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Confined spaces has been defined by Mahmoudi (2009) as a working environment with only one or limited points of entry and exit. Confined spaces have also been defined by other scholars as working environments which are poorly ventilated. There are recommendations on how such confined spaces should be designed, and the safety measures that should be taken, as indicated in chapter thirteen of the coursework book.
The recommendations made in this book closely compares with the recommendations made by the American Welding Association. One of the common recommendations that have been made by this association and the book is that people working in confined spaces should have a special training and a permit before they can be allowed to enter or work in such settings.
According to American Welding Society (2013b), there have been cases in the past where people perish in confined spaces because of limited knowledge on how to deal with emergency.
In confined spaces, it is always very important to know how to respond to emergency because it could be the difference between life and death. People with limited knowledge about working in such environments may make rush decisions that may harm them or others within the working environment.
The association and the book give a similar recommendation about the need to keep away any unauthorized individuals from the confined spaces. It is not possible to determine when a disaster would strike. In case of a disaster, it is always difficult to rescue such unauthorized individuals.
Sometimes their reaction to an emergency may jeopardize the ability to rescue other people who are within the confined space, leading to casualties that would have been easily avoided.
Both sources agree that all the people working in a confined space should be very alert to a sign of trouble within their working environment. Any unusual movements or sound should be investigated immediately, and during such cases, most of the workers should start evacuating from the facility.
Effective communication is another common recommendation that is found in the two sources. It is clearly stated that at any time when workers are within the confined spaces, there should be a clear communication system by voice or sight. This is important to ensure that whenever there is an emergency in the workplace, the possibility that some workers will not be informed is eliminated.
It means that all workers can easily be informed of the dangers in case the facility is under any form of threat. The two sources also propose that any confined space must have emergency exists that can be used in case of occurrence of unexpected accident that needs speedy escape. This may include extra doors that are not in use under normal circumstances, but can be opened whenever there is an emergency.
The doors should be easy to open by people within or outside the confined space. Finally, these two sources agree on the fact that there should be trained personnel on rescue and evacuation manning the facility at every moment whenever there are employees within the facility.
The attendants should be responsible for ensuring that whenever there is an emergency within the confined space, an appropriate communication is made to everyone so that they can leave the facility as soon as possible to avoid casualties. In case there is something that he or she can do to help those who are in danger, then he or she should move with speed and help them before the disaster can strike.
The recommendations in the book and those given by the American Welding Association had some minor variations. For instance, the American Welding Association recommends that all the confined spaces should have special gadget that would continuously monitor air quality to ensure that poisonously gases and fumes do not exceed the specified limits. This recommendation is conspicuously missing in the book.
Chromium and Nickel Fumes
Chromium and nickel fumes are very poisonous if they are inhaled for a prolonged period. However, welders and other industrial workers are forced to work in environments where the threat of exposure to these fumes is real.
The American Welding Association- and many other organizations in this country- has proposed ways through which such fumes should be managed, and how people working in such environments should behave in order to ensure that they are protected from the hazards of the fumes.
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The report by American Welding Society (2013a) gives a series of recommendations on how the danger from these fumes can be controlled, and their recommendations closely compare to that given by other reliable sources of information.
One of the recommendations that are common in most of the sources analyzed in this research is that anyone working in an environment where there is a risk of chromium and nickel fumes should make a personal effort not to breathe the gas. There should be a concerted effort by the concerned individuals to keep their head away from the fumes that occur sporadically within the environment.
As Mahmoudi (2009) puts it, the protection against chromium and nickel fumes starts with an individual’s effort. American Welding Association and the above source both agree that there should be proper ventilations within working environment that are prone to production of chromium or nickel fumes.
This is to ensure that whenever these poisonous gases escape from the system by mistake, they can easily be diffused out of the working environment easily.
They also recommend that there should be a properly fitted exhaust that would ensure that chromium and nickel gases in the system are properly eliminated without penetrating into the working space. This is meant to ensure that people are protected from the fumes that may otherwise leak and affect them without their knowledge.
According to Asfahl, Hammer and Price (2004), it is important to note that sometimes the gases may leak and contaminate the air within the workplace without the knowledge of the people who are concerned. It may not be easy to determine if the level of chromium or nickel fumes in the workplace is within or above the accepted limits.
The American Welding Association recommends a regular sampling and testing of air within the workplace on a regular basis, especially whenever the air quality becomes questionable. When this takes place, measures should always be put in place to ensure that workers remain protected from the fumes just in case the test confirms that the levels of the poisonous fumes are above the accepted range.
The association also recommends that exposure to chromium and nickel fumes should be kept as low as it can be possible. This is to ensure that people are protected from these dangerous fumes when they are working within the facility.
The research by Asfahl, Hammer and Price (2004) say that employees working in an environment where they are exposed to chromium or nickel fumes should frequently take fresh milk, especially when leaving the workplace. This is to help dilute the effect of the poisonous gas in the body. This recommendation is missing in the information given by the American Welding Association.
Mahmoudi (2009) says that government, through the right departments, should make regular inspection on facilities that are prone to the production of chromium and nickel fumes to ensure that they are adhering to the standard rules and procedure of dealing with the poisonous fumes within their working environment.
Those found to have ignored some of the set policies should be subjected to serious disciplinary actions which may include fines or termination of a company’s operating license. Sometimes it may even be necessary to sue those who were expected to be responsible in this safety management.
This will help promote a sense of responsibility among the concerned stakeholders. It will deter acts of carelessness among the owners of these facilities, their supervisors, and other employees who should be managing the fumes. This recommendation is missing among those proposed by the American Welding Association.
Thoriated Tungsten Electrodes
Thorium is one of the most hazardous substances within the working environment. According to American Welding Society, (2014), “Thoriated tungsten electrodes contain thorium, a radioactive material that can pose health and environmental risks at elevated exposure levels.” As stated by this organization, thorium is a radioactive material.
It emits gamma and beta radiations which can pose a series of health problems to the internal organs of the body. According to Mahmoudi (2009), sometimes it is possible for one to inhale particles of dust during the grinding process that may expose him or her further to this poisonous gas.
Although dangers of exposure to thorium is minimal during the welding process, Asfahl, Hammer and Price (2004) say that radioactive dust is always created during the process of grinding thoriated tungsten electrodes.
When this poisonous gas is inhaled or ingested, it may cause serious damage to various internal organs, including the lungs. When using thoriated tungsten electrodes, Asfahl, Hammer and Price (2004) advise that it would necessary to understand the source of thorium exposure.
According to Mahmoudi (2009), a radioactive dust is always created during the process of grinding thoriated tungsten electrodes. This dust is rich in thorium, a highly poisonous substance that may cause serious health problem if it is inhaled in a substantial quantity. This is one of the hazardous substances that the American Welding Association has been dealing with in order to protect the welders.
Thorium has been suspected to be the cause of lung cancer, although this claim is yet to be confirmed by medical researchers. Its radioactive nature is known to have serious medical complications, especially when one is exposed to it for a long period. The association has made a series of recommendations that are focused on ensuring that welders are protected from this harmful substance.
At this stage, it would be necessary to determine some of the control measures that would be appropriate. The first control that the researcher proposes is the use of thorium-free tungsten electrodes which would not emit the poisonous dust during the grinding process. The welders should choose tungsten electrodes which contain cerium, zirconium, yttrium, or lanthanum instead of those that contain thorium.
These substances are not as poisonous as thorium. The researcher recommends that information in the safety data sheet should be read by the welders in order to understand the procedures and requirements when using this tungsten electrode.
When the use of thoriated tungsten electrodes cannot be avoided, then it is recommended that an efficient system of collecting dust particles should be used to ensure that they do not pose threat to the welders. It would also be necessary to inspect the ventilation system to ensure that such radioactive dust can be eliminated from the workplace within the shortest time possible.
All the workers who are responsible for the process of grinding the tungsten electrodes should have the knowledge of the dangers that this dust contain, and measures that should be taken to ensure that they remain safe from the poisonous gases.
If possible, they should be regularly trained on how to manage this dust through the use of protective clothing and responsible behavior within such a sensitive working environment. There should be standard procedures set by the relevant government department that will be responsible to ensure that welders are not subjected to dangerous working environment.
The recommendations given by the American Welding Association will have to be implemented by various entities. The individual welders will be expected to ensure that they follow the recommended dress code and behavioral pattern when working in these sensitive environments.
The organizations will need to observe the structural recommendations and the issue about training and qualifications of their employees. The relevant government department will need to ensure that they set the right policies, and have enough officers to ensure that firms follow these policies.
American Welding Society. (2013a). Chromium and Nickel in Welding Fume. Safety and Health Fact Sheet, 9(4), 1-3.
American Welding Society. (2013b). Hot Work in Confined Spaces. Safety and Health Fact Sheet, 9(11), 1-3.
American Welding Society. (2014). Thoriated Tungsten Electrodes. Safety and Health Fact Sheet, 3(27), 1-2.
Asfahl, C. R., Hammer, W., & Price, D. (2004). Occupational & industrial safety health management and engineering. New York, NY: Prentice-Hall.
Mahmoudi, M. (2009). Challenging cases in allergy and immunology. Dordrecht: Humana Press.