County Ag News

Confined Space Hazards


On July 2 two men in Chippewa County died after becoming overcome by manure gases as they tried to retrieve a piece of equipment that had fallen into a manure pit. In July 2007, five people died in a manure pit in Virginia. These headlines highlight the dangers that may commonly be found on farms today. 

Many farms, businesses and homes have what can be classified as a confined space. A confined space is an enclosed area with limited space and accessibility. An example is the interior of a storage tank, which may be occasionally entered by workers for maintenance but is otherwise not a habitable space. Hazards in a confined space often include harmful dust or gases, asphyxiation, submersion in liquids or free-flowing granular solids (for example, grain bins), electrocution, or entrapment.

Although the definition of a confined space varies between jurisdictions, it is generally recognized as a space that:

•Has limited or restricted means of entry or exit;

•Is large enough for a person to enter to perform tasks;

•Is not designed or configured for continuous occupancy; and

•Has the potential for a significant hazard to be present.

A utility tunnel, the inside of a boiler, the inside of a fluid storage tank, a septic tank that has contained sewage, and a small underground electrical vault are all examples of confined spaces. On farms today there are more manure pits or catch areas, manure tanks, grain bins and fertilizer storage tanks. These can all be classified as a “confined space”. 

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