The latest in CTC’s series of safety seminars was held last Wednesday, 24th February 2016. The topic was Confined Space Safety. Presenters highlighted safety issues around practitioners entering a confined space.
The first presenter was Brett Biddle, an Inspector with Workplace Health and Safety, Queensland. He spoke about issues concerning safety, and recounted incidents that highlight areas of concern.
“Often people can overlook the obvious, which can have disastrous consequences for personnel and management”, Brett commented.
Brett mentioned a number of matters that practitioners should be aware of, namely:
- A query often asked of him is “am I working in a confined space?’.
- Complete a risk assessment prior to entering the area, considering the legislation and code of practice
- Should the assessment indicate that the area might be a confined space, treat it as a confined space
- All persons on the confined space entry team should be well trained
- The entry person (as the gatekeeper) is a key role
- All staff should be rotated through various roles to ensure competency.
- Check communications are operational
- Communication between the rescuer and entry personnel
- Communication between rescuer and emergency services
- All equipment (including rescue gear) should be inspected and set up prior to entry to the confined space in the event of a rescue being required
- Rescues should be drilled and practised regularly – drills save lives
- As things evolve, ensure that risk assessments are reviewed and re-assessed.
- Will we have sufficient oxygen?
- We need sufficient for life otherwise workers begin to behave erratically
- A number of matters may change the amount of oxygen available – e.g. the addition of other gases
- Be mindful of positional asphyxia (crushing may remove oxygen)
- Maintain equipment
- Recycling fans with snorkels often get damaged and shorter and shorter over time as the tubing is damaged
- Ensure your calculations are accurate so that the above equipment will recycle air sufficiently in the confined space
- Working in remote locations – may have other sources of contaminants that need to be considered i.e. gases from other generators
- Water and engulfing need to be considered
- When inspectors arrive on site, often the rescue equipment has “just left site”
Brett then shared some examples of investigations he’d undertaken as a result of confined space incidents.
1. Investigation of safety relating to water tankers which are a confined space
- Staff were asked where the rescue equipment was located.
- This was some distance from the confined space and sufficiently removed to be of little use in a rescue situation.
2. Investigation of an incident where a worker sustained a back injury while working in a confined space
- The company had been practising their rescues, and was fully competent
- However the emergency services rescued the injured worker as there were no other risks (e.g. fumes)
- The company was fully cleared on investigation
3. Investigation into a worker injury:
- A large galvanised plate had to be removed from a switch room
- The room was not treated as a confined space, it was treated as a room
- He was not wearing breathing apparatus
- The plate required 3 cuts to remove it
- The worker started to feel ill, took a break and continued to cut. Once the job was completed the worker went home feeling ill
- His next door neighbour discovered him slumped over the steering wheel of his vehicle, and called an ambulance. Luckily he survived, as he was drowning from the fumes.
- On investigation, this incident occurred because all parties were unaware of confined space matters.
- Ignorance is no defence.
The second speaker was Rick Millar, Chairman of the Working at Heights Association (WAHA) Technical Committee who presented the findings of a confined space survey the Association conducted recently.
Respondents highlighted a number of concerns:
- Varying state regulations regarding Confined Space
- 60% of respondents would be affected by this as they operated across state boundaries
- consistency across company work sites
- additional references required
- extra burden on resources
- Approximately 26% of respondents are unclear on the Australian Standard AS2865 requirements
- Majority believed the training available was sufficient, however 32% still required extra support in this area
- Most extra support was sourced from manufacturers and distributors – rather than a single source of information.
Rick Millar along with Stuart Lange from Capital Safety then presented a live demonstration of how to effect a Confined Space Rescue.