Safetip #132: Training Program for Confined Space Work
What is a Confined Space?
OSHA’s 29 CFR 1910.146 standard defines a “confined space” as a space that:
1) Is large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work.
2) Has limited or restricted means for entry or exit (for example, tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, hoppers, vaults, and pits are spaces that may have limited means of entry).
3) Is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.
A confined space can be dangerous for workers if it includes any of the following:
- A hazardous atmosphere.
- Toxic chemicals.
- Material that has the potential to engulf an entrant.
- Walls that converge inward or floors that slope downward and taper into a smaller area which could trap or asphyxiate an entrant.
- Any other recognized hazard, such as unguarded machinery, exposed live wires, or heat stress.
Requirements of an Effective Training Program
Organizations should develop an effective training program for confined space work to make sure that hazards and safe work procedures are understood by everyone. Training must be provided for supervisors, those who perform the work, workers who provide treatment, and rescue personnel.
A Workplace Health and Safety Bulletin by the Alberta Ministry of Labour identifies the requirements of an effective training program for confined spaces. First, trainers must be competent and have a comprehensive working knowledge in:
- The confined space associated with the work activity.
- Hazards involved.
- Safe work procedures.
- How to test and monitor the atmosphere in the confined space.
- Safety equipment required.
- First aid requirements.
- Emergency response and rescue.
Second, worker training must include at a minimum:
- Safe work procedures for entry into the confined space.
- Safe work procedures for working inside the confined space.
- Hazard recognition.
- Content of the entry permit.
- How to properly use control measures in place to protect workers (engineering controls, administrative controls and personal protective equipment).
- What to do for first aid and in an emergency.
In addition, requirements for training workers who will administer first aid and conduct emergency response and rescue must also be documented. The Safety Bulletin says that the rescue portion of the training can be part of a company’s overall emergency preparedness and response plan, but must address how to safely remove injured or ill workers from a potentially hazardous confined space. Also, the program should include requirements for evaluating the effectiveness of the training, and for follow-up and refresher training.
Finally, be aware that a permit is required to enter confined spaces that present hazards. Therefore, the training program for confined space work should also cover safe work procedures for entry into permit-required confined spaces.
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