Confined Space Awareness Training: Preventing Deaths and Injuries to Public Workers

  • This training course is available in Portable Document Format (PDF, 440KB, 23pg.)

Note: This training is intended to Raise Awareness of Confined Space Hazards. It is not a permit-required confined space entry trianing program.

I. Introduction and Course Preparation Tips

Introduction

This guide will help you run a safety course on identification of confined spaces and the hazards in them to help prevent deaths and injuries to workers who may encounter confined spaces on their job. It includes examples you can share with workers, questions for discussion, and take away messages. The safety course is broken into 5 different sections:

  1. Getting Started
  2. Example
  3. Discussion
  4. Talking Points
  5. Take Away Messages

Each section includes tips you can use when presenting the material. The course should take about 30 minutes to complete.

Course Preparation Tips

Before beginning the training:

  1. Identify the person at your company/worksite who is responsible for evaluating whether any permit-required confined spaces* are present. Make sure this person has had permit-required confined space entry training and knows the potential confined spaces and hazards in the spaces workers may encounter.
  2. Get to know your company's safety rules about:
    • Entering or working in confined spaces
    • Communicating hazards to workers
    • Personal protective equipment
    • Reporting safety incidents
    • Employee consequences for failure to abide by safety rules
  3. Make a list of possible confined spaces your employees may encounter.
  4. Read through this training guide and review supporting materials.

*Permit-required confined spaces meet the definition of a confined space but also have one or more hazards that could make escape or rescue difficult.

II. Training Curriculum

  1. Getting Started

    The goal of this training is to help workers recognize a confined space and hazards in them and to avoid entering a confined space. During the first part of the training, you will be giving your workers background information about how to identify a confined space as well as the hazards that can be present in confined spaces. Additional examples have been included in the "Appendices" section of this document. The question and facts below can help you provide background information to workers.

    Provide your workers with a copy of the "Safety Checklist For Confined Spaces". Read aloud the "Hazard Warning" to workersand the questions and answers below.

    HAZARD WARNING! DO NOT enter confined spaces as you are putting yourselves at risk of serious injury or death.

    What is a Confined Space?

    • Is large enough for an employee to enter and perform assigned work;
    • Has a limited or restricted means of entry or exit; and
    • Is not designed for continuous occupancy by the employee.

    Every year, many workers in the U.S. are injured or killed by entering or working in confined spaces.

    What are some Examples?

    • Sewers
    • Tunnels
    • Manholes
    • Boilers
    • Tank Cars
    • Cisterns
    • Pits
    • Silos
    • Storage Bins

    When Might Workers Encounter Confined Spaces?

    • Inspection, repair, maintenance
    • New construction
    • Emergency rescue

    What are the Hazards that make Confined Spaces Deadly?

    • Hazardous air conditions (such as flammable gas, too little oxygen, too much oxygen, airborne combustion dust, etc.)
    • Liquid or solid materials than can engulf an entrant (such as sand, grain, etc.)
    • Conditions that can trap or suffocate an entrant (such as inwardly converging walls, floors which slope downward, etc.)
    • Mechanical hazards (such as gears, conveyors, mulchers, etc.)
    • Electrical hazards
    • Temperature extremes
    • Poor visibility, lack of lighting
    • Falling objects
    • Falling, tripping, insecure footing
    • Other hazard that would make escape or rescue from the area difficult

    What is a Permit-Required Confined Space?

    Any space that meets the definition of a confined space AND:

    • Contains or has the potential to contain hazardous air conditions;
    • Contains a material with the potential to engulf someone who enters the space;
    • Has an internal configuration that might cause an entrant to be trapped or suffocated; or
    • Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazards.

    Questions for Group (Read Aloud)

    About how many workers in the U.S. are killed each year after entering or working in a confined space?

    1. 5
    2. 10
    3. 50
    4. 100

    Answer (Read Aloud):

    Around 100 workers are killed in confined spaces each year in the United States. These workers leave behind countless family members. Around 60% of workers who die in confined spaces are co-workers or rescue personnel who have rushed to help the first worker. The tragedy here is that all of these deaths can be prevented.

    Safety Checklist for Confined Spaces

    Hazard Warning! - DO NOT enter confined spaces as you are putting yourself at risk of serious injury or death.

    Here are some simple ways you can help protect yourself and your co-workers:

    • Know how to identify a confined space
    • When in doubt, never enter an area that could be a confined space without first speaking with a supervisor or safety representative.
    • Do not rely on your senses to determine if a confined space has no hazards. A number of hazardous gases are both colorless and odorless.
    • NEVER enter a confined space to try to rescue another worker.

    DO NOT RELY ON YOUR SENSES TO DETERMINE IF A CONFINED SPACE IS SAFE!

  2. Real-Life Example 1 and Discussion

    A useful way to train workers about safety hazards is to present them with real life examples. Read the example below aloud to employees. A copy of the full report upon which this example is based has been included in the "Appendices" section - "City Engineer Killed in Landfill Manhole when Retrieving Flow Meter". After reading the example aloud, use the questions in the "Discussion" section to get workers to talk about why the accident may have happened.

    Example 1 (Read Aloud):

    In May 2003, a 32-year-old male city engineer collapsed in a manhole in New York while attempting to retrieve a flow meter. On the day of the incident, the victim, a co-worker, and a student intern drove to a landfill to replace a battery for a flow meter that had been placed in the manhole. They opened the manhole cover with a pickaxe and the victim began to lift the meter out of the manhole when it fell to the bottom. The victim quickly descended into the manhole to retrieve the meter. As he was about to climb the ladder out of the manhole he lost consciousness. The co-worker called 911 on his cell phone and the fire department responded within minutes. The victim was removed from the manhole and was transported to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead. At the time of the recovery, the oxygen concentration at the bottom of the manhole was only 2.1% (should be above 19.5%) and the flammable vapors exceeded 60% of the lower explosive level (should be less than 10%).

    Questions can be a good way to get people thinking about a lesson. During this part of the training, discuss what caused the confined space fatality you just read. Listed below are questions you can ask and some of the answers you are likely to receive.

    Because some workers might be hesitant to answer right away, you may want to read one of the answers given below. Then, ask workers whether they think the answer you gave was correct. However, don't give an answer right away. It is best to wait at least 10 seconds after you ask a question before you give ananswer. People remember things better when they hear them many times or both hear and see it. If possible, write down the answers workers give to questions. Or, if writing is not possible, repeat the answers aloud.

    Questions and Answers (Read Aloud):

    1. Was the manhole a Confined Space?
      • Was it large enough for an employee to enter; Yes
      • Was it designed for limited or restricted entry; and Yes
      • Was it designed for continuous human occupancy? No This space was a confined space.
    2. Were there hazards in this confined space that made it a permit required confined space?
      • Yes, the space contained a hazardous atmosphere (low oxygen andflammable vapors).
    3. Should the engineer have entered the manhole when he dropped the flowmeter?
      • No, it contained a hazardous atmosphere.
    4. Should the co-workers have tried to rescue the victim?
      • No, they may have been injured or killed too by the hazardous air conditions.
    5. Some hazards are not apparent to the senses such as oxygen deficiency. If you don't see, smell, taste, hear or feel any hazards should you enter a confined space?
      • No. Never enter a confined space with out the proper training and equipment.
    6. Are you at risk?
      • Discuss actual work location and situations you encounter.
  3. Real-Life Example 2 and Discussion

    A useful way to train workers about safety hazards is to present them with real life examples. Read the example below aloud to employees. After reading the example aloud, use the questions in the "Discussion" section to get workers to talk about why the accident may have happened.

    Example 2 (Read Aloud):

    A foundry employee was working the graveyard shift performing maintenance on a conveyor drive chain unit. The maintenance involved spraying the drive chain with a degreasing solvent containing methyl chloroform (chemical name 1,1,1-trichloroethane). Methyl chloroform is heavier than air. Exposure to methyl chloroform can damage central nervous, lung and cardiovascular systems. The conveyer chain unit was housed in a pit that was 28' long, 14' wide and 5' deep with a ladder on one side for access. He sprayed for an hour before the dinner break. During the break, he reportedly complained to his co-workers that the vapors were bothering him. He returned to the pit and continued spraying after the break.

    At the end of the shift, the victim was found lying on his side approximately ten feet from the ladder while the nozzle was still spraying. There were about 10 and 20 gallons of solvent on the floor around the victim. A supervisor first entered the pit through the ladder trying to rescue the victim. He was immediately overcome by the vapor. He fell to his knees, but was able to stand up and climb back up the ladder. The supervisor and a co-worker then attempted to enter the pit while holding their breath, but again had to leave the pit. On the third attempt, they managed to remove the victim out of the pit. They started resuscitation and continued until the emergency medical service arrived. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene. The direct cause of death was determined to be inhalation of methyl chloroform.

    Questions can be a good way to get people thinking about a lesson. During this part of the training, discuss what caused the confined space fatality you just read. Listed below are questions you can ask and some of the answers you are likely to receive.

    Questions and Answers (Read Aloud):

    1. Was the pit a confined space? Why or why not?

      Yes, it meets the three criteria for a confined space. Review the three criteria of a confined space:

      • Large enough to enter fully (the pit was 28' long, 14' wide and 5' deep);
      • Not for continuous human occupancy (it was designed to hold the chain unit); and
      • Having restricted access (there was a ladder attached to the wall).
    2. Was the pit a permit required confined space? Why or why not?

      Yes, it meets at least one of the criteria for a permit required confined space. Review the criteria of a permit required confined space:

      • Contains or has the potential to contain hazardous air conditions;
      • Contains a material with the potential to engulf someone who enters the space;
      • Has an internal configuration that might cause an entrant to be trapped or suffocated; and
      • Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazards.
    3. What went wrong?
      • No confined space awareness training;
      • No permit required confined space program; and
      • Risky rescue could have resulted in a multiple fatality.
    4. What would you do if you were assigned to perform the maintenance job in the pit?
    5. What would you do if you were the supervisor when you saw the victim lying inthe pit?
      • Do not attempt to rescue the victim by entering the pit.
      • Call 911.
      • Make sure no one goes down the pit.
      • Open all the windows.
  4. Talking Points

    The goal of this part of the training is to get workers talking about their own experiences with confined spaces. Listed below are questions you can use to get people talking and questions you can use to get people to provide more details. You may also want to include information on the consequences for employees who do not follow established safety rules (e.g., verbal warning for first infraction, written warning, etc.).

    Questions (Read Aloud):

    1. Have you or anyone you know ever had an accident or near-miss accident that involved a confined space?
      • What went wrong?
      • What could have been done to avoid the accident?
    2. What are some of the work activities you and your co-workers do that involve confined spaces?
      • Discuss
      • Are there other ways to perform the work activity that do not involve entering the confined space?
    3. Have you ever observed others engaging in risky behavior when working around confined spaces?
      • Discuss
      • Were there other ways to perform the work activity that would have eliminated the risky behavior or not involved entering the confined space?
  5. Take Away Message

    The training is nearly complete. Before wrapping up, provide workers with a list of things they can do to protect themselves by reviewing the "Safety Checklist for Confined Spaces" aloud. These are the key messages you will want workers to have and remember. Once you have finished reviewing the information, ask if anyone has any comments about the advice. Finally, thank workers for their time and ask them to complete the evaluation form located on the last two pages of this manual.

    Evaluation forms should be returned to you. Completed forms should then be sent to the NY FACE program. The evaluation will help us to improve this program and make it more useful to workers.

    New York FACE Program
    Center for Environmental Health
    Bureau of Occupational Health and Injury Prevention
    Empire State Plaza-Corning Tower, Room 1325
    Albany, New York 12237
    (518) 402-7900
    Fax: (518) 402-7909

Appendix A - Confined Space Hazards: Hazardous Atmosphere

Things or Processes that can create a Hazardous Atmosphere

  • Aerosols, dust, fumes, mist, gases, vapors, radiation
  • Chemical reactions
  • Decomposition of organic matter
  • Cleaning reagents
  • Welding, spray painting, grinding, sand blasting
  • Stored products/chemicals
  • Leaks and Spills
  • Charging batteries

Types

  • Oxygen deficiency: level below 19.5%
    • Can occur when oxygen is consumed by individuals, decomposing organic matter, chemical reactions, and combustion
    • Can only be identified with an air monitoring device
  • Oxygen enrichment: level greater than 23.5%
    • Can be caused by leaking oxygen cylinders or lines
    • Extreme fire hazard!!
    • Can only be identified with an air monitoring device
  • Carbon Monoxide
    • Very toxic, colorless, odorless, combustible gas
    • Can be caused by gas powered internal combustion engines,improperly vented furnaces, boilers, hot water tanks
    • Can only be identified with an air monitoring device
  • Hydrogen Sulfide
    • Flammable, colorless gas-rotten egg odor
    • Can be caused by petroleum products processing, decay of
    • sulfur-containing materials
  • Methane
    • Colorless, odorless, flammable gas
    • Can be caused by decomposition of organic matter
    • Can only be identified with an air monitoring device

Appendix B - Confined Space Guidelines - Information for Supervisors

Responsibilities:

  • Know hazards that may be faced during entry including information on the type of exposure, signs or symptoms and consequences;
  • Verify that acceptable conditions for entry exist;
  • Verify emergency plans and entry conditions such as permits, tests, procedures, and equipment before allowing entry;
  • Terminate entry when operations are completed or a prohibited condition arises;
  • Verify that rescue services are available and that the means for summoning them are operable;
  • Take appropriate measures to remove unauthorized entrants;
  • Determine at appropriate intervals that acceptable entry conditions are maintained; and
  • Ensure that appropriate equipment for safe entry is available including:
    • Personal protective equipment
    • Testing, monitoring, ventilating, communications, and lighting equipment
    • Barriers and shields
    • Ladders
    • Retrieval devices

Appendix C: Case Report