Many occupations come with certain hazards, and entering into confined spaces may be one associated with your work. If so, you may already know that every time you enter into one, you risk your health and your life.
It may not surprise you to know that a certain number of people die each year in confined spaces. Improper procedures and inadequate training are at the top of the list of reasons for these deaths, which make them entirely preventable. This happens despite enforcement efforts by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
The definition of a confined space
In order to qualify as a confined space, the area must meet the following criteria:
- It must have restricted or limited access for entry and exit.
- It must have enough space for you to get in and do your work.
- The design of the space must not allow you to continuously occupy the space.
Entry into some qualifying spaces does not require a permit, but others do. Your employer does not have to obtain a permit for you to enter the space if you won’t encounter any hazards that could cause you serious or fatal injuries. In contrast, your employer will need a permit if the space has one of the four characteristics:
- Its configuration could cause you to asphyxiate or to become trapped.
- The atmosphere inside the space presents hazards.
- It contains a material that could engulf you.
- It contains any other health hazards or serious safety concerns.
If you know that a certain confined space should require a permit, but your employer fails to obtain one, you have the right to speak up and defend your safety.
Common hazards you could face
When entering into a confined space that requires a permit, one of the primary concerns is the atmosphere. Common dangers you could encounter include the following:
- The atmosphere presents an immediate danger to your life or your health.
- You could experience irreversible adverse health consequences.
- The space hinders your ability to escape without help.
- If the space contains a flowable solid, such as coal or corn, or a liquid, it could overcome and engulf you.
- The space’s small entrance could prohibit rescue personnel with oxygen tanks from entering to assist you.
- Without adequate ventilation, vapors, fumes or gases could build up and overcome you.
In order to avoid these dangers, your employer must conduct atmospheric tests to determine what hazards the environment presents and to make sure you can safely enter. Someone must constantly monitor the air inside the space while you work. Your employer may also need to take measures to prevent explosions and fires. You must also receive space-specific training before going into a confined space.
Safety measures don’t always prevent injuries
Even when you and your employer do all you can to ensure your safety, you could still suffer injuries in a confined space. If you do, you could pursue workers’ compensation benefits in Ohio to help you with your medical bills, lost income and more.