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Peter Gilmour, CIH (1992-2018) - Occupational Health & Safety (OHS) Consultant

Confined Space Management

Confined spaces are common in many workplaces, and millions of Canadians enter them routinely as part of their work. When they do, the result can be disaster if the work is not properly managed. In BC alone, 18 workers died between 1989 and 2004 while working in confined spaces; five of them were would-be rescuers. In a recent example where three workers died and two more suffered severe and permanent brain damage, fines totalled $350,000.

The definition of what is a confined space varies in different jurisdictions.  In BC, a confined space is an area that is:

  • enclosed or partially enclosed,
  • is not designed or intended for continuous human occupancy,
  • has limited or restricted means for entry or exit that may complicate the provision of first aid, evacuation, rescue or other emergency response service, and
  • is large enough and so configured that a worker could enter to perform assigned work

In contrast to some other Canadian and US jurisdictions, WorkSafeBC considers that a confined space entry has occurred when the breathing zone of the worker crosses the plane of the confined space access.  This is an important distinction: several fatalities in BC and elsewhere have involved a worker leaning into a confined space without full body entry.

Confined space accidents can be prevented. The key is a confined space management system.  Before a worker is required or permitted to enter a confined space, WorkSafeBC requires that the employer must prepare and implement a written confined space entry program which includes:

  1. an assignment of responsibilities,
  2. a list of each confined space or group of similar spaces and a hazard assessment of those spaces, and
  3. written safe work procedures for entry into and work in the confined space, that address:
  • identification and entry permits,
  • lockout and isolation,
  • verification and testing,
  • cleaning, purging, venting or inerting,
  • ventilation,
  • standby persons,
  • rescue,
  • lifelines, harnesses and lifting equipment,
  • personal protective equipment and other precautions, and
  • coordination of work activities.

An employer who fails to implement a confined space entry program is at considerable and unnecessary risk.  Ignoring the risk can result in serious injury or death, and can lead to substantial fines or even prosecution.

The required confined space entry program must be prepared by a qualified Occupational Health and Safety professional with experience and with professional qualifications that include CIH (Certified Industrial Hygienist) and CRSP (Canadian Registered Safety Professional). Those qualifications are not easy to come by.

Peter Gilmour played a key role in developing the current WorkSafeBC confined space entry regulations that came into effect in 1998.  Representing WorkSafeBC, Peter helped create Canada’s first Confined Space standard - CSA Standard Z1006 (Management of Work in Confined Spaces). As a seasoned OHS professional with CIH (1992 through 2018) and CRSP (2007 through 2015) qualifications, Peter can help your company prepare and implement a comprehensive written confined space entry program that complies with WorkSafeBC requirements, and with CSA Standard Z1006.

Advanced OHS Solutions​ Inc