Where Are the Greatest Risks to Be Found When Working in Confined Spaces?

Training, in addition to proper instruction and adequate information, are key when helping to protect workers that need to enter confined spaces as part of their contract. What are the most affected industries and what are the risks found in each?

Agricultural Industry

While this might not be considered to be one of the 'riskiest' industries in the world, agriculture tasks nevertheless pose serious challenges to workers in confined spaces. For example, employees may be required to enter water tanks, silos, grain storage areas or manure pits. In each of these locations, an employee could face risks associated with lack of oxygen, airborne contaminants, the invisible killer carbon monoxide or suffocation. Grains, in particular, are known to absorb oxygen within these silos, which could lead to breathing difficulties quite quickly. This is why one of the most important tasks is to ensure atmospheric testing for entry and the use of protective equipment.

Mining Industry

Mining, of course, is known as a 'risk' occupation, but that does not mean it should present insurmountable challenges to workers in confined spaces. The big risk factor here is a crush injury caused by cave-ins, although workers remain susceptible to the inhalation of fumes in these confined spaces. Qualified experts need to conduct proper risk assessment in all mine working environments.

Storage, Freight and Transportation

In the transportation industry, truck tankers, freight containers and ship holds are three dangerous locations when it comes to working in confined spaces. Employees must be given the correct protective clothing, as well as monitors to check on the atmosphere such as PPE (personal protective equipment) devices.

Construction Risks

Employees working in civil engineering or residential construction are often required to enter confined spaces in order to do their duties. These may include entering sewer pipes or drainage areas, crawl spaces and trenches. At any time there is a risk of wall collapse, unsafe oxygen levels, engulfment or cave-ins.

The Onus Is on the Employer

Employers need to ensure that they are providing confined space training to all of their employees who will at any time be asked to enter into such a space. Not only that, but those who are in charge of supervising these employees, even if they don't actually enter confined spaces themselves, should also be required to take the same level of training.

Key questions to ask include:

  • What hazards could be expected in a confined space?
  • How can risk control measures be implemented?
  • What personal protective equipment is needed and how can these devices be fitted, maintained and stored?
  • How do we implement an emergency response plan?

About Me

Getting kids excited about science

I used to hate science in school, but it was mainly because my teachers didn't make the subject very interesting. Later in life I realised what a cool subject science is and how many really interesting things are developing in the world of science. There are new species being discovered in every part of the world, and we are always learning more about science. I want science teachers to know ways to make science fun and exciting for kids so that kids are more interested in pursuing careers in science. This blog is all about science education for kids and should be useful to teachers and childcare educators.