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It’s always best to completely avoid entering confined spaces in the workplace, but the fact is sometimes that’s not possible. Whether you’re sliding underneath the floorboards to tighten a leaking pipe, or cleaning a tank, sometimes getting into a tight spot is unavoidable.

That doesn’t mean you can’t still be safe though. Every workplace that sends workers into these spaces should have a best practice policy and safety procedures that all employees are made aware of. That way you can minimise the chances of anything going wrong, but also react better in the event that something does.

To help make sure you and your workplace are safe for the rest of 2017, we’ve put together a few basic tips for working in confined spaces.

If your gear isn't up to scratch, accidents could happen.
If your gear isn’t up to scratch, accidents could happen.

1. Identify the risk first

If you’re not aware of the danger presented by entering a space, it’s impossible to mitigate any risks or prevent any accidents that may occur. The first step is always to be aware, and to make sure that all workers are too.

Safework Australia recommends asking the following questions when identifying the risks of entering a space:

  • Is the space partially enclosed?
  • Is the space not designed to be occupied by a person?
  • Is the space designed to be at normal atmospheric temperature while a person is inside?
  • Is the space likely to present risk from any of the following: Unsafe oxygen level, airborne contaminants or gases, engulfment by liquid or solid.

If your answer to any of these questions is yes, it may be necessary to take precautions when entering the space. Read on for a few tips to make sure that you can do so safely.

2. Use the Buddy system

“One of the key planks in efforts to reduce the number of injuries and deaths in the workplace is adequate training in occupational health and safety.”

Many health and safety practitioners recommend using the buddy system when workers enter a confined space. It’s a simple system that requires a second worker to always be present when the first is working in such an area.

The buddy should always stay in contact with the worker, either visually or via phone or radio.

That way, if the worker breaths in an airborne contaminant, becomes stuck, or otherwise runs into trouble, the buddy can quickly assess the situation and either act to help or call emergency services.

3. Proper equipment

If the space you’re working in requires ventilators, harnesses, or any other such equipment, it’s essential that you inspect it before entering and maintain it to the highest standards. Nothing spells trouble when you’re stuck in a small space more then equipment failure.

Making equipment inspection mandatory before every entry, and performing company-wide inspections on a regular basis will help ensure that your gear can be relied upon. A few hours a month could be all it takes to avoid a disaster.

Are you aware of the risks of working in a confined space?
Are you aware of the risks of working in a confined space?

4. Correct training

In the Australian Social Trends report, the Australia Bureau of Statistics is very clear about the importance of training:

“One of the key planks in efforts to reduce the number of injuries and deaths in the workplace is adequate training in occupational health and safety.”

This is particularly true of workers operating in confined spaces, where the risks can be far more extreme, especially if they’re not correctly managed. Here at Alertforce we provide high quality, nationally recognised courses covering safety in confined spaces.

To ensure the safety of your workers and protect your business, register online today for a quick but comprehensive one-day course.

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