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What is a confined space?

Generally speaking, a confined space is a fully or partially enclosed space that:

 is not primarily designed or intended for human occupancy

 has a restricted entrance or exit by way of location, size or means
 can represent a risk for the health and safety of anyone who enters, due to one or more of the
following factors:
 its design, construction, location or atmosphere
 the materials or substances in it
 work activities being carried out in it, or the
 mechanical, process and safety hazards present
Confined spaces can be below or above ground, and can be found in almost any workplace. A
confined space, despite its name, is not necessarily small. Examples include silos, vats, hoppers, utility
vaults, tanks, sewers, pipes, access shafts, truck or rail tank cars, aircraft wings, boilers, manholes, manure
pits, and storage bins. Ditches and trenches may also be considered as confined space when access or egress
is limited.

What are the hazards in a confined space?
All hazards found in a regular workspace can also be found in a confined space. However, they can be
even more hazardous in a confined space than in a regular worksite.
Hazards in confined spaces can include:

 Poor air quality: There may be an insufficient amount of oxygen for the worker to breathe. The
atmosphere might contain a poisonous substance that could make the worker ill or even cause the
worker to lose consciousness. Natural ventilation alone will often not be sufficient to maintain
breathable quality air.
 Chemical exposures due to skin contact or ingestion as well as inhalation of 'bad' air.
 Fire Hazard: There may be an explosive/flammable atmosphere due to flammable liquids and gases
and combustible dusts which if ignited would lead to fire or explosion.
 Process-related hazards such as residual chemicals, release of contents of a supply line.
 Noise.
 Safety hazards such as moving parts of equipment, structural hazards, entanglement, slips, and
 Radiation.
 Temperature extremes including atmospheric and surface.
 Shifting or collapse of bulk material.
 Barrier failure resulting in a flood or release of free-flowing solid.
 Uncontrolled energy including electrical shock.
 Visibility.
 Biological hazards.
What should be done when preparing to enter the confined space?
The important thing to remember is before entering any work space is to determine whether it’s considered
a confined space. Be sure the confined space hazard assessment and control program has been followed.
The next question to ask is - Is it absolutely necessary that the work be carried out inside the confined
space? In many cases where there have been deaths in confined spaces, the work could have been done
outside the confined space!
Before entering any confined space, a trained and experienced person should identify and evaluate all the
existing and potential hazards within the confined space. Evaluate activities both inside and outside the
confined space.
Air quality testing: The air within the confined space should be tested from outside of the confined space
before entry into the confined space. Care should be taken to ensure that air is tested throughout the confined
space - side-to-side and top to bottom. A trained worker using detection equipment which has remote probes
and sampling lines should do the air quality testing. Always ensure the testing equipment is properly
calibrated and maintained. The sampling should show that:
1. The oxygen content is within safe limits - not too little and not too much.
2. A hazardous atmosphere (toxic gases, flammable atmosphere) is not present.
3. Ventilation equipment is operating properly.

What are other safety precautions?

Many other situations or hazards may be present in a confined space. Be sure that all hazards are
controlled including:

 Any liquids or free-flowing solids are removed from the confined space to eliminate the risk of
drowning or suffocation.
 All pipes should be physically disconnected or isolation blanks bolted in place. Closing valves is
not sufficient.
 A barrier is present to prevent any liquids or free-flowing solids from entering the confined space.
 The opening for entry into and exit from the confined space must be large enough to allow the
passage of a person using protective equipment.
Death of four workers inside Ali Mall:
Working in confined spaces is indeed dangerous work as confirmed by the death of four workers cleaning
a grease trap located inside the Ali Mall in Cubao, Quezon City.
Romy Suarez, 50 years old, along with his two sons Rommel and Rodel and their neighbor and co-worker
Marvin Aleman died the morning of August 30, 2012. Rescuers recovered their bodies inside the grease
trap of the mall. The workers all belong to the RCBC Plumbing Services, the company hired by Ali Mall
to do the cleaning.
According to reports from the police and the media, safety devices were not present at the work site. “If
indeed true, we are very bothered the management of Ali Mall allowed the workers to conduct their
operation without proper safety devices,” said Noel Colina, Executive Director of the Institute for
Occupational Health and Safety Development (, a non-governmental health and safety
organization based in Manila.
“Rule 1121 of the Occupational Safety and Health Standards (OSHS) of the Philippines identifies working
in underground tanks and confined spaces as hazardous work and provides standard operating procedures
before any work should be done,” said Colina.
First, “the area shall be checked visually to ensure that the water level is below 15 cm. (6 in.) and if water
is present, a dry wooden platform shall be available for use.”
Second, “approved types of breathing apparatus and other personal protective equipment shall be provided
and made available for use by the worker or workers entering a confined space.”
And third, “no worker or group of workers shall enter a confined space unless a watcher is available who
is familiar with the job and in contact with the men at regular intervals and equally provided with breathing
apparatus for ready use in case of emergency.”

Continuous forced air ventilation shall be used(OSHA RULE 1910.146).
Adequate means of ingress and egress from any confined or enclosed space shall be
provided.(OSHA 1121.01)
Lighting equipment needed to enable employees to see well enough to work safely and to exit the
space quickly in an emergency(OSHA RULE 1910.146).
Testing and monitoring equipment, Communications equipment (OSHA RULE 1943.05 &
2 dead, 2 hurt after they were suffocated while cleaning inside a manhole:
Two workers died while two others were in critical condition on Thursday afternoon after they were
suffocated while cleaning inside the manhole at the old public market in Barangay Tabunok, Talisay City
A task force started the cleanup but the job was turned over to City Hall’s Engineering Department.
Monterde (city hall spokesperson) said the clean-up work was given by the engineering department to a
subcontractor which hired the workers. He said the workers were tasked to clean up the canal including the
15-foot deep manhole. At past 2p.m., Monterde said the Cabanes cousins were about to get out of the
manhole but Romeo fell. Brendon went down to help his cousin but he also failed to get out. A 59-year-old
witness identified as Guillermo Navecilla, said Macaraya and Campo went down the manhole to help the
cousins. Macaraya and Campo said the stench inside the manhole made it difficult for them to breathe.

The air in the area shall be checked for :a. explosive gases, fumes and vapors (OSHA RULE
Continuous forced air ventilation shall be used(OSHA 1910.146)
The entrant recognizes any warning sign or symptom of exposure to a dangerous situation(OSHA
RULE 1910.146).
Approved types of respiratory protective equipment (OSHA RULE 1100.03).

Philippines Hydrogen sulphide fatality at Petron refinery

A confined space accident has left 1 worker dead and another rescued unconscious after being exposed to
hydrogen sulphide during drainage of a collecting drum of the sour water facility at Petron Corp's oil
refinery in Bataan. 2nd September 2008.
Petron said On September 01 4:28 a.m., two technicians, Anthony Jed Q. Reyes and Nicolo S. Balonzo,
"were found lying unconscious at the Sour Water Treating Facility at the Petron Bataan Refinery by
responding personnel" Monday at 4:28 a.m. "The two technicians had been performing a maintenance task
to address a high liquid level condition in a waste water collecting drum, and appear to have been
inadvertently exposed to hydrogen sulfide (H2S) gas," Ruivivar said. “It is suspected that both personnel
were exposed to hydrogen sulphide gas while draining a collecting drum of the sour water facility,” a Petron
statement said.

The air in the area shall be checked for:
a. explosive gases, fumes and vapors (OSHA RULE 1121.01).
Continuous forced air ventilation shall be used(OSHA 1910.146)
The entrant recognizes any warning sign or symptom of exposure to a dangerous situation(OSHA
RULE 1910.146).
Approved types of respiratory protective equipment (OSHA RULE 1100.03).