What is Confined Space Equipment?

Mary McMahon

Confined space equipment is safety equipment used by people who work in confined spaces to reduce risks associated with such environments. Working safely in confined spaces requires special training so people know about common risks and how to manage them and includes the use of confined space equipment for safety. This equipment is provided by employers and should be regularly inspected to confirm it is working properly and repair or replace components showing signs of damage or wear.

Confined space equipment is a big part of the mining industry.
Confined space equipment is a big part of the mining industry.

Equipment available for confined space work varies. Concerns with such spaces include buildups of hazardous gases, fires, floods, falls, and becoming trapped. To address issues like gas buildups, some people carry gas sniffers. These devices will regularly sample the air, activating an alarm if dangerous gases are building up. This gives the wearer time to evacuate the space safely. Respirators can also be worn to filter out hazardous materials, including air-supplied respirators, where the worker carries an air source in the form of an oxygen tank.

Other confined space equipment can include heavy boots for spaces with deposits of water, along with protective gear like fire-resistant clothing and boots with rubberized soles to avoid electrocution. In addition to gear worn on the worker, confined space equipment also includes ventilators, blowers, safety lamps, and similar devices used in confined spaces to make them safer for people to be in. Similarly, devices like switch locks to prevent people from activating mechanical or electrical equipment while someone is inside a space working on that equipment are available.

There are occupational health and safety codes in most nations applying to confined space work, spelling out the safety requirements and obliging employers to provide their personnel with safe working environments. Usually, the costs of safety need to be absorbed by the employer, unless someone is freelancing or working independently, in which case that person will need to provide and maintain equipment. Employees can ask to see maintenance logs to make sure the equipment they are working with is properly cared for, and they can also inspect and test equipment before use.

Costs for confined space equipment vary, depending on the supplier and the type of equipment involved. Specialty supplies can be very expensive, while more basic safety equipment like rubberized boots can be relatively affordable. Usually, employers can negotiate bulk discounts from safety suppliers when they are buying gear for a large work force, and people buying their own equipment can receive tax deductions because they are making purchases necessary for work.

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