Working in confined spaces is a difficult task for employees in any workplace. Just to help you get things into perspective, think about the few times you've had problems with the drainage beneath the sink in your kitchen. It is hard to gain access to the problematic areas because of limited space. If you cannot configure your body and find a comfortable posture, then you find that you have to work with many breaks in between the job. This is the same case for confined spaces in commercial workplaces such as mines, manufacturing plants, shipping and many others. Here is a thorough look at non-permit–required and permit-required confined spaces to help you gain insight:
Non-Permit–Required Confined Spaces
To best understand the scope and definition of a non-permit–required confined space, it is imperative to look at the factors that characterise a confined space. Generally, a confined space is a space that is large enough for someone to enter and carry the specific work that he or she intends, but the means of accessing and leaving that space are somehow restricted, and an employee's safety can be jeopardised due to these restrictions. A confined space is not designed for purposes of occupancy, and it is primarily accessed for the purpose of carrying out specific work. If any space meets all these requirements but has no inherent hazards, then it qualifies as a non-permit–required confined space.
Permit-Required Confined Space
A permit-required confined space differs from a non-permit one in the sense that it meets all the requirements of a confined space, with elements that can jeopardise the health and well-being of an employee. Unlike a non-permit–required confined space, there is a high likelihood that the employee working in a permit-required space will suffer an injury, or worse, death! Some of the common hazards in permit-required spaces are:
- Poisonous gases - Poisonous gases can cause death by asphyxiation and suffocation. The risk is particularly high when the gases involved are odourless and colourless. Examples of such gases are nitric oxide, nitrogen trioxide, cyanogen and nitrosyl chloride. Some of them occur naturally in places such as mines.
- Collapsible Soil Layers - Permit-required confined spaces can also be marred by collapsible walls and soils, which can bury and trap employees working within tunnels and deep trenches.
Entry, exit and use of permit-required confined spaces is governed by clearly outlined procedures to mitigate risk and ensure the safety of the employees. For instance, an employee should not access a deep collapsible trench in the absence of other personnel above the ground. To learn more, contact a company that offers confined space training classes.