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Can workplace safety issues lead to confined space injuries?

Any spaces that do not allow easy access or exit for workers are considered confined spaces. In some cases, confined spaces also limit movement of those who have to work inside. Spaces that have been inspected by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and identified as dangerous confined spaces require the employer to obtain a permit before allowing access. Such dangerous working areas are present on many Missouri work sites and require compliance with workplace safety regulations in order to prevent severe injuries or fatalities.

In addition to the dangers presented by confined spaces, a threat of falling exists in many of these areas. An example of this dual threat is a manhole where the ingress and exit is small, but a missing cover could cause a worker to fall into the manhole and suffer severe injuries. OSHA reports that many fall accidents occur at an entrance or exit to a confined space. These spaces often contain old climbing structures and offer little or no lighting. Workers in such circumstances should be issued with fall protection and barriers should be placed around the area to prevent accidental falls into uncovered openings.

Regardless of whether a confined space has been evaluated by OSHA and requires a permit, atmospheric testing should always be done prior to a worker entering a confined space. Common hazards include flammability, oxygen content, toxicity and explosive hazards. It is vital for the worker in a confined space to be in constant contact with a properly trained attendant at the entrance, as evacuation in case of an emergency must occur immediately. Rescues from confined spaces could be dangerous, and contingency plans should be in place. In many emergency situations non-entry rescues have to take place due to the confined area, along with potential toxic vapors that may be present.

In many cases, additional threats are posed by working parts of machines in close proximity to the confined space where a worker has to perform a job. Similarly, working in confined spaces may also lead to asphyxiation as the result of oxygen deficiency, or working in the presence of powdery substances such as sawdust than may block the worker's breathing passages. Missouri workers who have suffered on-the-job injuries as a result of negligent workplace safety may want to visit our workers' compensation website to see how we can assist in claiming compensation for medical expenses and lost income.

Source: ohsonline.com, "Beware of These Five Common Confined Space Myths", Rick Argudin, Sept. 20, 2014

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