Confined space entry: Understanding the risks and rules to prevent injuries and fatalities


By Paul Fooks

Special to Ottawa Construction News

Labor Tek has been supporting confined space entry for many companies, sub-contractors and departments for the last 15 years, with the aim at educating the employer to ensure worker safety. Needless to say there are many risks associated to confined spaces but the biggest risk is still lacking of training, knowledge and/or leaving it all up to luck.


Entrants, attendants, supervisors, watchers and rescuers all have specific roles during a confined space entry, not to mention each role require specific training. All companies that have confined spaces where workers may enter must have and follow a confined space training and rescue plan program in accordance with Ontario Confined Space Regulation 632/05. (Federal regulations also stipulate the same requirements and specifications in the Canada Occupational Health and Safety Regulations SOR/86- 304.)

Under the rules, each location requires an inventory, a method of assessing each space, training plans for workers and a permit system. This can prove to be a daunting task for an employer, and is where Labor Tek can assist.

From inventories to assessments, from programs to training, Labor Tek has the resources and partnerships to support safe confined space entry. We have a well-equipped van to support the entry and provide external rescue for non-Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (non-IDLH) entries. We also have supporting partners for Immediately Dangerous to Life or Health (IDLH) entry and internal rescue that may be required.

The biggest risk is not knowing or not taking the steps to protect workers because of lack of training. The other risk is training to only one rescue plan, without being site specific. Rescue plans need a step-by-step procedure, practiced to a reliable level and with the proper equipment to ensure any rescue requirements.  It’s too late to try and figure out what to do to rescue a worker in a confined space if nobody knows what the risks are.

In closing, it is paramount to note that 60 per cent of confined space related deaths are would-be rescuers, either trying to just help out, poorly trained or they did not follow the rescue protocols. Train your workers to get in and get out safely.

          Paul Fooks is Labor Tek Safety Training Inc.’s head trainer. For more information, visit or phone (613) 741-1128.




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