Confined Space Part 2: Opening Up About Confined Space Training

Which industries should be prepared for the dangers of a “confined space” incident?

“The rail industry, the oil and gas industry, chemical companies and manufacturers, the construction industry … just to name a few,” says Kirsten Eganhouse, CTEH®’s Gulf Coast Region Industrial Hygiene Manager.

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Eganhouse, who has a wealth of experience in the oil and gas and chemical industries, happens to be a Certified Industrial Hygienist and Certified Safety Professional.  These certifications are a testament to her experience and knowledge of how companies should prepare and handle confined space situations.

“As a Certified Safety Professional, I focus quite a bit on confined spaces,” explains Eganhouse.  “I look at physical plant safety design and consult with companies about meeting OSHA standards.  I also train companies and employees in confined space safety standards.  I will look over safety plans to be certain they contain all of the required ‘confined space’ elements and will work with the companies to determine if they are applying their safety programs as written, advising on any potential changes that may be necessary.”

Eganhouse points out that the OSHA has different standards for different industries, but they are all designed to provide best-practice guidelines to follow.  She uses these guidelines when designing or advising on confined space plans.

“In the planning process, when you’re thinking about how you’re going to make that entry, you have to ask a lot of questions,” she says. “What do you need to do about air monitoring?  How does the team prep for entry?  What kind of cleaning do you need to do?  How careful do you need to be about the material that makes up the ‘confined space’?  For example, what if it’s made of glass?”

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Nevertheless, even the best-laid plans can leave out something that could cause trouble down the road.  That’s why, Eganhouse says, practice is as essential as planning.

“You develop a plan that you think will work for a certain space, including a ventilation strategy,” she says.  “But, you must still wear protective gear and test scenarios in order to determine the real dangers.”

Eganhouse also provides advice and training on how companies should staff for confined space operations.  To this end, she follows the OSHA outline, which lays out several categories of individuals who work in and around confined space:

  • The entrant (or entrants) who goes in and performs the work
  • The entry attendant who sits outside and stays in communication with those inside and stays aware of any changing conditions.  This team member will get the others out of the confined space should conditions inside change or in case there is an incident.  This person (or persons) is not allowed to leave his/her post without a replacement.
  • The entry supervisor who manages the work and understands all of the potential hazards.
  • A team for rescue operation.  This service could be provided at the plant site or even through a nearby municipal fire department, depending on the individual situation.