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The Importance of Gas Detection in Confined Spaces

Posted by Claire Allcock on 23rd Jan 2020

Confined spaces are filled with so many different and often unpredictable hazards, with many risks being invisible until it is too late. One of the biggest risks is changes in the atmosphere, so it’s important to be prepared before entering the environment.

Know Your Confined Space

Confined spaces are known as areas that are not primarily designed or intended for a human to work in, and include:

  • Tanks
  • Silos
  • Chimneys
  • Pipelines
  • Cold Boxes
  • Elevator Shafts
  • Airplane Wings
  • Septic Tanks
  • Tunnels
  • Sewers
  • Wind Turbine Blades

They are not easy to get into or out of, making hazards even more dangerous with limited escape possibilities.

Understand the Risks of Confined Spaces

As well as being difficult to escape, confined spaces can harbour multiple health and safety risks to anyone who enters. Some hazards to cover in your risk assessments include:

  • Substances or material that could trap or engulf a person
  • Hazardous atmospheres
  • Falls
  • Fire or explosions
  • Chemical burns
  • Drowning
  • Electric shock
  • Loud noises

Protection should extend to anyone entering a confined space, not just workers. Six in ten fatalities in confined spaces involved rescuers, showing just how crucial it is that everyone entering a confined area is adequately protected.

Gas Hazards in Confined Spaces

Due to the nature of a small, confined space, changes in the atmosphere can change in an instant. Oxygen levels can fluctuate or toxic gases, fumes or vapours can be released in the blink of an eye. It’s important to equip your workers to deal with any situation that may arise in a confined space.

If atmospheric conditions in a confined space may cause a hazard, respiratory protection is a must. The two crucial parts to your PPE are a portable gas detector and isolating respiratory protecting devices — the former will alert you to a change in the atmosphere, the latter will give you enough time to get to safety.

Gas Detection for Confined Spaces

The number one cause of death in confined spaces is asphyxiation — gas detection is vital to keeping your workforce safe from the biggest hazard they may face. But what features do you need in your system, specific to a confined space?

  • Bluetooth-enabled cloud connectivity: Monitor your workforce in real-time to be notified immediately if gas concentrations are about to reach dangerous levels.
  • Extended battery life: Minimise the risk of forgetting to turn your detector on by having a powerful battery that allows you to leave it on indefinitely. As an example, detectors with an ultra-low-power, non-dispersive Infra-Red sensor can be left on indefinitely for up to two years.
  • Powerful alerts: Ensure that the warning won’t go unnoticed by using detectors with automatic wide-angle flash alerts as well as audible and vibrating alarms.
  • Pulsing light indicator: Quickly see that the device is switched on, running and that the sensor is working as it should be.

The dangers of working in confined spaces can be reduced by carefully assessing the specific risks of each environment, and ensuring that your workforce is equipped with the correct PPE. Understanding your confined space will help you to choose the right gas detection for your specific needs.