Safety and Health in Confined Spaces

Environmental conditions and work activity in confined spaces kill many people worldwide each year. Despite this, we know very little about the nature of work that occurs in them. People fail to recognize confined spaces. They fail to recognize hazardous conditions and fail to appreciate the seriousness of hazardous conditions when they do recognize them. Then they fail to act appropriately to eliminate or control hazardous conditions or to protect people adequately against them. What we know about work in confined spaces comes primarily from studies of fatal accidents. Fatal accidents are rare events in the overall conduct of work. We know next to nothing about the trivial and nonserious incidents, and minor and near-miss accidents that also occur. What we do know is that accidents that occur in confined spaces are rare events. They are difficult to predict and extremely expensive to prevent.

Much of what has appeared in print about confined spaces provides only parts of the big picture. These articles usually are oriented toward complying with standards and regulations. The latter provide no assistance to persons required to follow or to comply with them. The logic and rationale of what is required is never explained. Without this information, people cannot make informed decisions about the management of hazardous conditions in confined spaces.

To illustrate, many standards and regulations focus only on atmospheric hazards. Yet, the hazardous nature of confined spaces also results from confinement of energy sources and personnel. Until the emphasis on shoring and sloping by regulators, engulfment by loose flowing materials in trenches, excavations, and storage structureswas the single greatest killer in fatal accidents according to the (U.S.) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Note that trenches, excavations and ditches normally are not recognized as confined spaces in legislation.

Safety and Health in Confined Spaces is the product of 10 years of research and effort. This book provides the big picture about confined spaces. First, it identifies, describes, and then unifies the three themes of the confined space problem: atmospheric confinement, confinement of energy sources, and lastly, the confinement of personnel. It then relates these concepts to the boundary surface. The boundary surface acts as an amplifier of hazardous conditions. .

The second focus of Safety and Health in Confined Spaces is addressing hazardous conditions. Safety and Health in Confined Spaces provides an overview of strategies for minimizing the risk of work in confined spaces, starting with eliminating the need for entry. Strategies for eliminating the need for entry include influencing design decisions, procedural change, equipment modification, and use of remotely controlled equipment. In circumstances where entry must occur, the focus is anticipation, recognition, evaluation, and elimination or control of the hazardous conditions that can occur or can develop. Safety and Health in Confined Spaces provides a detailed, logical, and repeatable protocol for assessing hazardous conditions that can occur during entry and work activity, and emergency situations.