exit.
Be sure to identify any and all potential physical hazards to the space. Test and monitor the air quality including oxygen levels, toxicity, potential for explosion and flammability. Make sure that your workers are aware of policies for defending against falls, rescue procedures, ventilation, air-monitoring, lighting and equipment for communication. Above all, keep in constant contact with your workers to be sure that if they do encounter a hazard, a well-trained supervisor or attendant is on-hand to initiate rescue or evacuation procedures.
Following safety standards for confined spaces is not an inconvenience; it saves lives. It is also vital for contractors to carry a strong general and specialized liability policy to cover you against incidents that do occur on the job site. If you are operating a construction firm and need to initiate or upgrade your insurance policy, we can help. Check out our service and products page and give us a call for a free quote today!