The High-Risk Work of Confined Space Cleaning

silo entry for cleaning confined space

Confined spaces are aptly named for a good reason . . . there is no room for error.

Most of us will never know what it’s like to clean in the confined space of an industrial silo or storage tank. For that matter, most of us will never even be in a confined space. To put it in perspective, imagine the claustrophobic feeling a scuba diver has entering the narrow, confined space of an underwater cave or cavern for the first time. As a scuba diver, I’ve been in an underwater cave and I know the feeling!

So, while most people will never experience the confined space of an underwater cave, there are many people whose job requires them to work in the confined space of underground storage tanks and other storage vessels.  And we have many of those people right here on our work crews at Blackwell’s, Inc.

Considered high-risk work

Working in a confined space is considered high risk work. Like a cave, a confined space has restricted areas for entry or exit. There may be only one way in and one way out. They are not designed for continuous worker occupancy and include underground vaults, storage bins, maintenance holes, pits, silos, process vessels, and pipelines. Confined spaces may contain or have the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere, materials that may entrap a person, asphyxiate a person, or many other hazards. That sounds a lot like underwater cave diving, too.

A culture of safety

How do we prepare our crews to work in these kinds of confined spaces? It starts with creating a culture of safety and includes direct training in “what to do” and “what not to do”.

Statistics say that 25% of confined spaces have hazardous air and 50% of the deaths in confined spaces result from oxygen deficiency (or limited air supply). That too sounds a lot like cave diving because running out of air underwater is a diver’s nightmare.

When we send one of our guys into a confined space, such as this 110-foot-tall silo entry hatch, we send a guy that’s trained to work in tight, dangerous places.

OSHA trained and equipped

Not only is the worker OSHA trained and equipped with all the equipment he needs to keep him safe while he is in there, but he has a trained support crew topside to get him out safely if an accident happens.

We work in many industrial environments throughout the southeast.  Our goal is to provide our associates with current and accurate information about safety and how to apply this information to keep us and our clients safe in the many facilities in which we do work.

“Safety First”.

That’s a slogan that we grow up with as children and often never fully appreciate. But here at Blackwell’s, Inc., we take it very seriously because there is no room for error.

silo entry for cleaning confined space
Entering the confined space of a silo. Take notice of safety equipment and ventilation for entrant, and harnessed safety attendant.
confined space cleaning silo
The confined space of a 110 ft. silo. 2 separate cables and winches support seated entrant.

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