Confined Space Safety in Construction

29 Sep 2020 Scaffolding

Over the last 15 years, 18 deaths have occurred in confined space jobs in British Columbia according to WorkSafeBC, and it is estimated that over 100 deaths occur across Canada annually due to hazards in confined spaces. Confined spaces can be incredibly dangerous to work in, so it is important to know all that you can about confined space safety in construction and to never enter a confined space unless it has been assessed and deemed as safe by a qualified person. At United Scaffold Supply, we believe in safety above all else and we frequently work with companies that deal with confined spaces. We are always happy to lend our expertise or help with confined space equipment supply.

What is a Confined Space?

Before putting together safety protocols for working in confined spaces, it is good to be clear on what a confined space is. A confined space can be defined as any partially or fully enclosed space that has limited egress and is not intended for continuous human use. The restricted access of confined spaces typically complicate any kind of emergency response and they can usually pose a risk due to their environment, contents, functions, or the type of activities required to maneuver within these spaces. Some common examples of confined spaces include:

  • Wells
  • Manholes
  • Large pipes or culverts
  • Subcellars
  • Crawlspaces
  • Tunnels
  • Ship voids or holds

Common Hazards of Confined Spaces

Confined spaces pose a wide variety of hazards which are determined by the nature and function of the space and the work being done in it. There are a couple of atmospheric hazards that are inherent in many confined spaces, including:

  • Flammable or combustible materials and gases
  • Toxic materials or gases
  • Oxygen-deficient or oxygen-enriched atmospheres

It is important to test for all of these hazards and have proper equipment and safety procedures in place to stabilize the work environment before beginning a job. Other hazards that can occur include:

  • Electrical hazards
  • Mechanical equipment that is left operating
  • Extreme temperatures
  • Unstable or slick surfaces
  • Structural hazards

It is also important to note that the conditions in a confined space can change very quickly and, if a worker becomes incapacitated, rescue can be incredibly difficult. For these reasons, it is vital to have the space inspected before use and to have a solid safety plan in place before starting work. No unnecessary risks should ever be taken in a confined space, as an accident can result in injury or death for both the worker and those who go in to rescue the worker.

Requirements to Work in Confined Spaces

In order to work in a confined space, WorkSafeBC requires that various tests be performed to facilitate safety. Air quality tests should be performed throughout the space and combustible gases should be continuously monitored. Any potentially hazardous equipment or electrical sources should be shut down or isolated before entry. It is also required to remove liquids from the space and set up proper access systems.

How United Scaffold Can Help You Prepare

If you or your employees need to go into a confined space, make sure that you reach out to an equipment and safety supplier to get everything you need in place before getting started. The team from United Scaffold Supply can provide a variety of equipment and services that can solve some of the problems posed by confined spaces. The solutions we can provide include:

  • Creating better access and egress through scaffolds and stairs, and trained confined space workers qualified to build these systems in hazardous environments
  • Rescue systems and supplies (Davit, Tripod, 4:1 Mechanical Advantage, and others)
  • Fall protection equipment
  • Ventilation systems
  • Air quality monitors
  • Any PPE equipment that could be required for confined space work

If you want to find out more information about confined space safety in construction, or if you are interested in discussing our scaffold rental services, please contact United Scaffold Supply at 1-866-820-6341 or by filling out a contact form on our website.