Life Safety inspections must be completed on all required devices, including backflow devices, regardless of where they are placed. A confined space is an enclosed area with limited space and accessibility that has the potential for a significant hazard to be present. A confined space is not necessarily designed for people to occupy it and has limited means of entry or exit, but is large enough for workers to enter and perform certain jobs. Life Safety Inspections on devices located in confined spaces, if not performed properly, can lead to OSHA fines, technician injuries, or even death.
Possible dangers of confined spaces include toxic atmosphere, lack of oxygen, entrapment, explosive atmosphere, and physical hazards within the space. If hazards are present in a confined space then it is a permit-required confined space according to OSHA regulations. A non-permit required confined space is one in which all hazards have been removed.
To safely perform an inspection in a confined space, whether it is permit-required or not, precautions must be taken in order to avoid loss of life. To ensure safety, at least two technicians must be present when a worker is to enter a confined space. These two workers are the entrant and the attendant. An entrant goes into the space and performs the inspection; an attendant supervises the inspection and makes sure the space and the entrant remain safe.
Employers must ensure certain precautions are taken by workers whenever they enter a confined space. An employer is required to specify the exact precautions to be taken; train the workers in order to give them the knowledge to protect themselves and others; and plan how to rescue injured workers promptly and safely.
As a precaution for potential emergencies in confined spaces, OSHA also requires employers to develop and implement procedures for summoning rescue or emergency services in permit-required confined spaces. An employer who relies on local emergency services for assistance must ensure that the rescue workers are notified in advance and are available and prepared to respond; this includes having all necessary information to respond appropriately, safely, and effectively to the specific confined-space emergency.
A confined space is a space that is large enough and arranged so that an employee can physically enter, but has limited or restricted means for entry and exit, and is not designed for continuous occupancy. If a confined space contains serious hazards, then OSHA defines it has a permit-required confined space. Permit-required confined spaces must be identified and accessed with additional caution to protect workers lives.
A permit-required confined space has a configuration, or contents, that may present special dangers not found in normal work areas. These spaces may be poorly ventilated and, as a result, contain insufficient oxygen or hazardous levels of toxic gases. They may also present hazards to workers by not allowing them to keep a safe distance from mechanical and electrical hazards present in the space. Fumes from a flammable liquid that is used in a poorly ventilated area, can reach explosive levels in a permit-required confined space. Such hazards endanger both the workers in the space and any others who become exposed to the hazards when they attempt to rescue injured or trapped workers. Rescue workers have been injured or killed in a confined space because they did not have the proper training or equipment necessary to conduct a rescue safely.
In addition to the two workers (entrant and attendant), who are required for any confined space entry, to enter a permit-required confined space the workers also need additional equipment for safety. This includes any equipment that may be required for a worker rescue in the event a worker is stranded within the confined space. Required equipment includes atmospheric monitors, fall protection and extraction equipment, tripod, harness, and self-contained breathing apparatus.
To determine if your Backflow Pit is a permit-required confined space, you must evaluate the Backflow Pit to determine whether hazards exist or whether the work to be done in the space can create hazards. If the Backflow Pit contains an actual or potential hazard that can cause death, injury or acute illness, incapacitation, entrapment, or otherwise interfere with a worker’s ability to leave the space in an emergency, then it is a permit-required confined space.
Confined space entry and precautions for working in them is overseen by OSHA. OSHA defines a permit-required confined space as a space that has one or more of the following characteristics: contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere; contains material that has the potential to engulf an entrant; has walls that converge inward or floors that slope downward and taper into a smaller area which could trap or asphyxiate an entrant; or contains any other recognized safety or health hazard, such as unguarded machinery, exposed live wires, or heat stress.
Once you have determined if your Backflow Pit is a permit-required confined space, adequate precautions must be taken to prevent loss of life or injury for the workers who enter the space.