Plenty of workplaces contain areas considered as Confined Spaces, as they are not specifically designed for people to work into. Confined places are working environments wherein there is just a space large enough for workers to get in and do their job. Working environment that are combined as confined spaces include, but are not limited to silos, tanks, hoppers, storage bins, pits, vaults, equipment housing, ductwork, manholes, pipe lines, tunnels, and more.
Areas in workplaces considered confined spaces by the OSHA are places with one or more of the following characteristics: areas containing materials that have the potential to engulf the entrance; areas that contain hazardous atmosphere; areas with inward walls, downward slope floors, and areas that can trap the people inside; or areas that contain recognized health and safety hazards including exposed live wires, heat stress or machineries.
Risks of Confined Spaces
From the period of 2005 – 2009, the OSHA has reported 482 fatalities in confined spaces. This averages 96.2% deaths per year, which equates to 1.85% deaths every week. Logically, this will equate to 1 death every four days. This data carries the record of fatalities caused by immediate death. This excludes the fatalities which resulted from illnesses and injuries from confined spaces.
The number of fatalities within the 5-year period happened in 28 states. These fatalities include every age group. The very old and very young deaths are presented equally. Over 298 deaths or 61% confined spaces deaths happened during cleaning activities, repairing, and construction. The 203 deaths are regular workers in the construction industry, but 83 fatalities or 17% of victims are in managerial positions.
Cause of Death in Confined Spaces
The most surprising confined space statistics is the cause of these deaths. Generally, when you say confined spaces fatalities, you will think about atmospheric hazards. But within the 5-year period, atmospheric hazards were not the primary cause of emergencies in confined spaces. Physical hazards were the primary cause of confined spaces for the five years period.
Physical hazards include collapses, caught in, struck by, and fall. These incidents accounted for 61% or 294 deaths. Atmospheric hazards, which include fires accounted for about 33% or 160 deaths.
Thus, this record reminds people of the importance of proper safety and security precautions when it comes to doing work in confined spaces. Atmospheric hazards are at the mind of first responders, but from this, you also need to consider the possible physical hazards as well as chemical hazards inside confined spaces. Physical hazards are common in maintenance and construction activities in the process.
When rescuers are asked how often they want to do a rescue, they respond not more often. Their goals are never to make a rescue to happen. With proper entry procedures and careful pre-planning, an entry rescue is not needed. However, things tend to go wrong in confined spaces. This is where business establishment owners need to clear their confined spaces to ensure that their lives will not be at risk. The same thing goes for workers. They should take extreme caution when working in confined spaces to avoid serious injuries or worse, death.