Why confined space training can help you prevent a tragedy

It’s been over a week and I can’t stop thinking about the tragic events that happened on a New South Wales farm in February this year.

Three members of the same family were found deceased in a water tank on the family’s property. When I write this article it is feared that they have been succumbed by a gas produced by the petrol driven, high pressure water pump being used to clean a water tank on the property. I speculate that members of the initial person’s family have gone to his aid and perished. To me this makes the situation all that more tragic.

If faced with similar circumstances I too would rush to the aid of a family member without considering the danger I am placing myself in. Drawn to the articles on the subject, I am terribly sorry for the loss of these hard working, pillars of their community.

I wonder what I can do to warn people of the dangers of working in a confined space. Yes, I know it’s defined in law and illegal to work in a confined space without being competent. That doesn’t help if you just don’t know. Working in the Vocational Training Industry (VET) I thought, at the very least, I could post the competencies of one of the confined space units we train in, RIIWHS202D – Enter and work in confined spaces. This is so that people could at least have a basis to consider what a confined space is and what has to be done to try and prevent things like this happening again.

Of course I want to encourage as many people as possible who are exposed to confined spaces to get this training.  On the upside even without training, a simple four step process, if followed, could save lives.

Nothing will replace the delivery of accredited training from a good Registered Training Organisation and their trainer. Because, as you can see below there is some background knowledge that is required to be able to recognise a confined space in the first place, not to mention understanding of supporting safe work regulations and precautionary things like rescue equipment.

  1. Plan and prepare for working in confined space

    1. Access, interpret and apply procedures for confined space entry and the environmental management plan and ensure the work activity is compliant
    2. Obtain, confirm, clarify and apply work instructions and agreed procedure
    3. Obtain, confirm, clarify and apply safety requirements
    4. Obtain and confirm authorisation (entry permit) meets regulatory requirements
    5. Confirm the emergency response procedure is with the stand-by person and understood
    6. Identify, obtain and implement signage and barrier requirements
    7. Select tools and equipment for the tasks, check for serviceability and rectify or report any faults
    8. Identify, confirm and apply the environmental protection requirements
    9. Position rescue equipment by the entry permit
  2. Work in confined space

    1. Gain access to confined space
    2. Ensure that the atmosphere is tested and monitored for harmful elements
    3. Correctly apply tagging and lock-out procedures
    4. Enter the confined space correctly
    5. Maintain ongoing communication with the stand-by person
    6. Comply with entry permit requirements
    7. Monitor and adhere to allocated entry time
  3. Exit confined space

    1. Exit confined space correctly
    2. Recover tools, equipment and materials
    3. Conduct inspection of the confined space
    4. Secure access to the confined space
    5. Remove tagging and lock-out
    6. Accurately complete confined space entry permit
  4. Clean up

    1. Clear work area and dispose of or recycle materials
    2. Clean, check, maintain and store tools and equipment
    3. Remove, clean and store barriers and signs

This guest post was contributed by Trevor Don

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