Confined Space Entry
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Hi, I'm Jill, Chief Safety Officer with Vivid Learning Systems. I'm a former Osha Inspector, and I'm here to help you identify and correct workplace safety hazards. For this series, we're at Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative in the heart of the upper Midwest to show you, no matter where you work, safety training is for everyone.
Entering a confined space can be intimidating. Of course, we train our employees on everything they need to know about how to protect themselves before entry, yet it's difficult to know how they'll perform, or whether they'll maybe be claustrophobic yet didn't realize it until after they entered a space. Practical hands-on practice in a safe environment makes a lot of sense, and that's exactly what they're doing here at the Beet Sugar Cooperative.
I'm with Adam, Safety Manager here at the Beet Sugar Cooperative. Thank you for being with us.
So we're standing in front of a trailer, and this is a practice trailer.
Tell us what you practice with this trailer.
What we do to help try to make sure that our employees, especially the new hires, and then annually, we make sure to go through a confined space entry and go through the entire piece to help them with the training process, to be comfortable with entry, and the entire process around confined space entry.
And so this isn't a real confined space, it's a mock-up of a confined space.
Absolutely, yes. A mock-up of a confined space, and we also do a confined space rescue training with this as well.
Right. So one of the things to note is that all confined spaces have to be labeled, so you're able to point that out in training.
So what kind of confined spaces do you have here at the Beet Sugar Cooperative?
We have a multitude of different types of vessels, vessels that have liquid in it, several different types of gases in it, and then we have silos, bins, things very similar to that here for confined spaces. We do have a few pits that we also classify as confined space too.
So do employees do confined space entry on a weekly or daily basis here?
I would say on a daily basis they do this here. It could be ranging from, depending on our seasonality, once a day to could have 20, maybe 25 going on all at once in one day.
So it's really important that people get practice, especially if they haven't ever done it in their life. Or like you said, you use it for annual training as well.
Yes, it's very critical for them to go through the practice aspect so they know what they're gonna be anticipating when they come to a confined space situation.
Right. So this is an opening to a confined space, a horizontal opening that would be common on a lot of them, and you also have one at the top, so that people know what it would be like to enter vertically as well.
So you can have people climb into the trailer with all of their gear on?
Mm-hmm (affirmative), yep. This way it helps them to be comfortable, because of course they're wearing a lot of different types of PPE when they're gonna be going into confined spaces. This aspect here, for them actually climbing into it, allows them to be used to wearing their PPE that they need to have when going into a practice confined space situation, that we do again right at the very beginning of their employment and then annually. So they can help keep comfort in that aspect.
Yeah, and remind our audience what kind of personal protective equipment might they be wearing when they're going in?
A lot of times it's gonna be the hard hat, safety glasses, hearing protection depending on what they're doing. Of course, the slip-resistant boots, gloves depending on what they're doing, and if there's any type of atmospheric hazard, such as maybe they're doing some welding or poxing or spray painting inside of there, we're gonna be looking at having them wear a respirator too.
Sure, right. So when they're climbing in with, not only their personal protective equipment on, but their tools that they might be using as well, so you have them practice climbing in on this side port and also from the one... The vertical one as well, so they can really feel what that's like.
Yep, and it can help with the communication piece because, of course, we're all on the same team working for the cooperative, so it helps out with the buddy aspect of, when they're moving some of their tools in there, instead of them having to do it by themselves they can get used to, “Hey, you know what, I got some other team members there to be able to help me out.”
And then passing it on in there. So they can help really practice that piece.
And you can also set up the rescue standpoint as well?
You can set up a tripod on the top of this unit so they can practice what a rescue might be like if they're wearing a body harness.
And you do the same thing with-
The horizontal as well, all right. And then talk about how you practice ventilation. What does that look like with this practice trailer?
With ventilation we do a lot of forced air ventilation here at our factory. We also do a little bi of natural air ventilation, but one thing that has been really neat that we have recently purchased is we have a large industrial AC unit that ... At the Sugar Beet factory there's a lot of heat around the area, so we have the AC unit there to help blow the air in to help with that forced air ventilation, but then also allow our team members to stay nice and cool.
Cooling the air, yeah, so they're not suffering from heat stress as well.
And then of course one of the really ... Well, a number of really important things when you're entering a confined space is to lock out any energy sources on a confined space. So you have mock-ups on this trailer for energy sources as well, correct?
Yes we do, since lockout/tagout and confined space at times really go hand in hand, it's really nice to have that tool there to show them, “Hey, this is what you're most likely gonna need to do before you go and enter a confined space.”
Right, so not only are they practicing what it's like to be in the atmosphere, but what are all of those things they have to do ahead of time to make sure it's safe for them to go in.
Yes, there's a lot of things, especially on the permit, to go through to make sure that they've checked each and every piece to ensure their safety, and also communicate that to their entry supervisor, so their entry supervisor knows that they'll be safe, or maybe it could actually add a potential hazard that they need to be aware of.
Right. And one of the things that's really critical in addition to energy sources is the air, and making sure the air is safe. So you've got an air monitor here, you wanna describe what the air monitor is and what it measures for, and how you use it?
What we use is a four-gas air monitor here. What we wanna do is we wanna make sure to measure what the oxygen level is, hydrogen sulfide, combustible units as well, and then also carbon monoxide. To be able to measure multiple different levels of the confined space, or without even entering the confined space, we have this unit that we can turn the four-gas meter on, and then have a pole to be able to put that in there and see exactly what our air readings are.
So the employee doesn't even have to get close, they can fish this into the space, whether it's through a hole like this or through an opening at the top where they can drop it down in.
And then depending on what you have, sometimes do you have employees who are wearing continuous monitors while they're working as well?
Yes, the confined space permit really helps us to see, “What is the person going to be doing in there, what hazards are they going to be facing?” And if it's gonna be something that we're really worried about atmospheric hazards, we're definitely gonna have the team member wear this, it has a nice clip on the backside where they can actually clip it directly to them.
And the alarm can sound as a way to alert them to get out.
And then when you do your training, do you talk about the importance of having a standby person on the outside as well?
Yes, a very important piece for that person to be an attendant out here to be able to recognize. It's a great thing that we work together as a team, not only as just a workforce, but especially to help protect our team members when we're doing safety-related items such as a confined space entry.
Yeah, and that attendant's job is so vitally important. Do you really test them about, “It's not your job to go in ever”? Is that part of it?
Exactly, never go in. Unfortunately, statistics are not in the favor of a person that hasn't been trained in confined space rescue just going in. So we definitely make sure, we reiterate it multiple times to say, “You know what, if something happens to a person, we have the means to be able to sound an alert, make sure that we have the rescue team coming down on site to be able to help that person inside of there.” We always tell a person never go in.
The attendant's job isn't to do the rescue, they're supposed to facilitate it from the outside and to stay safe that way. Yeah, wonderful. Adam, anything else with regard to how you use the trailer or training that you'd like to share with our audience?
We mentioned a little bit about it, but the thing that is so crucial is communication, communication, communication. Not only the piece about communicating to the team that's actually doing the confined space entry, but also make sure the entry supervisor and other people are aware of what's actually going on. That way, if something does happen, they can properly be prepared on where they need to go and what the confined space is. So you already have a lot of that stuff in there. Big thing is just communication.
Communication and practice. Thank you so much for sharing this with us today.
You're welcome, thank you.
Really appreciate it. Remember, never enter a confined space without training and the equipment you need to stay safe. Even if the job you're going to do only lasts a minute, or if you're simply going to stick your head in a space to check on something, you need to follow all of the procedures every single time. It could save your life.
I hope you gained a safety training skill today. If you know someone who needs this, go ahead and pass it on. Safety is everyone's business.