Blog Post #16 – In this post to The Confined Space Training Blog, we examine the fourth and final criteria listed in OSHA’s definition of a permit-required confined space. And that is, any confined space that contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazard.
OSHA Definition of Other Recognized Serious Safety or Health Hazards
In the OSHA confined space standards for general industry or construction, there is no specific definition for the phrase “other recognized serious safety or health hazard.” However, in the preamble to the Confined Spaces in Construction standard, OSHA explains they are taking about “hazards that could impair the ability of an entrant to exit the space without aid.” They continue on in that preamble to state that “The key determination is the likelihood that death or serious harm will occur IF an accident or exposure occurs.”
Examples of Other Recognized Serious Safety or Health Hazards
Based on the above-mentioned statement made by OSHA in the preamble, one example of a serious safety hazard present in confined spaces at many general industry and construction worksites is mechanical hazards such as unguarded fan blades. The same can be said about agitators and mixing blades present inside of a confined space such as a mixer or agitator. Other similar hazards include moving gears, belts and pulleys, or chains and sprockets. Also covered would be equipment that could move and crush a person, such as an elevator car. And, exposed live electrical equipment and uninsulated conductors inside of a confined space could also present a serious safety hazard to entrants.
A confined space with a high internal temperature, such as a furnace, oven, or boiler, could represent a serious safety hazard to an employee working inside. So would a confined space containing a steam line or related equipment that could burn or scald an employee who is working on it. And any confined space containing water or some other liquid deep enough for an employee to potentially drown is also a serious safety hazard.
Hazardous equipment used in many work activities conducted inside confined spaces must also be considered for the potential to serious harm a confined space entrant. For example, high-pressure abrasive blasting equipment (e.g.: sand blasting), large abrasive-wheel grinders, and saws with large blades could all cause an entrant to suffer deep cuts or lacerations accompanied by heavy bleeding.
Another example of a potentially serious safety hazard inside a confined space is the presence of highly caustic or corrosive materials that could cause injury to an entrant. Biological or radiation hazards present in high levels inside a confined space could also be dangerous in some situations. Even a reasonable potential for venomous snakes and other dangerous animals or insects must be considered in some work environments, as they could represent a serious safety hazard to an entrant.
There is one more potential safety hazard that OSHA discusses at length in the preamble to the OSHA construction standard for confined space entry, and which could also be applicable in some general industry spaces. That is a low-hanging object, such as a beam or piece of angle iron, that a worker could strike their head on and becoming disoriented, or even being rendered unconscious.
So, when you are evaluating confined spaces for “other recognized serious safety or health hazards,” remember that OSHA explains in the preamble to the standard that their concern here is “any hazards that could impair the ability of an entrant to exit the space without aid.”
Additional Examples of Recognized Serious Safety or Health Hazards in Confined Spaces?
There is no doubt many other examples of recognized serious safety or health hazards that could reasonably be expected to be present inside of confined spaces. So, please provide other examples of “other recognized serious safety or health hazards” with a reasonable potential to be present in confined spaces in the comments section below. You can also ask questions there as well.
Then, be sure to come back later and read our next blog post about steps to be taken when you identify permit-required confined spaces in the workplace; this includes steps that need to be taken even if you or your employees do not enter into permit-required confined spaces.
Last but not least, I encourage you to take a moment and spread the word about our confined space training blog by sharing a link to this post with others in your network, so they too can benefit from this information. Thanks – Curtis