Rosengren Law Office, LLC

Workplace injury: Confined spaces can be deadly

Minnesota workers in various industries are exposed to the dangers posed by confined spaces. Employers must inform employees of potential hazards, and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has stringent rules about confined spaces and regulating access to these areas to help prevent an employee from suffering a workplace injury. Many workers do not realize that confined spaces are not necessarily small -- even a tanker is a confined space because there are limited entry and exit points.

Some confined spaces require permits for anyone entering them because there are severe safety and health risks present. Hazards could include toxic atmospheres, the lack of oxygen, flammable atmospheres, physical or mechanical hazards, or loose materials such as grain that could engulf a worker in a grain bin. Another risk is the fact that tasks such as welding can change an area that was deemed safe into a space with insufficient oxygen.

Circumstances and causes for making spaces hazardous include inadequate ventilation that allows accumulation of harmful gases. Some gases and even accumulated dust need only a spark to set off an explosion. Sometimes, nitrogen is used to prevent fire, but it can cause death to workers who are not equipped with respirators. Workers in confined spaces must always be in radio contact with a co-worker outside to ensure immediate connection with emergency services when necessary.

Anyone in Minnesota who is dealing with the consequences of a workplace injury suffered in a confined space might be entitled to workers' compensation benefits. An experienced attorney can provide valuable support and guidance with the navigation of the benefits claims process. Medical expenses are typically paid immediately, and workers who are unable to return to work for a certain number of days will receive a wage-replacement package.

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