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Everything You Need to Know About Confined Space Hazards and How to Avoid Them

 In Industrial

Confined spaces kill more people than you may think in industrial environments. Because of this, people are looking for ways to reduce the number of time crews spend in confined spaces or find innovative ways to avoid it altogether. Robotic tank cleaning is the only way to achieve this as it entirely replaces the need for human crews. 

Let’s learn more about the hazards of confined space entry and why robotic tank cleaning is the answer to your safety concerns.  


What are Confined Spaces?

According to OSHA, confined spaces must meet three factors. The first is that the space must be large enough for an employee to enter it and do work properly; this doesn’t sound too bad. 


When you figure in the other two factors, the danger with confined spaces is easy to see. 

The second and third factors involve the area having limited means of entry or exit, and the fact that the space was not originally designed for employees to use continuously. 

Confined spaces can have more problems than just being small with limited means of egress. These spaces can have exposed wires, limited airflow, and other hazardous issues. Examples of confined spaces include, but aren’t limited to, ditches, tunnels, storage tanks, silos, wells, utility holes, and trenches. 

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Hazards of Confined Spaces

Confined spaces are inherently dangerous for employees. Despite confined spaces being small, they often have other issues that could endanger human life. The risks can be visible like loose electrical wires, or they can be invisible chemicals or asphyxiants in the air. 

Air Quality and Asphyxiants

These small spaces may have poor air quality because it may have an insufficient amount, or could have a toxic substance in the air. Small areas usually have restricted ventilation, which can exacerbate the limited air and potential toxins. 

The air in confined spaces can be filled with asphyxiants like argon, nitrogen, and carbon monoxide. In some cases, the asphyxiants are so concentrated that the oxygen level drops below 20%, which can cause rapid breathing and heart rate, as well as fatigue and clumsiness. 

When the oxygen levels drop, people in confined spaces can begin to vomit, have convulsions, become comatose, or die. It only takes a few minutes for an asphyxiant to kill someone in a confined space.  


Chemicals and Residue

Some confined spaces have chemicals that can cause severe damage to employees. Exposure can come from skin contact, ingestion, or inhalation. In some situations, danger comes from chemical residue from supply lines or previous work. 

Along with providing a safe workplace, employers also must provide reliable and properly maintained equipment. Employers need to train their employees properly; this can present a new set of challenges for employees who have to work in confined spaces.  

Fire and Safety Hazards

Confined spaces can be filled with fire hazards like combustible dust and flammable liquids and gasses. In small, confined spaces, employees are often unaware that these dangers exist. They might also be unaware of other confined space hazards that can happen within the confined spaces. 

Employee casualties can happen from slip-and-fall accidents or moving equipment, structural hazards, engulfment, and entanglement. Other confined space hazards come from extreme temperatures, radiation, and electrical problems, as well as issues related to sensory complications due to vibration and noise. 


Biological Hazards

Employees can also have troubles due to unchecked biological confined space hazards. Because it is difficult to clean and disinfect confined spaces properly, it is common for them to have bacteria from fecal matter and sludge. 

Some confined spaces are fungi, molds, and viruses that can start employees down the path of having chronic illnesses.


Employers Responsibility to Employees

Employers have a responsibility to provide a safe workplace for their employees. If the workplace includes confined spaces, the employer must determine if they are safe for humans. 

OSHA has numerous requirements and flow charts regarding permits and training for employees who enter confined spaces. Danger signs must be placed to warn employees of the potential dangers of entering these spaces. Only properly trained employees are allowed in these confined spaces. 


Using Ecorobots to Clean Confined Spaces

Fortunately, there is a solution that removes the human element of working in confined spaces. Instead of risking the life of an employee, employers can look to the ecorobots to clean tanks and other confined spaces. 

Over the past few years:

Employee casualties in confined spaces have increased. By using ecorobots, employee casualties will, without a doubt, decline. 

Businesses that use ecorobots still need to hire employees. But, rather than putting employees in dangerous confined spaces, employers can train them to run ecorobots. How is this done?

Employees control ecorobots remotely via controllers, so they never need to go into the confined spaces until they are completely safe to do so. When employers turn to tank-cleaning robots, humans crews no longer need to be put into these dangerous situations. 

keeping humans out of confined spaces

Asphyxiants and toxins in the air do not physically hurt ecorobots. They could be damaged by loose wiring or moving equipment, but they can be repaired and put back to work. 

OSHA does not have rules for safe situations for ecorobots so employers don’t have to worry about heavy regulations prior to cleaning. Since employees can control the robots from a safe distance, OSHA rules are minimal for employees running the controller. 

When employees use ecorobots, cleaning can happen 24 hours per day, seven days a week. The machines do not need breaks, unlike human crews. They can go into spaces that humans cannot safely enter, and they do not need to be trained to work in dangerous spaces. They also do not need work breaks, health insurance, paid vacation, or sick days. 

Ecorobots clean tanks and vessels in environmentally friendly ways. They use less water than humans who are tasked to clean confined spaces. They also create less waste, as their work is detailed and precise. 

Since they do not need to use the same safety equipment as human employees, ecorobots use fewer steps to clean confined spaces and are designed for waste removal. 

Unfortunately, confined spaces are still commonplace in many industries but as crew safety and long-term health effects are known more companies will be looking for ways to protect their crews. Now that you know the hazards of confined spaces maybe you’ll consider robotic tank cleaning.

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