New confined space regulations came into effect on September 30th, 2006 in response to the many workplace fatalities that had occurred in confined spaces since 1987.
The regulations create a new definition of “confined space” which will likely result in the identification of more “confined spaces” in workplaces. The regulations require that the employer institute:
- the preparation of a written confined space program which includes methods for identification, assessment, plans, controls and training;
- the identification of confined spaces (as defined in the new regulations);
- due preparation of written confined space assessments for every confined space;
- the preparation of written confined space hazard controls including procedures & equipment for safe entry, safe work and rescue;
- training and provide equipment for those who perform confined space work;
- the maintenance of records for all of the above including air quality testing and equipment.
What is a confined space?
The new definition sets out three (3) criteria that must be met in order for a space to be considered a confined space. A confined space:
- is a fully or partially enclosed space;
- is not designed and constructed for human occupancy, and;
- is one in which atmospheric hazards may occur because of its construction, location or contents or because of the work that is done in it.
What are atmospheric hazards?
Under the new regulations ‘atmospheric hazards’ include:
- the accumulation of flammable, combustible or explosive agents;
- an oxygen content in the atmosphere that is less than 19.5% or more than 23% by volume;
- the accumulation of atmospheric contaminants, including gases, vapours, fumes, dusts or mists, that could:
- result in acute health effects that pose an immediate threat to life, or
- interfere with a person’s ability to escape unaided from a confined space
What are some possible “contents” of a space that could give rise to an atmospheric hazard?
- exposed soils
- organic debris (leaves, grass, etc.)
- hazardous products
- combustible dusts
- chemical tanks
- compressed gas cylinders
- natural gas
- fossil fuel combustion equipment
The employer must share the confined space information with health & safety committees/representatives.
As always it is crucial that bargaining units maintain good two-way communication links with joint health and safety representatives to ensure that confined space compliance and records are maintained by the employer.
For more comprehensive information on the confined space regulations, please contact OSSTF/FEESO Provincial Office at 1-800-267-7867.