Confined Space Permit to Work
In a confined space, there are a number of additional dangers and issues to consider that would not necessarily be present when doing the work in an open space.
Firstly, the confined space can trap toxic gases and prevent an adequate supply of oxygen getting in. Often, this would not be much of an issue if the work was being done outdoors or in a large space as there would be plenty of oxygen and harmful gases would be able to disperse easily. Although some gases and fumes are dangerous in small concentrations, many will only pose a threat to health if inhaled in a large concentration which can be the case when they are trapped in a confined space.
Secondly, escape or rescue is much more difficult when working in a small area. If a fire broke out for example, normally the worker could quickly evacuate the building through an emergency exit. If the fire started outside, such as an accident welding with a blowtorch on a construction site, a person could easily step away from the fire. In a confined space however, it will take much longer to get out, increasing the risk of burns or smoke inhalation. Often a confined space may only have one way in and out, so if the fire blocks their route of escape, this could be a serious problem. Rescuers will also struggle to get to an injured person due to a lack of space or blocked entry. A person suffering a serious injury and requiring a stretcher and neck brace will be in trouble if a stretcher does not fit in the space.
There are also other dangers including the threat of being submerged in a liquid or small free-flowing solid like sugar or sand, along with panic and anxiety attacks from claustrophobia.
A confined space permit to work will help to identify the potential hazards to health and ensure that the necessary precautions have been taken and emergency procedures put in place ready in the event of an incident occurring. Like a general permit to work system, a confined space permit to work seeks to greatly minimise the risks associated with doing particularly hazardous tasks. A combination of a sufficient permit to work system with appropriate health and safety courses can enable workers to carry out tasks safely and efficiently.