From the Field: Confined Spaces

Jun 23, 2015

As a result of some large OSHA fines in our industry lately, safety professionals everywhere are rethinking what we have always believed about Confined Spaces. What once were accepted as Non-Permit-Required Confined Spaces are now being re-evaluated as to whether they should be Permit-Required.

One element of a Permit-Required Confined Space is “converging walls” that could make it difficult or impossible for a person inside that confined space to get out. Recyclers have been cited in the past year under this definition with regard to horizontal balers with feed hoppers that have converging walls. Consider: Does the hopper of your baler have converging, or funnel-shaped, walls? If so, OSHA looks at that baler as a Permit-Required Confined Space.

OSHA fines over $100,000 have resulted in some of these situations. Don’t let it happen to you. Take a close, careful, honest look around your operation and make sure you’re compliant. If you have questions, call ISRI Safety and let’s talk it through. We’re here for you if you need an onsite safety program assessment. This service is one of your member benefits, and the only thing we ask is the investment of your time.

One of the most critical issues with confined spaces is rescue. So—if I hit my head, or go into a diabetic coma while I'm in your confined space—do you have a way to get me out of there without pulling off my arms and legs and head? Are you sure? Have you practiced? Don’t wait until an emergency happens to know whether you can respond effectively.

Finally, if you have signs on your balers, shredders, pits, or anywhere else out in your operation that say “Confined Space: Enter by Permit Only” you better have a file somewhere full of completed confined space permits. Take this time now to assure your Confined Space Program is everything it should be.

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Joe Bateman is the director of safety outreach for ISRI. This blog is part of a series during National Safety Month in preparation for Safety Stand-Down Day on June 24.

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