Starting a Confined Space Program

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Confined space entry is a manageable task if all requirements are known ahead of time and planned for with respectable procedures."

The Four Requirements for a Confined Space Program

Starting a confined space program requires that the employer put certain measures in place to make sure employee safety. The four requirements are a written permit system, signs that alert employees of confined space danger, an attendant to supervise, and a rescue team.

A permit for confined space entry is required for two reasons: To confirm authorized employees are informed of the danger and to prevent unauthorized employees from entering. The focus of the permit should be to alert an authorized employee of the dangers he or she may encounter when entering a confined space. Dangers listed on the permit could include engulfment, poor air quality, crushing hazard, and many others. The secondary goal of the permit is to keep unauthorized employees from entering a confined space. Without a permit system there is no way to keep track of which employees are authorized to enter a confined space. Permits make sure that the employees entering a confined space are trained and aware of the dangers.

Starting a confined space program requires specific procedures to ensure employee safety. In order to keep everyone in the area informed of the danger, signs should be posted where confined space entry is required for service. Signs are useful because they will alert employees as well as contractors to a confined space hazard. Signs should be posted on highly visible locations, near entry points on relevant equipment. A typical sign may read, “DANGER CONFINED SPACE, NO ENTRY WITHOUT PERMIT.”

To keep entry employees safe, it is required to assign an attendant to supervise the confined space entry. The purpose of the attendant is to watch over the confined space entry and make sure it is performed safely and up to code. The attendant must be trained in confined space entry, hazards involved with entering a confined spaced, symptoms caused by entry into the particular confined space they are attending, and the risks of exposure to the confined space’s atmosphere. The attendant is trained in all these areas because they are the lifeline of everyone involved in the entry. The attendant has a responsibility to evacuate all members of the confined space entry if any of the following situations takes place:

  • If the attendant detects a problem with the confined space’s atmosphere.
  • If something outside the confined space threatens the safety of the employees involved in the confined space entry.
  • If the attendant notices behavioral changes that indicate danger.
  • If the attendant can no longer perform the duties required of him or her.

The attendant is also required to prevent unauthorized employees from entering the confined space using the following methods:

  • The attendant should warn unauthorized employees who are near or in the confined space during an entry.
  • If an unauthorized employee enters, the attendant should warn the employee to leave the confined space immediately.
  • The attendant should inform their supervisor and authorized entry members that an unauthorized employee has entered the confined space.

If the confined entry team requires assistance leaving the confined space it is the attendant’s duty to alert the rescue team. Prior to starting a confined space entry, the attendant will be responsible for verifying the rescue team is available and that there is a working means of contacting them. When finishing a confined space entry, the attendant will be the one who closes out the entry permit.

lockout-tagout-scanesc-procedureIn case of an emergency there must be a rescue team on standby during a confined space entry. The members of the rescue team will be trained in confined space entry. At least one member of the rescue team must be certified in CPR and first aid. The entry team as a whole is required to practice a rescue entry annually. When performing an entry rescue, the members entering the confined space must be wearing a full body or chest harness in case they themselves need to be rescued. If the rescue team needs to enter a space that is greater than 5ft deep, it is required that a mechanical lifting device be attached to the employees harness for rescue purposes.

Confined space entry is a manageable task if all requirements are known ahead of time and planned for with respectable procedures. The four requirements for a confined space program are a written permit system, signs that alert employees of confined space danger, an attendant to supervise, and a rescue team.

ESC Services offers a comprehensive confined space entry program that will streamline the entire process. ESC Services can provide:

  • Confined space inventory creation and classification
  • Permit evaluation of confined spaces
  • Graphical confined space procedures
  • Graphical confined space re-classification procedures
  • Comprehensive confined space training
  • Creation and installation of custom confined space signage
  • Confined space program annual audits

Contact us to help you build your confined space program.

About Mike Hettel
Mike Hettel is a mechanical engineer at ESC Services He has been part of multiple lockout tagout projects ranging from audits to complete facility programs. Mike’s experience has primarily been in manufacturing environments.