Washington Roundtable

ISEA Washington Roundtable focuses on confined space safety


At the inaugural ISEA Washington Roundtable on August 21, a panel of confined space experts including safety professionals, regulators and PPE manufacturers said that workers and supervisors must be trained to recognize hazards, anticipate any situation that might arise, and be ready to perform a safe rescue if needed.

Complacency, improper identification of confined space hazards, failure to prepare for entry by testing and monitoring, and generic training that does not provide hands-on experience were all cited as potential weak links in a safety program. Panelists noted that some employers and workers do not even realize that they have a confined space, and fail to take the necessary steps to work safely.

Training must not only be given to workers, but also supervisors and rescue teams who may be called on to extract a disabled worker. Supervisors should be trained the to the of competency level each worker, and training should be conducted on-site as well as in the classroom.

Many of the fatalities in confined spaces are rescuers, who were improperly prepared or equipped. Panelists reminded the audience that everyone involved in confined space work is a potential rescuer, not just emergency responders or designated rescue teams.

Panelists reviewed best practices in verifying the operation of gas detection instruments which are used to monitor confined space atmospheres and alert workers to dangerous conditions. Daily "bump" testing, using the right test gas and ensuring that it is fresh, and sampling the confined space with ventilators turned off were among the best practices noted.

Asked how to increase awareness of confined space safety, panelists suggested working through industry associations and insurers, and possibly making identification of confined spaces - and preparation for them - part of the business licensing process.

ISEA sponsored the roundtable as a way to examine regulations, best practices and the use of personal protective equipment in confined spaces. Panelists were:

  • Sherman Williamson, Directorate of Enforcement Programs, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
  • James (Jim) Thornton, CIH, Director of Environmental, Health and Safety, Newport News Shipbuilding
  • Donald Raffo, Marine Chemist, Electric Boat Division of General Dynamics
  • Rick Graham, Regional Sales Development Manager, Mine Safety Appliances Co.
  • Brent Kleven, Fixed Gas & Flame Regional Sales Manager, Western United States, Scott Safety
  • Trent Smith, CSP, National Product Sales Manager, Honeywell Analytics, Safety Systems
  • Lawrence Russell, Senior Chemical/Marine Specialist, National Fire Protection Association

The Washington Roundtable was recorded in its entirety, and includes audience questions and answers as well as the panel discussion. The recording has been split into five segments of approximately a half hour each, arranged chronologically. The segments are MP3 files that can be played on any compatible device. For best results, download the target file to your computer, iPad or MP3 player.

Part 1 (29:59) - What keeps you up at night? What is the weakest link?
Part 2 (30:05) - Training. Employer awareness. Standards and regulations.
Part 3 (35:16) - Q&A. Rescue. Training.
Part 4 (22:37) - Atmosphere monitoring and sampling. Instrument calibration.
Part 5 (30:30) - Rescue best practices, training. Q&A. Wrap-up.


The Washington Roundtable was a project of the ISEA Marketing and Communications Committee, to help company marketing personnel and other equipment specialists, as well as representatives of user groups, stay up to date on the latest developments in a particular area of occupational safety and health.