“Confined space” can be a fairly ambiguous term, especially when it comes to safety. Normally, it’s a term that tends to be associated solely with quite cramped areas, but when it comes to safety, even large silos with capacities of more than 500 tonnes can be designated confined spaces, due to the risks they can pose.
So to avoid the risk of any confusion, let’s kick off with a definition – for the purposes of this post, we’d define a ‘confined space’ as any fully enclosed space that poses a significant risk of exposure to noxious fumes, reduced oxygen levels or flammable gases. Workers will often have to enter these sorts of environments in order to conduct inspections on chambers, pipes, silos, tanks, vats and so on.
That’s where our portable gas detection systems can help. Each one serves as the perfect tool for helping workers stay alert to the dangers of toxic gas exposure when working in a confined space – it’s been specifically designed to protect your personnel from exposure to harmful fumes, gases, vapours or lack of oxygen, while ensuring full compliance with occupational health and safety guidance.
So, here’s what you need to know about how a portable gas detection system can keep you safe when working in a confined space.
What are the hazards associated with confined spaces?
In the words of the British Health and Safety Executive (HSE), “working in a confined space is dangerous because of the risks from noxious fumes, reduced oxygen levels, or a risk of fire”.
There are obviously a huge range of specific hazards associated with working in confined spaces, but most of them can be categorised into these general dangers. Poor lighting can also sometimes be an issue, leading to an increased risk of slips, trips and falls.
However, it’s the fumes, oxygen levels and fire which arguably pose the greatest dangers, as all of these can present a potentially fatal risk to any person exposed to them. For obvious reasons, HSE recommends that you try to avoid carrying out tasks in confined spaces altogether. However, it also recognises that in many cases, working in confined space is unavoidable for getting the job done.
Because of the immense risks that are associated with working in confined spaces, employers are legally obliged to carry out regular and robust risk assessments to ensure they’re safe enough to work in.
Why are confined spaces so dangerous?
One of the biggest reasons basically comes down to the fact that there’s no air circulation. Poor ventilation is usually a major feature of confined spaces, and this allows for hazardous gases and vapours to accumulate quicker than they would in any other environment. Because of this, regular assessments need to be carried out to determine the type of gas that’s accumulating in the area, so that the safe exposure limits can be established (these limits are determined by your international/regional regulators). A couple of the more common toxic gases that you’re likely to encounter in an enclosed space include:
Hydrogen sulphide – sometimes referred to as sewer gas, this is a common by-product of various industrial and municipal processes, and tends to build-up in enclosed spaces like sewage systems. This gas is extremely toxic, and even relatively low levels of exposure can have harmful side effects.
Carbon monoxide – another common by-product that can accumulate at a rapid rate in enclosed spaces. The risk of CO exposure tends to be higher in professions that involve operating fuel-burning tools and arc welders. The initial symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are fairly innocuous, so it may not be immediately obvious that carbon monoxide is the cause. That’s where our portable gas detection systems can help.
How can portable gas detection systems help?
Our portable gas detection systems constantly monitor the levels of toxic gases in the area, providing you with real time data, and (crucially) warning you when they reach dangerous levels. In many cases, dangerous levels of toxic gases are easy to miss without specialist equipment, and those affected can easily find themselves unconscious or otherwise incapacitated before they recognise the danger.
Our portable gas detection systems can also be programmed to pick up on common hazards like hydrogen sulphide (H2S), carbon monoxide (CO), and flammable gases. They’re comfortable and user friendly, offering an accurate reading as well as being available for purchase with a range of sensor options, including an infrared (IR) sensor for detection of flammable gases and CO2. They’re extremely low maintenance and have a long lifespan, as well as a fail-safe operation as standard.
Here at Gas Alarm Systems, our extensive in-house experts have ensured that our clients have received the best service, for over 25 years. Feel free to take a look at our range of fixed gas detection systems or portable gas detection monitors, or if you have any questions or need any advice, by all means call us on 01423 862240, and we’ll be happy to see how we can help.