You’ve probably heard confined space horror stories a million times. The person working inside the confined space is performing routine maintenance and becomes unresponsive. The attendant responsible for monitoring the work goes into the confined space to check on the other worker and is overcome by deadly gas. It’s a tragic story of trying to help a co-worker based on gut reaction rather than proper safety protocols. According to OSHA, would-be rescuers make up 60 percent of confined space fatalities. Unfortunately, it’s common for workers serving in the attendant role or “hole watch” to be inexperienced, untrained, or easily distracted by the numerous demands of a worksite. Distractions can come in the form of radio calls, paperwork, talking to coworkers, or even while monitoring multiple confined spaces at one time. These distractions are rampant and increase the need for safety equipment that reduces the likelihood of human error.
Properly training all workers before they work in or around confined spaces is a must, but in reality, not every job is performed under ideal conditions or with enough information about gas hazards. New advances in gas detection equipment take these tragic real-world scenarios to heart and incorporate better communication technology to ensure everyone working around confined spaces will not only hear and see gas alarms, but also know where and why instruments are alarming. These new technologies aim to reduce would-be rescuer fatalities and accidents due to false evacuations. They also facilitate faster emergency response from trained peers in the field, rather than relying on help from a central controller many miles away.
While it’s common for workers to perform atmospheric testing in confined spaces with handheld portable instruments, area monitors with peer-to-peer wireless capability can improve efficiency and safety of confined space operations, particularly those calling for extended, continuous monitoring.
What is LENS™ Wireless?
LENS Wireless is a peer-to-peer communication system that shares information between gas monitors, rather than sending alarm data to a central controller in another location. Area monitors in a peer-to-peer network do not require any infrastructure, IT setup, or a central host to operate. The focus of a peer network is to improve worker safety by being able to instantly deploy and share real-time alarms and gas readings between monitors. Workers are therefore instantly aware of gas hazards on the job site and are empowered to keep watch over one another during dangerous jobs such as confined space entries.
Where Area Monitors with Peer-to-Peer Wireless Win
Monitoring Multiple Confined Spaces:
According to OSHA standards, 1910.146(d)(6) “Attendants may be assigned to monitor more than one permit space provided the duties described in paragraph (i) of this section can be effectively performed for each permit space that is monitored. Likewise, attendants may be stationed at any location outside the permit space to be monitored as long as the duties described in paragraph (i) of this section can be effectively performed for each permit space that is monitored.” While OSHA’s rule says that watching multiple confined spaces at one time is acceptable, choosing the right gas detection tool is imperative.
Area monitors that offer a large display, clear alarms, and long run times can exceed regulatory requirements, while adding wireless communication can increase the effectiveness and efficiency of safety programs. For example, if area monitors are placed outside confined spaces with tubing to draw samples from inside the space or are placed inside the confined space, they can relay the gas readings to other connected instruments. That allows the attendant the flexibility to monitor what’s happening from any other connected instrument. If one instrument goes into alarm, all connected units will go into alarm. The attendant will know exactly where the problem is because it’s visible on the instrument display. For example, the images to the right show the readings for two Radius BZ1 Area Monitors. The top monitor, within the confined space, is in alarm because of high H2S levels. The bottom monitor, which is placed near the attendant, shows a peer alarm indicating that there is high H2S in Area_001.
Having this information lets the attendant know that it’s unsafe to enter the confined space without taking proper safety precautions and that the entrant should be evacuated. This is an example of how the equipment helps to bridge the gap for inexperienced or untrained workers. The area monitor loudly and clearly communicates the hazard so there is little need for interpretation or ambiguity. In addition to the gas reading and high alarm icon, the attendant will know the difference between high alarms, low alarms, and maintenance reminders thanks to varying tones and different flashing colors that correspond to each alarm level. For example, flashing red means evacuate (high alarm), red and blue means approach with caution (low alarm), and blue means the instrument needs attention (low battery, calibration due, etc.) These communication mechanisms, combined with peer-to-peer wireless, help reduce false evacuations and better prepare workers for gas hazards around confined spaces.
Stay tuned for our next post in the Confined Spaces Series! Want to know when we have a new post? Subscribe to The Monitor to get our latest updates!