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Precautions for entering confined spaces
 
Procedures for confined areas can vary widely and depend on the nature of the work site – a septic tank in need of cleaning will have totally different procedures from a water purification site. OSHA actually offers free on-site safety consulting, which can be enormously helpful in ensuring worker safety in potentially hazardous sites. (Not only that, but after successful completion of OSHA's consultation, some participants are able to use the Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program to exempt themselves from certain safety inspections for up to a year.)
 
We've adapted a few general precautions from the University of Wisconsin's occupational safety department – these are just a couple of the things workers need to keep in mind when entering a confined space (though of course, this list is by no means exhaustive!).
 
If a space is permit-required, in general, one person alone can enter it at a time per set of appropriate safety equipment (which can involve hazard suits or breathing equipment). The size of each site may limit accessibility. In case of emergency, the crew should always have an excess of safety equipment to allow for rescue – the person in the permit-only area should never be the only one with working safety apparatus!
   
When someone enters a permit-required site, a specially trained attendant will be needed near the space whenever anyone else enters. That person's first priority must be watching for problems with the worker in the dangerous area, while (as a secondary priority) keeping the public out; he/she must not be given duties that conflict with those two priorities. The attendant needs to have an effective means of communication with the person in the confined space – usually a two-way radio.
   
Openings that are publically accessible must be protected with barricades to prevent entry. The barricades need to be ADA-compliant and well-lit when it's dark.
   
Many permit-required areas should be equipped with special detectors that go off when the atmospheric conditions change. Needless to say, these should be kept in working order, and no one should enter the confined area if safety alerts are tripped.
   
If you sense anything wrong with the confined space when you enter it, leave immediately. It's always better to put off a task until your safety can be guaranteed than it is to risk major injury to get it done immediately. Your conscientiousness – and your instincts – can save lives.
 
 
Permit Required Confined Signs
 
Breathing equipment may be necessary in a confined space, for reasons as varied as insufficient ventilation, moldy dust, or toxic gases.
 
 
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