This article recently appeared in the Australasian Mine Safety Journal and gives a great summary of the importance of safety when accessing confined spaces.
Throughout Australia each and every year confined space deaths continue to occur despite concerted efforts by Government regulators, safety and engineering professionals. Unfortunately, statistics show that these events often involve multiple fatalities and sometimes occur in organisations that have mature procedures and processes in place to manage confined spaces.
One of the key components of any good confined space program is signage. Well positioned and designed signage can substantially warn of impending danger associated with the space. Routine practice is to fix signs directly to entry points. In some circumstances this practice can present additional risks during maintenance operations when lids or doors are removed to allow for ventilation or intermittent access.
During extended duration maintenance activities, removal of entry points/doors can result in signs being not adequately visible and,therefore leaving the space accessible to persons working in the area, animals or debris. Adequately securing a space during extended duration maintenance activities has long been a challenge for engineering and safety personnel. The re-fitting of a physical barrier is often identified by confined space workers as difficult, impracticable and time consuming during longer term operations. Up until now, a range of disposable temporary barriers have been used.
Cirlock now distributes a range of confined space covers which are specifically designed to be rapidly fitted to a range of confined space entry points including vessels, tower skirts and columns. The reusable, highly durable covers provide a physical barrier to the confined space as well as compliant signage for the duration of the confined space operation.