January 12, 2022

The Dangers of Confined Spaces

It goes without saying that confined spaces are dangerous places to be, most people have fears of enclosed spaces. However, many jobs in agriculture require going into confined spaces. Therefore, it is important to be educated on the hazards in confined spaces that you can and cannot see.

OSHA defines confined spaces as places that are not necessarily designed for people but are large enough for workers to enter and perform certain jobs. Confined spaces have limited or restricted means for entry or exit and are not designed for continuous occupancy. The USDA considers the four major dangers in confined spaces on the farm to be:

  1. Chemicals or gases displacing or consuming oxygen
  2. Fires and explosions
  3. Damage to the respiratory and nervous system from airborne toxins
  4. Moving parts or falls causing the worker physical harm
field of grain

There are many different areas classified as confined spaces, including silos, tanks, manholes, and many more. The USDA recommends that you identify confined spaces on the farm so that you can take the proper steps to protect workers on the job. Those who work in confined spaces must first receive training and permits before entering the enclosed area.

A worker must do the following before entering a confined space:

  • Test for oxygen, flammability, and toxicity every four feet and in corners.
  • Use the correct respirator and make sure all equipment is tested and grounded.
  • Cut off gas, power, steam, and water lines. Follow lock-out procedures to avoid accidental start-up of equipment and disconnect and cap all input lines.
  • Have at least one trained and equipped coworker standing by in case there’s trouble. Decide ahead of time how to communicate.
  • Use spark-proof tools, lights, and fans to prevent fire hazards.
  • A harness and attached lifeline are key for performing a rescue. Simply putting a rope around the waist isn’t enough. Have ladders and lifts available.
  • Never go in after a trapped worker unless another trained and equipped worker is there on standby.

Many hazards will be invisible to the naked eye, but they are just as dangerous as any obvious hazard. Gasses and dust can completely overcome a worker, causing lung damage or even death. To prevent this, farmers should avoid mold by storing only dry grain and well-cured forages and hay, keeping livestock areas as clean as possible, and wearing disposable dust masks or filter masks.

Visit us again for more information about agriculture specific training, or visit Hard Hat Training for more training programs for you and your business. Good luck and stay safe!