Plumbers, electricians, cleaning technicians, and other professionals are often required to work in confined spaces. This presents a number of dangers such as becoming trapped, being seriously injured by equipment, or being exposed to toxic gases. OSHA estimates that roughly 90 people die, and many more are injured every year while working in confined spaces.
OSHA defines confined spaces as those with limited or restricted means for entry such as crawl spaces, utility closets, storage tanks, silos, manholes, ductwork, or tunnels. These spaces have strong potential to trap anyone who enters them to perform maintenance within the space.
Additionally, because these spaces are not well ventilated, they also have the potential to expose entrants to toxic gas that can quickly asphyxiate them. This is a common problem that tank cleaners face when cleaning tanks that contain or transport petroleum products or chemicals such as bleach or ammonia. Inhalation of fumes from these agents can quickly render an entrant unconscious.
The dangers toxic fumes create within confined spaces and the injuries that can occur are well documented. These injuries include brain trauma, nerve damage, or death. Because of the lethal danger involved in working in areas where toxic fumes can build up, OSHA has strict guidelines that require employers to provide adequate safety equipment such as harnesses and respirators as well as the presence of emergency ventilation equipment when workers enter potentially toxic confined spaces. The agency also recommends that individuals working in confined spaces do so with a “buddy” who is outside the space and can assist should an emergency develop.
Another danger that is common in confined spaces are injuries caused by equipment. Tools such as drills, saws, and grinders can be unwieldy when used in areas where a proper range of motion is impossible. These tools can quickly tear flesh and cause serious lacerations, puncture wounds, and burns to users.
Tight spaces can further exacerbate the severity of a workers injuries because it can be difficult to extract an individual from these areas. This can prolong exposure to toxic fumes and hinder the ability of emergency personnel to stop bleeding from punctures or lacerations. In many cases, the difficulties involved in treating personnel injured in confined spaces can be downright lethal. When employers fail to provide adequate safety equipment, training, and emergency response, a Chicago workers’ comp attorney can help hold them accountable for the personal injuries and wrongful deaths that may occur.