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A Tight Fit: Safety in Confined Spaces

Cartoons and movies have deceived us into believing that one can escape a police chase, make their way through city streets undetected or find a quick hiding spot in a crowded urban area--- simply by uncovering and crawling inside a manhole. The reality is that manholes have serious deadly potential, even for those who perform their work in confined space conditions.


Crawling down into a manhole like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or Ghostbusters might quickly cause the death of those who enter. Exposure to toxic chemicals or limited oxygen can create a tragedy in an instant. The shocking statistic, however, about confined space death and injuries is that they aren’t from those led astray by deceptive television. In fact, according to NIOSH investigations of confined space deaths, 95% were authorized by supervisors to perform regular maintenance.


“About 2.1 million workers enter permit confined spaces annually. Approximately 60 percent of confined-space fatalities are rescuers.” -NIOSH


If the experts who have been trained and often are the very people to write safety procedures for confined spaces are succumbing to injuries and fatalities, what is going wrong? Like with working at heights or using heavy machinery, a confined space protocol follows the same basic, common sense approach.



Basic training is not enough. You must provide adequate training with an emphasis on the real dangers. Like with any safety protocol, employee buy-in is a major factor. When employees underestimate the dangers and overestimate their abilities, death can be swift.


“From the moment a person enters that space, they are effectively impaired. The oxygen content within the blood starts to drop. This affects the brain, causing a loss of coordination and impairing judgment. The person likely won’t be able to find his or her way out of the space, they’ll lose strength, fall down, lose consciousness, and could die. This process can occur in less than 6 minutes.” -


With such a staggering possibility of injury and death, confined space training and protocols cannot be done half heartedly. Preparing for entry of a confined space should include:

  • An Entrant
  • An Attendant
  • A supervisor
  • A Rescue Team


Training should cover communication methods for relaying information regarding hazards and how to move quickly if an incident occurs. Training should also be conducted by a company that specializes in confined space hazard training.



Personal Protective Equipment is absolutely required when entering confined spaces and training should cover the proper usage and proper, regulated maintenance of such equipment. PPE for confined spaces include:

  • Gas monitors
  • Ventilation blowers
  • Fall Protection Harness
  • Perimeter Protection
  • RespiratorsHelmets/ Gloves/ Eye Protection & More


“Each worker should wear a gas monitor designed for continuous monitoring, and the attendant should have a monitor with an air pump and a hose to test the confined space before any of the workers enter. This is known as a pre-entry test, and it is essential to take the time to do it correctly.” PowerPak


Workplace Safety Screenings is your partner in workplace safety. From start to finish and every step along the way, we can help you ensure you are meeting government safety regulations, finding the best workers and creating a safety protocol for all of your employees at every level and in every job role. Contact Workplace Safety Screenings for more information and a customized safety plan for your business.


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