Working in a confined space might sound like a nightmare to some, but to others, it's their day job. A confined space is not limited to a tiny crevice between buildings, or a cramped attic. It's any partially or fully enclosed space that is not specifically designed for a person, has normal atmospheric pressure and might contain contaminants or a reduced supply of oxygen, according to Work Safe Queensland.
We're sure that this all sounds like a dreadful scenario, but people working in confined spaces installing plumbing or major pipe works do this sort of thing everyday. To get the job done safely, they need to have the best equipment available, and that's exactly what we have in store at Kennards Hire.
When would confined space work be required?
To get the job done safely, you need to have the best equipment available.
If you have a chimney, vat, sewer, tunnel or silo in or around your property that requires maintenance, then you will need to ensure you have the right safety equipment. It's recommended that professionals carry out even small repairs in these sorts of areas, because they're trained and experienced, so can cope if something unexpected occurs.
Besides, you don't want to be stuck in a sewage pipe for hours on end trying to find a tiny leak, do you?
An underground sewer is a very unique work location. It usually requires the use of SCBA equipment (self-contained breathing apparatus) to access, and you may only be allowed in the environment for a set period of time. In places such as this, it's important to know what it is you're dealing with in terms of gases and atmospheric pressures. A 5-in-1 gas detector can help to ascertain exactly what's in the air around you, and even has an in-built motion sensor that sounds an alarm if it suspects the user has become immobile.
Who can work in a confined space?
As outlined in the Work Safe Victoria Confined spaces compliance code, when designing or manufacturing anything that includes a confined space that cannot be avoided, every reasonable attempt must be made to minimise the risk of someone accessing the space for maintenance. A safe and specific entrance and exit must also be included.
Once the site has been cleared for use, the employee accessing it must be issued with a confined space entry permit.
An employer must make sure the work site is safe to operate in. This safety check includes having a reasonable oxygen level. This is anywhere between 19.5 per cent and 23.5 per cent of the air we breathe. Other factors such as the mechanical and electrical safety must be checked, the solidity of any structure that must be walked on or underneath, and how safe the atmosphere inside the confined space will be with a human inside it.
Once the site itself has been cleared for use, the employee who is accessing it must be issued with a confined space entry permit. This is a formal acknowledgement that the space has been inspected thoroughly for any hazards, and can be accessed by one or more people. It is also a way of communicating to the employee that the site is genuinely accessible, which can give them peace of mind. If they still want more assurances, you can issue them with an emergency breather kit, which will provide oxygen to the worker if the unexpected happens.
Confined space work isn't dangerous if done correctly, and safety equipment from Kennards Hire makes sure you do it right every time.