Last year two brothers died in a tragic accident while working in an underground sewer in Dublin. One brother became overwhelmed by the toxic fumes when the other attempted to rescue him reports suggest. The Health and Safety Authority are carrying out an investigation into the incident and while little information is available at this moment the dangers associated with working in confined spaces are very clear. The number of incidents like this one illustrate the importance of proper training and safety measures when working in a confined space.
According to the HSA definition a confined space “refers to any place, including any vessel, tank, container, pit, bund, chamber, cellar or any other similar space which, by virtue of its enclosed nature, creates conditions that give rise to a likelihood of an accident, harm or injury of such a nature as to require emergency action due to
the presence or reasonable foreseeable presence of:
– flammable or explosive atmospheres
– harmful gas, fume or vapour
– free flowing solid or an increasing level of liquid
– excess of oxygen
– excessively high temperature
the lack or reasonably foreseeable lack of oxygen”
It is not simply enough to do the bare minimum with regards to health and safety and with confined spaces in particular. The jury at a recent inquest into the death of teenager Terry Brennan have called for tighter controls to be put in place. This includes sufficient qualifications of Health and safety co-ordinators and the frequency and thoroughness of risk assessments carried out. This comes as it was found that the elevator pit the teenager was working in when he died had not been deemed a confined space by the company and no risk assessment had been conducted on the space. This led to Mr. Brennan being exposed to dangerously high levels of Co2 leading to his death.
A casual approach to health and safety and risk assessment is costly for every party involved, it can cause life threatening and life altering illness and injury to workers, it can cost families their loved ones. Companies place their reputation at risk and may have to pay hefty fines not to mention the loss of trust of both existing and potential employees as well as the community.
To ensure your safety and the safety of all employees be sure to keep up to date on industry standards and current regulations when working in confined spaces. For more information on the dangers and precautions of confined spaces or to enroll in an online confined space awareness course contact us or visit our website.