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With our Mobile Confined Space Training Simulator and permanently installed simulator at our Ohio campus, we believe we set the bar for CSE (Confined Space Entry) training across North America.
To keep ourselves sharp, we watch for CSE stories in the online periodicals most prominent in the EHS world. OHS Online brought the subject back to the fore recently with an article that looks at one of the most important tools associated with CSE activity: The gas monitor.
Any enclosed space can be a container for a poisonous atmosphere. As the OHS Online piece describes, NIOSH has investigated hundreds of confined space fatalities. In their sample, more than half of those tragedies included the element of an airborne hazard, usually carbon monoxide (CO2) or hydrogen sulfide (H2S). Even workers with below-standard training are likely to know that those gases are deadly. So how do they find themselves working in an enclosed environment where such gases are present? There’s a good chance that the air they were breathing in that space was not tested prior to work beginning there. Such first-step testing (and immediate exit if the space is found to be deadly) is not just good practice, it’s the law.
Quoting from OHS Online, and as found in 29 CFR 1910.146, before entering a confined space, “the internal atmosphere shall be tested with a calibrated direct-reading instrument for the following conditions, in the order given: 1) oxygen content, 2) flammable gases and vapors, and 3) potential toxic air contaminants.”
And, thanks to the kind of technological advances that we have come to depend on in so many other circumstances, today’s gas monitors are easier to use and more accurate and reliable than ever before. They can now be part of your company’s wireless network which helps with remote acknowledgment of testing and record-keeping.
Findlay’s partner for gas-monitoring tech is Dräger, maker of single-gas and multi-gas monitors, all of which are small enough to be counted as PPE, a coal-mine canary in your breast pocket, of you will. Dräger also provides the EHS tech market with gas sensors (suitable for installation into confined spaces where possible and permittable) and other associated devices. This is the equipment that Findlay All Hazards trainers use when instructing, either in Findlay or on-site, at a client’s facility.
Using Dräger monitors or others is a crucial step in evaluating any space before entry. When lethal gas is discovered at a ratio determined to be Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH), two questions should immediately follow: First, what is the origin of the gas? If such a build-up of gas in the area being examined is unusual or unexpected, then a careful, team-based investigation is in order. The presence of unexpected gas in one space could point to a larger, facility-wide problem. And second, what are the immediate options for safe ventilation of the confined space? In the NIOSH study that reviewed fatal confined space incidents, zero – absolutely none – of the fatalities happened in a space that had been properly ventilated. Venting, when possible and safe, is the easiest and fastest remedy to a poison gas problem.
Correct use of gas monitors is not the only skill needed for safe CSE, of course. Other components of a good CSE program include record-keeping and rescue plans that ensure that rescuers do not become victims themselves – sadly, a very common case.
Findlay All Hazards is ready to amend your CSE knowledge and help you build a solid entry/work/exit strategy for any kind of vessel that requires internal inspection.