Complex repairs and installations can require employees to enter “confined spaces,” defined as an area big enough for a worker to perform certain tasks, but not meant for continuous occupancy. These spaces can include storage bins, tanks, manholes and tunnels.
Dangers of Working in a Confined Space
Some confined spaces contain safety hazards for employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) uses the term “permit-required confined space” to denote confined spaces that pose specific hazards to employees, including:
- materials that could engulf a worker (i.e. grain or sand.)
- walls that taper down into a smaller area, which could trap or even asphyxiate an employee
- exposed live wires
- heat stress
- unguarded machinery
Confined spaces could also allow chemicals to accumulate at higher concentrations, increasing the risk of an explosion (if the chemical encounters an ignition source.) If the space has poor ventilation, workers risk prolonged exposure to harmful chemicals.
Before a worker enters a confined space, management should assess the space’s air quality to determine oxygen levels and identify which chemicals, if any, are present. OSHA also recommends assigning a nearby attendant to monitor the worker’s progress and safety.
Electricians, plumbers and construction workers all operate in confined spaces on a regular basis. No matter how routine the practice may be, employers must always be sure to assess risks and hazards before assigning an employee to the area.
In the workplace, your employer is responsible for your health and safety. Their negligence could put you and thousands of other workers at risk. Knowing your rights is the first step to demanding change, so call Larrimer & Larrimer today. An experienced workers’ comp attorney could make all the difference in your case.
[Did You Know:
From 1992-2005, there were 530 fatalities resulting from oxygen deficient or toxic atmospheres in confined spaces.]
Larrimer & Larrimer, LLC
—Columbus Workers Comp Attorneys