Claustrophobic? Maybe You Shouldn’t Apply!


If you are claustrophobic, maybe you should do something besides industrial cleaning. The reason? There will be a time that confined space work will be required.

It can be dangerous work being in a confined space. When we send one of our guys in there, we send a guy that’s trained to work in tight, confined places. The industrial cleaning work inside of this 60-foot-tall steel flour silo is a good example.

Confined spaces can trigger claustrophobia

Some people get claustrophobic when they are in confined areas like small and windowless rooms, elevators, and even MRI machines. The fear of confined spaces (claustrophobia) can be a big problem if it interferes with your ability to work. And working in a steel silo, that’s only six feet in diameter but 60 feet tall, would likely trigger claustrophobia.

What goes in, comes out

Once the industrial cleaning work was almost finished inside this 60-foot silo, the associates began completing the checklist identifying every piece of personal protective equipment (PPE) on the person cleaning, and other equipment that was used inside the silo. A rule we always follow is that “what goes into the silo, comes out of the silo”.

But one item, the Multi Gas Detector, used to detect hazardous atmospheres inside the silo with an audible alarm, was missing. The only place it could possibly be, was inside the silo’s hopper outlet.

The confined space gets even tighter

The flour remaining at the bottom of the silo was vacuumed out with an explosion proof vacuum. This uncovered a four-foot diameter, raised steel flange covering the 18-inch diameter hopper outlet to the conveyance auger. Removing the flour from the hopper outlet exposed the conveyance auger five feet below. The Multi Gas Detector was nowhere to be seen.

The only place it could be now, was in the mouth opening of one of the two conveyance lines fed by the auger. To retrieve the missing item required someone with proper retrieval support, to squirm their way to the bottom of the hopper outlet. The confined space of the silo now gets even tighter.

Brett’s “mind over matter” overcame a confined space challenge

Even while being hooked to a body harness and a lifeline connected to a rescue winch at the top of the silo, entering a confined space that small can be a challenge of mind over matter. Brett Harris, one of Blackwell’s, Inc.’s associates, met the confined space challenge and successfully retrieved the missing item from the silo.

Entering confined space
Entering the 18-inch hopper outlet
After Brett's sucessful retrieval of monitor

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