Imagine a small spaceship setting trapped on the edge of a black hole’s event horizon in the heart a far, far, faraway galaxy.  The spaceship can’t go one inch closer to the black hole or it will disappear into the deep dark singularity of the black hole, for forever.  It can’t pull away from the event horizon due the black holes’ massive gravitational pull. The ship just doesn’t have the power to escape.  The ship and its crew are hopelessly trapped between the light of the universe and the darkness of the black hole before them. Destined to spend the rest of eternity in that one place and to never, return home.  No, no, this is not a Jules Verne novel.  No, this is not the 1979 Disney movie “The Black Hole”.  But, the plane of a confined space can very easily be thought about as being like the event horizon of a black hole.  Once you cross it or let’s say break it, you have crossed into the void of that confined space.  Even it was only a finger, you have broken the plane.

 No one should ever enter into any confined space until it has been checked as safe to do so.  Has the confined space been classified as either permit or non-permit controlled confined space?  If it has not, then it should be treated as a permit controlled confined space, “No Entry”.  Before any one enters a confined space, there has to be training conducted and documented. That training shall include the natures of the hazards of a confined space entry, what are confined spaces, what precautions to follow, are any permits required or other required documentation for entry needed?  The attendant/hole watch trained and present, the entry supervisor trained and all entrants trained as well.  The AGT (Authorized Gas Tester) must also be trained, and his tester calibrated.  So the best way to approach it, is to have everyone concerned with any confined space entry trained.

What are the hazards of a confined space entry? There can be many hazards when making a confined space entry.  These hazards can range from contaminated atmospheres, mechanical hazards, environmental hazards such as heat, cold, vibration, radiation, dangerous animals and other type environmental hazards.  The byproducts of our work can produce hazards such fumes, vapors and mists. Are we cutting, welding, brazing, painting or other style works?  Many of these hazards will require proper ventilation, remember, that improper ventilation can be a hazard as well.  Example, the installed ventilation brings welding fumes into the welders breathing zone without the correct respiratory protection. All of these hazards require action to correct.

Permits: Any required permits needed for a confined space entry must be followed and checked. Any gas testing requirements followed.  Method Statements (MS) and JHA’s (Job Hazard Analysis) / RAs (Risk Assessment) are strictly followed.

 Emergencies: What is the plan if something happens? Does everyone know what to do and who to call?  Before any entries are made, the EAP (Emergency Action Plan) must be in place and everyone knows who to call and what steps to take in the event of an emergency with a confined space entry.  The rescue team trained and ready to act in a moment’s notice.  That can be either your own internal rescue team or an outside team. And “remember” the attendant / Hole Watch cannot be a part of the rescue team. He or she is to “never enter any confined space” whatsoever. The attendant is responsible for communicating with the entrants, never leaving the entrance and for calling for help in the event of an emergency.  

As we can see, there are many considerations for making confined space entries. We have only touched a just a few of them today in this post. If we take the time to follow these and OSHAs confined space entry standards in either the 1910 or 1926, depending on our industry. We will be ensuring that no one makes an unsafe entry into a confined space. So now, no one has to worry when they cross that void into the confined space black hole.

 Confined Space Entry

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Blue bubble in Carina
Sparkling at the centre of this beautiful NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope image is a Wolf–Rayet star known as WR 31a, located about 30 000 light-years away in the constellation of Carina (The Keel).

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