Confined Spaces

Confined spaces within farms can be quite dangerous, especially when the risks are not readily apparent. Enclosed and partly-enclosed structures such as tanks, silos, vats, wells, and manure pits can contain toxic gases and vapors which, combined with dust and a relative lack of oxygen, can prove to be deadly.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recognizes four primary categories of risk in confined agricultural spaces: airborne toxins which can harm the respiratory and/or nervous systems; a lack of oxygen; increased risk of fires/explosions; and physical dangers from falls or moving parts.

Here are some USDA tips for safety in confined spaces:

  • Test the air for toxicity, flammability, and oxygen levels in corners and every four feet of the area
  • Always use a proper respirator and ensure that all equipment has been tested
  • Temporarily cut off lines for gas, steam, water, and power
  • Make sure an additional trained coworker is available at all times
  • Remove all fire hazards and use tools and lights that are spark-proof, if possible
  • A harness and lifeline can be excellent precautions

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