Confined Space Visual Inspections

by | Nov 15, 2021 | News, Blog

What is a Confined Space? Confined Space refers to any place, including any vessel, tank, container, pit, bund, chamber, cellar or any other similar space which, by virtue of its enclosed nature, creates conditions that give rise to a likelihood of an accident, harm or injury of such a nature as to require emergency or rescue action.  Many workplaces contain areas that are considered “confined spaces” because while they are not necessarily designed for people, they are large enough for workers to enter and perform certain jobs. A confined space also has limited or restricted means for entry or exit and is not designed for continuous occupancy.

The most common injuries and fatalities that occur as a result of confined space-related incidents are drowning in water tanks, suffocating in grain silos, and the collapse of trenches, tunnels, vats or temporary structures.

The hazards associated confined spaces include:

  • Toxic Atmosphere. A toxic atmosphere may cause various acute effects, including impairment of judgement, unconsciousness and death
  • Oxygen Deficiency
  • Oxygen Enrichment
  • Flammable or Explosive Atmospheres
  • Flowing Liquid or Free Flowing Solids
  • Excessive Heat

The visual inspection of confined spaces occurs in these industrial and manufacturing processes on a scheduled basis or when issue arise.  Most of the time confined spaces need to be confirm cleanliness or the existence or absence of foreign debris.   Of course, if there is a processing problem that has been identified the confined space entry will be required.  OSHA uses the term “permit-required confined space” (permit space) to describe a confined space that has one or more of the following characteristics: contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere; contains material that has the potential to engulf an entrant; has walls that converge inward or floors that slope downward and taper into a smaller area which could trap or asphyxiate an entrant; or contains any other recognized safety or health hazard, such as unguarded machinery, exposed live wires, or heat stress.   For these inspections the ‘Permit Required’ entry will have a number of demands that must be met prior to a person entering or breaking the plane of a confined space  (see 1910.146 – Permit-required confined spaces)  Some of these requirements may include:  atmospheric testing, ventilation, harness, retrieval and rescue equipment, etc.

Confined Space inspections and process work can be very costly when you consider all the effort and equipment that are involved with providing a safe work environment.   Is it worth the effort?  Yes!   Following the procedures outlined by OSHA with regards to ensuring a safe work activity has saved countless lives.  According to data collected by the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL), Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) program, fatal injuries in confined spaces averages 92 fatalities per year.

Many forward-thinking companies have looked for was to reduce or eliminate the requirement for a person to enter a confined space.   In doing so they not only save the company money but also save the company money.   The induction of an inspection camera or borescope to the confined space area has proven to be a very popular option. Introducing and inspection camera to the confined space has proven to address both the main issues, that is, to improve safety and decrease the operational cost.

Wöhler VIS 700 HD-Video Inspection System

The introduction of the inspection camera to the confined space entry greatly reduces time if a person(s) does not have to enter.  There are a number of support equipment for confined space entry that is not required to be present if only the camera will enter the confined space.

As noted earlier there are some confined spaces that may have flammable or explosive atmospheres.   For these types of inspections, you will most likely seek out a specialized inspection camera like an Explosion Proof Camera.   There are borescope cameras that offer certification of being approved for use in Class I Div 2 areas.   The Mil Std 810G Borescope will provide documentation for the safe usage in flammable or explosive environments.  This Class 1 Div 2 borescope is available in different probe diameters and various lengths to support numerous different industries.

Of course, not all confined spaces will require an intrinsically safe borescope or a hazardous inspection camera.  A borescope camera or pipe inspection camera with standard features may all you really need to eliminate or reduce your confined space activities.   These industrial inspection cameras are available with diameters as small as 6mm and as large as 2.5 inches.   The probe lengths can have a range up to 400 feet.   Image capture and video recording is now a standard feature on most modern borescope inspection cameras and push cameras.   This allows you to document your inspection as well as share your findings with co-workers, suppliers or customers.

Our functional and convenient inspection cameras successfully reduce or eliminate the challenge of inspecting confined spaces.  These inspection cameras both reduce risk and reduce cost.  If you have any questions on our quality inspection cameras, please don’t hesitate to contact us.