What safety precautions are best for employees working in small, confined areas in a construction site?

Construction sites offer a wide range of working environments. One day you could be breathing in the open air on top of a high-rise, only to be stuffed in a crawl space the next. Unfortunately, each of these worksite variations pose unique risks.

Though construction hazards are often associated with exterior falls and machine accidents, confined areas offer a host of potentially life-threatening risks as well.

Safe Behavior in a Constricted Workspace

Confined spaces are not uncommon in construction worksites. Despite the towering size of some structures, there are always tight spaces that require wiring, detail work, soldering, and welding. Unfortunately, these tight spaces can not only cause claustrophobic anxiety, but they also pose serious threats that can directly affect your ability to breathe, move, or escape the area in the event of an emergency.

  • Ventilation concerns. One of the primary concerns in confined spaces is the atmosphere inside. A buildup of certain gases and chemicals could be toxic or flammable, and oxygen levels may be insufficient for workers.
  • Maneuverability concerns. These spaces can be tight for one person, and are definitely not designed to accommodate multiple workers. As a result, you can easily become trapped or pinned in the area, without the ability to maneuver. Furthermore, if an emergency arises, rescue crews will be unable to physically squeeze in to pull you out.

Breathing Easier by Tightening Your Safety Belt

Approximately 90 workers a year are fatally injured in confined spaces. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, along with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, believes this number is way too high for comfort. As a result, these organizations have determined that special precautions must be followed by employers and workers alike, prior to entering a constricted area, to prevent unnecessary harm. These precautions include:

  • Clearing the air. The atmosphere inside a confined space must be tested prior to workers entering. Sampling air from the top, middle, and bottom of the space to account for gases of varying weights. If any level of toxicity exists, the space must be ventilated and retested.
  • Training for an emergency. Another measure of safety includes training workers for rescue operations within a confined space. Many injuries and deaths occur when someone has overlooked important safety equipment—such as respirators or lifelines—when attempting to rescue a worker from a confined space. Running drills and regularly offering training in proper rescue procedures can save lives.
  • Maintaining a clean, safe, and obstacle-free space. Ensuring that all mechanical and electrical systems in the confined area that are not necessary for the work being performed are shut down and isolated is another important safety step that is often overlooked.

For more information on construction hazards and injury avoidance, feel free to browse our extensive collection of resources and articles on the subject. Attorney Steve Lee wants to ensure that as an injured construction worker, you have all the information and guidance you require to stay safe, recover from your injuries, and successfully pursue an workplace injury claim.

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