Going Underground: Confined Space Training For Safe Sewer Working

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Entering sewers or tanks requires more than a hard hat, hi-vis and torch. Personnel must be equipped with sufficient knowledge and experience before descending these deep, dark, damp realms, hence ATAC Solutions provides Confined Space Training: an examining exercise in an oxygen deficient atmosphere. Reis Gilham, a Sales Executive at ATAC, underwent his first day’s training in June. It proved to be an enlightening experience, despite the pitch-black conditions, as he explained.

“Initially, the idea of taking part in a confined space training exercise was slightly daunting as I really didn’t know what to expect. Once we got into the swing of things, however, any trepidation soon vanished and I found the whole experience totally fascinating.

Before taking the plunge into the pitch dark, our group was given a health and safety tutorial on the many life-threatening risks associated with a job, which on the face of it at least, appears fairly simple and straightforward. Our group learnt how different gasses can be harmful in a confined space area; how to identify them and how to read gas volumes via a monitor. We also learnt about precautions needed to be taken when entering a confined space with gasses present. One of the most important aspects was how to wear a gas mask correctly, as fumes released in sewers can kill. This was followed by a short paper test to ensure we’d absorbed the vital information we’d been given, and a practical demonstration on using a gas mask, alarm and harness underground.

Then came the moment of truth: we faced our first confined space test. Okay, so we weren’t descending deep beneath the road’s surface as staff would do in an on-the-job situation, but we were required to enter the dark, dingy, smelly chamber of a mobile confined space training unit – supplied by ESS Salesforce – which replicated a sewer environment some would one day confront for real. The two-tiered mobile unit consists of 44 metres of configurable tunnel labyrinth, three access points allowing horizontal and vertical entry and exit, as well as LED and emergency lighting.

We entered the unit in pairs and were instructed to search for certain lights. Via radio, we relayed our gas readings to our ‘outside’ team and informed them we were okay. Then suddenly an alarm sounded. It was part of a scenario to alert us to the fact we were in a vulnerable situation. It was only an exercise, but a siren’s sound in an enclosed environment without lights can still unnerve. We had acted quickly, put on our gas masks and exit the facility as soon as possible, using only torches as a guide.

I’m pleased to say we escaped, and the whole training exercise proved an enjoyable learning experience. I’m now confined space-trained, which means even from the comfort of my office, I can identify which equipment is needed to protect against risks associated with sewer entry.”

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