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smogbuster Should You Use Confined Space Ventilation Equipment in an Excavation?

Ed Chessor (Engineer, Former CIH, PEng, MBA) - Thursday, February 01, 2018



There are many hazards associated with confined spaces that are presented by excavations. An excavation can be toxic whether it meets the regulatory definition of a confined space or it’s only partially enclosed. Employers, safety managers, and workers should treat every excavation as a potential confined space. This is important as it ensures additional equipment and procedural requirements are introduced to help prevent incidents.

Hazards

Air quality is one of the greatest hazards generally present in excavations. These include the presence and concentration of airborne chemicals, flammable or explosive gases, and oxygen deficiency. The most toxic concern includes nitrogen dioxide, hydrogen sulphide (H2S), and carbon monoxide (CO). There may also be a combustible gas if there has been a fuel spill.

The soil in the surrounding area can produce toxic atmospheres as it may contain fuel leaks, substances from buried toxic dumps, and other organic material. Some of these gases, such as methane are heavier than air and can displace all or part of the air in the excavation. This poses a risk depending on the degree of displacement. Excavations also present hazardous vapors that may come from sewers and equipment commonly used such as plate packers, generators, and excavators. Oxygen deficiency can result from welding that occurs in confined spaces. This can lead to confusion, dizziness, asphyxiation, and even death. Lack of wind in excavations sites can cause high temperatures and produce exhaustion.

Installation of Confined Space Ventilation Equipment

All excavations should be treated as permit-required confined spaces. Measures against hazardous atmosphere must be put in place. If the excavation is greater than 4 feet in depth, the atmosphere must be tested before employees enter confined space. Then there should be continuous monitoring and continuous ventilation using confined space ventilation equipment. This equipment blows fresh air from outside to maintain a safe atmosphere. Confined space ventilation equipment can eliminate contaminants and atmospheric hazards throughout the entire entry procedure. It must be supplying air from a clean source and not increase hazards. Also, the confined space ventilation equipment should be directed to or away from the immediate area of the workers, depending on the direction of airflow.

When it comes to the question of whether it’s necessary to use confined space ventilation equipment in an excavation, it’s clear that working in excavations presents a set of hazards and all those involved should understand the nature of work. Our goal is to provide confined space ventilation equipment to control hazardous atmospheric conditions that may endanger the health and lives of those working in the space. Contact our experts to help you evaluate the hazards present and install confined space ventilation equipment to meet your needs.

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SmogBuster Head Office

12806 170 St NW #16
Edmonton, AB
Canada T5V 0A6
P: (780) 485-8142
F: (780) 485-8146
(24 HOUR CONTACT)

Innovative Ventilation Systems, Inc.

2890 W Cedar St
Beaumont, Texas
United States 77702
P: (409) 842-0800
F: (409) 842-0810
(24 HOUR CONTACT)
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