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Confined space monitoring

When it comes to protecting workers in confined spaces, what are some monitoring best practices?


Responding is Todd Connelly, rental sales manager, Blackline Safety, Edmonton, Alberta.

Anyone involved in workplace safety, especially during turnarounds and shutdowns, knows that confined spaces are hazardous and challenging work environments. Identifying the risks involved with confined spaces and taking proactive steps to prevent them and minimize incidents is paramount. The best protection needs to incorporate four best practices:

1. Real-time monitoring
Going beyond minimum regulatory requirements by equipping workers with the best available technology is essential. This is especially true for high-risk entries common in refining, petrochemical and heavy industrial environments. The ability to accurately visualize what’s happening in and around the confined space and monitor atmospheric conditions in real time is critical to keeping workers safe. Systems that can take information from a worker’s badge and communication devices, as well as offer live camera feeds inside and outside the space, are ideal to manage and monitor entries into confined spaces 24/7.

2. Risk assessment
Protecting workers in confined spaces requires a thorough risk assessment. Organizations that are most successful rely on an experienced team of health and safety professionals collaborating with contractor safety teams and connected safety experts. This allows a step-by-step analysis of workplace activities, related hazards and effective mitigation tools, including real-time connectivity. The effective distribution of relevant information allows the safety team to identify gaps in the moment and actively manage the tools or actions being used to close those gaps.

3. Data collection
Relevant and well-managed data is a potent tool for streamlining and improving shutdown and turnaround execution – if it’s available, relevant and digestible for key decision-makers. Timely access to information allows outage managers to proactively adjust their tactics, adapting to any scope changes, scheduling challenges and cost pressures. Integrating real-time location data for the workforce outside of confined spaces with entry logs for the workforce inside confined spaces offers a high-quality and comprehensive data set. By applying data analytics – either using an in-house team or outsourcing to a vendor – organizations can search for patterns and get in front of emerging problems quicker than would be possible through conventional techniques.

4. Always-on connectivity
The wide variety of locations and connectivity reliability that occurs across project sites means that no single method of connecting devices and gathering data is suitable for all situations. Effective collaboration between connected gas detection and confined space monitoring means organizations need robust and flexible methods for capturing and streaming data. By choosing among satellite, LTE, local wireless and/or private wired networks, project teams build resiliency into their data networks. This is crucial in critical life safety applications and minimizes the potential for network-related operational interruptions.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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