It is imperative that business owners with facilities that possess confined spaces assess their workplace thoroughly for safety issues. Confined space work can be hazardous and even fatal without proper attention, training, and permission.
Identifying potentially hazardous confined workspaces can be difficult for business owners not specialized in such matters. Take for instance the mall and winery industries.
Low Oxygen Levels in Mall Fountain Valve Pits
Mall employers and workers must not enter fountain valve pits without proper oxygen testing and safety training.
A worker was tasked with adjusting the valves that controlled a water fountain in a shopping mall in Oregon. The valves were located seven deep in a pit that was just large enough to fit one person at three by three feet wide. While attempting to adjust the valves, the worker fainted.
Seeing what had happened, another employee attempted to rescue the unconscious worker. Unfortunately, the second worker also nearly lost consciousness and was too weak to escape the pit. However, they did manage to call security, which in turn contacted emergency services.
In the meantime, two more rescue attempts were made by a security guard and a mall shopper, but becoming dizzy themselves, were unable to help. Finally, the fire department arrived and rescued everyone.
After all the parties involved were given the proper medical attention, every pit in the mall was tested for oxygen deficiency. Three out of four pits measured well below the acceptable limit.
Displacement of Oxygen by Carbon Monoxide in Winery Vessels
Winery workers and employers must take care to follow standard safety procedures when cleaning and maintaining fermentation tanks.
Because some noxious gases like carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide have no odor, recognizing their presence requires procedural monitoring and testing with appropriate equipment. Failure to do so can and sometimes will result in serious injury and death.
Recommendations for Business Owners & Employees
If you own or work for a business in which confined space work is necessary, proper evaluation of these spaces is an absolute necessity. Here’s what you can do to ensure the safety of your employees, yourself, and your coworkers.
How to Avoid Confined Workplace Injury & Death as a Business Owner
- Hire a professional HAZMAT company with permits and specialization in confined space work to assess the safety of your confined spaces and to perform confined space work.
- Never ask untrained, unlicensed workers to perform confined space work.
- How to Ensure Confined Space Work Safety as an Employee
- Educate yourself on confined space work requirements
- Never enter a confined space without a license
- If you obtain a permit to do confined space work, confirm that your employers are operating in accordance with state regulations before entering a confined workspace.