Canadian Manufacturing

New standards fro small workspaces

The Canadian Standards Association (CSA) has introduced a new national standard for working in confined spaces.

The standard, Z1006 Management of Work in Confined Spaces, is meant to aid managers, workers and rescuers in identifying potential risks of confined workspaces, creating action plans to prevent accidents and coordinating rescue procedures.

A Canadian first, the CSA has defined confined environments as “a workspace that is fully or partially enclosed; not designed or intended for continuous human occupancy and has limited or restricted access…”

For those white collar workers out there in fear of their cubicle walls closing in on them or the possibility of being buried alive by the mounds of paperwork, this definition may sound all too familiar. But compared to those who work in mine shafts, grain silos or underground hydro vaults, the cramped corporate environment is relatively safe.

Every day in Canada, even the most skilled workers in extremely confined spaces can become trapped, injured or subjected to toxins.

“More than 60 per cent of confined space fatalities are rescue workers,” says Suzanne Kiraly, the newly appointed president of CSA Standards. “Industry statistics say that 80 per cent of those accidents could be avoided.”

Almost all industries across the country require workers to enter cramped spaces, such as shipping containers, pump stations, boilers, chemical tanks, underground tunnels, and even wine vats. Albeit, Bob and Doug McKenzie would make short work of a boozy vat, winemakers are often required to enter tanks, vats and presses—where gas and vapours can be at concentrated levels—for cleaning and maintenance.

Kiraly cited that BC alone recorded 18 deaths related to confined spaces between 1989 and 2004, five of which were rescue personnel.

Although the Z1006 standard is not mandatory, Jim Armstrong, chief of client services for Safe Workplace Promotion Services Ontario, says, “It helps translate the language of regulatory standards and we hope workplaces embrace this standard.”

Currently, standards and regulations for such workplace safety vary across the country, but the Z1006 standard offers a national regulation to guide everyone from management to front-line workers and emergency response. It also provides guidance to protect workers from other hazards that may not be an immediate danger to their life or health while working in confined spaces.

English versions of the standard are now available from the CSA for pre-orders, with French issues to follow this summer.=

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