Confined Space Entry: Required Equipment & Training


Worker wearing protective gear while working in a confined space

Confined areas pose unique hazards, particularly when it comes to energy management. These environments can harbor many dangers, ranging from toxic gas accumulation to unexpected energy releases, making them a minefield for the untrained and ill-equipped.

It’s crucial for managers and supervisors to recognize the gravity of these risks. Providing employees with high-quality equipment and comprehensive training isn’t just a regulatory compliance issue—it’s a fundamental responsibility.

In this article, we’ll cover the equipment and training you need to provide to your employees to ensure they’re equipped to navigate the complexities of confined spaces and respond effectively to potential energy hazards.

Confined Space Entry Equipment You Should Have

Confined space operations demand a specialized set of equipment, each designed to address the unique challenges and hazards of these environments.

Here’s a breakdown of the equipment you’ll need to offer:

PPE

In confined spaces, workers will be exposed to a variety of potential hazards and need the following to stay protected:

  • Respiratory Protection: Depending on the air quality assessment, this could range from simple air-purifying respirators to more complex self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) for environments with insufficient oxygen or toxic atmospheres.
  • Head Protection: Hard hats will provide protection against head injuries from falling objects and from bumping against hard surfaces.
  • Eye & Face Protection: Safety goggles or full-face shields help safeguard against chemical splashes, dust, and other airborne particles.
  • Hearing Protection: In environments with high noise levels, earmuffs or earplugs are required to prevent hearing damage.
  • Hand & Arm Protection: Gloves can be made from many different materials. The materials you choose should be based on known environmental hazards, such as chemical exposure or electrical risks. For example, rubber-insulating gloves are recommended for electrical work because they are dielectrically tested and rated for specific voltage exposures.
  • Body Protection: Protective clothing, including coveralls or specialized suits, shields against chemicals, heat, and physical hazards.
  • Footwear: Safety boots, preferably steel-toed, provide protection against crushing injuries and slips. In addition to being steel-toed, safety boots should have soles resistant to chemicals or heat, depending on the environment.
  • Fall Protection: In spaces with fall risks, your workers need full-body harnesses with lifelines or lanyards.
  • High-Visibility Clothing: This type of clothing is needed to improve visibility in low-light conditions or areas with vehicular traffic.

Ventilation

Inadequate ventilation can lead to hazardous atmospheres, posing serious risks to workers, which is why ventilation is required in confined spaces. Each type of ventilation equipment has its specific applications—the choice of which equipment to use depends on factors such as the size, layout, and general environment of the confined space, the nature of the work being conducted, and the availability of power sources.

View the table below for guidance on what type of ventilation to choose based on the factors listed above.

Type of EquipmentType of Environment/SpacePrimary UseRelies on Power
Axial Fans & BlowersMedium to large confined spaces; versatile to various layoutsGeneral ventilation, air exchangeYes
Centrifugal BlowersBest for long distances or extensive ductworkSituations requiring concentrated airflow, such as toxic gas removalYes
Air Cannons/Air MoversIdeal for large, open, or highly contaminated areasRapid air exchange in heavily polluted environmentsYes
Venturi BlowersNon-electric environments, flammable, or explosive atmospheresVentilating or removing dangerous vapors from tanksNo (operates on compressed air or steam)
Confined Space Fans With DuctingAdaptable to multiple sizes and layouts with ductingTargeted ventilation, specific area supply, or specific area exhaustYes
Smoke EjectorsSmaller spaces or where immediate smoke removal is necessaryFire rescue, smoke-filled environmentsUsually, though some non-electric models exist

Communication Devices

In the constrained and often hazardous environments of confined spaces, effective communication is a critical safety lifeline.

There are various devices to choose from, including:

  • Two-Way Radios: Recommended for confined space work where direct line-of-sight communication is not possible.
  • Hardline Communication Systems: Recommended for deep confined spaces, underground operations, or areas with significant interference where radio signals may be weak.
  • Intrinsically Safe Smartphones & Devices: Recommended for spaces with potentially explosive atmospheres where regular electronic devices would pose a risk.
  • Noise-Cancelling Headphones: Recommended for industrial confined spaces where machinery or operations generate significant noise.
  • Personal Alert Safety Systems (PASS): Recommended for solo work or in spaces where a worker might be out of sight or hearing range.
  • Man-Down Alarms: Recommended for high-risk areas or when workers are operating in separate sections of a confined space.
  • Signal Lights/Flags/Other Visual Tools: Recommended for extremely loud spaces that make standard auditory communication difficult or as a backup communication method.

Rescue

In emergencies, you’ll want to have the following rescue equipment available:

  • Tripods: Tripods are used for vertical entry and exit in confined spaces like manholes or tanks.
  • Davit Arms: Similar to tripods, but offer more versatility and stability. They are primarily used for side entry and can support heavier loads.
  • Retrieval Systems: These systems include winches and retractable lifelines and are used for lowering workers into confined spaces and for quick retrieval in emergencies.
  • Stretchers & Skeds: These are used for immobilizing and safely removing injured personnel.

Product Recommendation: REID Porta Gantry Rapide

We recommend (and sell) the REID Porta Gantry Rapid for its advanced design and versatility in confined space scenarios. It’s lightweight and portable, has a maximum goods lifting capacity of 1,000 kg and personnel lifting capacity of 500 kg. It also provides fall protection for up to three users, comes in three height-adjustable models, accommodating beam lengths up to 4 meters, and can feature optional gated trolleys, single and durable sheave carriers, and/or winch brackets.

Environmental Detection & Monitoring

Environmental detection and monitoring equipment plays a critical role in ensuring worker safety by providing real-time data on the presence of toxic gases, oxygen levels, and other potential atmospheric information.

The different types of detection and monitoring equipment you may need include:

  • Gas Detectors & Monitors: These devices detect carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, methane, oxygen, and other gases. Some models are even capable of detecting multiple gases simultaneously.
  • Oxygen Meters: These measure the concentration of oxygen in the air, which is critical for environments where there is a risk of oxygen depletion.
  • Combustible Gas Detectors: These help identify the presence of flammable gases and vapors.
  • Air Sampling Pumps: These pumps draw air through a sampling tube to detect specific gases or airborne substances over a set period.
  • Toxic Gas Sensors: These sensors detect and measure the levels of toxic gases, ensuring workers are not exposed to harmful concentrations.
  • PID (Photoionization Detectors): PID detects volatile organic compounds and other toxic gases at very low concentrations.
  • Sound Level Meters: These meters measure noise levels, which is important in confined spaces where excessive noise can indicate malfunctioning equipment or pose a health risk.

Product Recommendations: Blackline G7c & G7 EXO

We recommend (and sell) Blackline Safety products for their advanced technology and reliability in confined space entry, particularly the G7c and G7 EXO.

The G7c is the world’s first 3G-connected gas detector. It has a standard four-gas sensor that detects carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, LEL of combustible gas, and oxygen. You can also choose a fifth toxic sensor from over ten choices. In addition to gas protection, the G7c has integrated lone work monitoring and evacuation management tools, including a two-way speakerphone, text messaging, and location tracking.

The G7 EXO is a direct-to-cloud, 4G-connected area gas monitor offering unmatched battery life and reliable connectivity. It has multiple gas sensors, including an industry-first poison-immune MSP combustible gas sensor with broad-spectrum LEL protection. It can monitor up to five gases simultaneously and features swappable cartridges. It also ensures that any alert can be responded to within 60 seconds, and uses high-volume alarms and visible alert lights. The G7 EXO also has an optional satellite module for remote locations.

Recommended Training

Instructor demonstrating confined space entry procedures to trainees

Training is the cornerstone of safety in confined space work, with the first and perhaps most crucial training being how to determine if a space is confined and how to categorize the type of confined space (non-permit, alternate, or permit).

A confined space is characterized by its limited access points, size sufficient for a worker to enter and conduct tasks, and its non-design for continuous space occupancy. Common examples of confined spaces include storage tanks, sewers, manholes, and tunnels.

A permit-required confined space usually means there are hazardous gases present, or it has the potential of being a hazardous space (flammable/explosive atmospheres, toxic atmosphere, or possibility of oxygen depletion). To determine if a space requires a permit, the site supervisor must know how to perform atmospheric testing, which includes using proper sampling techniques to identify and measure the presence of gases and understanding stratification.

Beyond this basic training, workers will need general safety training for entry into confined spaces, PPE training, rescue training, and CPR/First-Aid.

General Safety Training

General safety training should encompass several key areas:

  1. Understanding Roles in Confined Space Entry: Workers must understand their specific roles and responsibilities during confined space entry, including understanding the tasks they’re assigned, the safety protocols they must follow, and their role in the team’s overall safety strategy.
  2. Hazard Identification & Assessment: Workers must know how to recognize environmental hazards (toxic gases or oxygen deficiency), physical hazards (entrapment or engulfment), and any operational hazards specific to the task at hand. They must also be trained to understand how these hazards can change under different conditions and how to monitor for signs of emerging risks continuously.
  3. The Emergency Plan: Workers should be trained on the specific organization’s emergency response plan for confined spaces, including knowing how to respond to various types of emergencies, like a worker becoming incapacitated inside the confined space or the detection of a hazardous atmosphere.
  4. Communication Protocols: Clear communication is vital, so workers must be trained on the specific communication protocols to be used, including radios, hand signals, or other devices.
  5. Pre-Entry Checks & Procedures: Training should also include the procedures for conducting pre-entry checks, such as atmospheric testing and ensuring all safety systems are in place and functioning correctly.
  6. Use of Monitoring Tools & Devices: Workers will need hands-on training on using safety equipment, including gas detectors, ventilation systems, and rescue gear. They should also be trained on using monitoring tools effectively to assess the safety of the confined space environment continuously.

PPE Training

PPE training could be grouped in with general safety training, but there is a lot to cover for this training, including:

  1. Understanding Eye & Face Protection: Workers must understand the different types of eye and face protection, such as safety goggles, face shields, and full-face respirators. Each type offers different levels of protection and is suited for different hazards—workers should know how to select the right protection based on their task and the environment they’re working in.
  2. Knowledge of Foot & Body Protection: Knowing what type of foot and body protection is required is also critical. This includes selecting footwear that provides adequate protection against crush injuries, slips, and chemical exposure and choosing body protection like coveralls or chemical-resistant suits based on the work environment. Workers should understand how different PPE materials and designs offer varying levels of protection against specific hazards.
  3. Recognizing When & What PPE Is Necessary: Workers must be able to recognize the types of tasks and environments in confined spaces where PPE is required. For example, entering a space with potential chemical exposures or low oxygen levels will require specific types of respirators and protective clothing.
  4. Proper Use & Maintenance of PPE: Training should also cover the proper use, fitting, and maintenance of PPE, including how to wear PPE correctly, how to perform checks for wear and tear, and understanding the limitations of each PPE item.

General Rescue Training

Rescue training should involve:

  1. Understanding Rescue Protocols: Employees must be trained on the specific rescue protocols established for confined space emergencies, including knowing what steps to follow, who to contact, and how to communicate effectively.
  2. Understanding Rescue Equipment: Workers should also know how to use harnesses, tripods, winches, rope systems, stretchers, and other rescue equipment.
  3. Types of Rescue Techniques: There are three types of techniques workers should understand, including:
    1. Non-Entry Rescue: Using a winch or rope to rescue an individual without entering the confined space. Training should include how to set up and operate these systems safely.
    2. Entry Rescue by Others: In some scenarios, an external rescue team, such as a fire department, may perform an entry rescue. Employees should understand how to assist these teams and what information they should provide.
    3. Entry Rescue by Trained Company Employees: If you have your own rescue team, employees should be familiar with the procedures for entering a confined space to perform a rescue, including understanding the risks and the necessary safety precautions.
  4. Understanding Time-Sensitive Versus Non-Time-Sensitive Rescues: Training should also emphasize the difference between time-sensitive and non-time-sensitive rescues, how to determine what type of rescue is required, and the protocols for each.
  5. Practical Rescue Scenarios & Drills: Hands-on training is nearly always more insightful. Conducting practical exercises and drills should be a part of ongoing rescue training.

First Aid & CPR

Lastly, you will need to provide First-Aid and CPR training if you have an in-house rescue team.

Basic First-Aid training should include how to handle cuts, burns, fractures, and exposure to hazardous substances and when to escalate medical care to professional responders.

CPR training should be hands-on and teach workers the correct techniques for chest compressions and rescue breathing.

Additional medical training should include how to recognize the signs and symptoms of common medical emergencies, such as heart attacks, strokes, or asphyxiation, how to address medical emergencies in confined spaces, and how to use on-site AEDs.

Purchase Equipment & Schedule Training With Archview Services

Archview Services is a specialty product and services provider serving businesses throughout the Midwest. If you’re preparing your team for confined space entry operations, you can count on us for expert consulting, product recommendations, and OSHA-compliant training (on-site or classroom) programs. We sell and lease a wide array of confined space equipment, tools, and devices from brands we know and trust, including Blackline Safety, BlueSiren®, REID, and Gazomat™.

Please contact us today to learn more about products and capabilities or to schedule a training session for your team.