Towards Zero Confined Space Entry

September 18, 2018

Taking a reading with UltraAnalytix technology

Reduce confined space entry to keep workers safe and operations running

Confined space entry to inspect, service or clean equipment is a necessary — but inherently dangerous, and expensive — task in many industries.

Every year, millions of workers in a wide range of sectors enter confined spaces for inspection and maintenance work, including chemical storage tanks, grain silos, service tunnels, boilers, cargo holds, pumping stations and more. 

What is a confined space?

A confined space has three defining features:

  • it is enclosed or partially enclosed
  • it is not designed or intended for continuous human occupancy
  • it has a limited or restricted means of entry or exit or an internal configuration that could complicate provision of first aid, evacuation, rescue or other emergency response

Learn more about assessing confined spaces.

Risks of confined space entry

Confined spaces presents unique dangers due to:

  • poor ventilation and potential exposure to hazardous chemicals and gases, or asphyxiation in low-oxygen environments
  • limited or restricted access and egress, which increases the risk of becoming trapped or engulfed by flowing liquids or solids like sand or grain
  • exposure to mechanical hazards, electric shock and other dangers.

See the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety OHS fact sheet for more on the dangers of confined space entry and recommended safety precautions.

The statistics for deaths and injuries due to confined space entry are sobering:

  • Every week in the United States, an average of two people will go to work but not return home to their families as a result of entering a confined space;
  • From 2011 to 2018, 1,030 workers died from occupational injuries involving a confined space. The annual figures range from a low of 88 in 2012 to a high of 166 in 2017, according to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI).
  • In Canada, some estimates indicate over 100 confined space deaths occur across the country each year.
  • Rescuers account for over half of all confined space injuries and fatalities.

Because operations must shut down to enable confined space entry, it’s also an expensive undertaking due to:

  • Loss of production
  • Cleaning out the tank or other equipment
  • Dealing with wastewater from cleaning out equipment
  • Confined space entry support

For all these reasons, plant managers and reliability engineers are looking for alternatives, and governments and industry associations are updating regulations to reduce injuries and fatality rates.

A safe, cost-effective alternative to confined space entry for FRP asset inspection

UltraAnalytix 4 step process graphic

UltraAnalytix inspection 4-step process for non-destructive testing.

While it may not be possible to eliminate all confined-space tasks, companies are turning to UTComp’s UltraAnalytix® technology as safe, reliable alternative for the evaluation of fiber-reinforced plastic (FRP) tanks, pipes and other industrial assets.

UltraAnalytix combines ultrasonic data collected in the field, external visual inspection and analysis using a proprietary algorithm. Data can be collected from an external surface, often while tanks or piping are in operation. There’s no need to cut test samples out of the asset. This allows the structural integrity to remain intact.

One of our chemical industry clients recently reported that the total cost associated with shutdown and confined space entry to inspect a scrubber topped $100,000. UltraAnalytix inspection of this same scrubber would have been less than $20,000. UltraAnalytix inspection also provides essential information on the asset’s remaining service life.

The fact is that the safest confined space entry is no entry at all. To learn more about how UltraAnalytix can make your operation safer and reduce costs, contact us.

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