Western Courier

Confined Spaces

Mathew Ward

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 Don Mutch, an environmental specialist and safety technician at Western Illinois University, gave a presentation to the environmental occupational safety class (EOS 377) on Sept 15.

  The topic: hazards of working in confined spaces. During this presentation, Mutch talked about the various permits required for working in confined spaces. He also discussed the safety precautions needed in order to work in these conditions.

 Health sciences and social work professor, Fetene Gebrewold, discussed the protocol for working in such conditions.

 “(Mutch) talked about how a group of people or even one person, before they enter a confined space, they have to know the hazards that may be involved in the confined space,” Gebrewold said. “There may be various kinds of chemicals, asphyxiates  or a lack of oxygen.”

 Gebrewold said that workers in these spaces need monitoring in case something goes wrong.

 “So every time we work in a confined space, we need to have people call attendance on the outside and communicate with the person on the inside if they are experiencing any kind of problem,” Gebrewold said. “The attendant must have an emergency plan with the city of Macomb or the fire department in case there is an emergency. There is a lot of hazards and a lot of injuries and that’s why you need a permit.”

 Mutch first started off with a video summarizing what his students learn in class. Next, he showed various tools used to inspect confined spaces, and what each does. He then took the students out for a demonstration. This demonstration involved a mock inspection of a manhole between Horrabin and
Stipes halls.

 Gebrewold explained the demonstration as a more hands-on example rather than what was learned in class.

 “We were able to go out there and see it visually, see it and touch it and how he measured, for instance, the oxygen level,” Gebrewold said. “We did that and (the students) were able to visually see that inspection and they also wrote a report on it.”

 Gebrewold then discussed different ways to prevent dangers in confined spaces.

 “I think the best way is to read the code of federal regulations,” Gebrewold said. “Particularly managers and supervisors and safety personnel. They are responsible for the employees. Employee training is very important and the regulation because there could be a penalty for violation of the code
of regulations.”

 Gebrewold said that personnel need to be trained and have an understanding and orientation about permits required for working in confined spaces.

 “So our students would have a thorough knowledge of permits required in compliance with space because they studied the code of federal regulations and are being tested on it,” Gebrewold said.

 Gebrewold said that because of Mutch, students at Western get the opportunity to strengthen their ability to inspect confined spaces and the various hazards and safety precautions that need to be taken into account.

 Gebrewold said that despite the inevitable injuries that occur because of confined spaces, none have happened on campus yet.

 “Overall though, if you take a look at various industries, thousands and thousands across the United States, there’s bound to be an injury somehow,” Gebrewold said.  “Nobody on campus has though. I don’t think there is because they take their job seriously. Don Mutch and other safety personnel do their job right.”

 Gebrewold explained that Mutch has been giving presentations about confined spaces for many years and that it is important he continues to do it.

 “Don Mutch has been doing this for quite some time,” Gebrewold said. “It’s very important you follow protocol. He always reminds us that we need to follow these things.”

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The independent student newspaper of Western Illinois University. Serving Macomb since 1905.
Confined Spaces