A manhole is a confined space used as an access point to reach an underground public utility for inspection, maintenance, manhole safety, and upgrade purposes. The majority of underground constructions, like sewage, storm drains, electricity, district heating, and gas do involve the use of manholes.
Lack of attention to the safety needs of people working inside and around manholes may give rise to hazards, which might lead to accidents, such as falls and drowning. The essence of observing safety can never be overemphasized when working on projects involving manholes. That being said, here are six manhole safety tips for construction workers:
Proper Training For Workers
The fact that manholes are underground confined spaces makes working there very tricky. Besides, it can be quite difficult to get out quickly in the event of accidents and emergencies. Hence, nobody should do a manhole construction job without first having proper training on the risks and dangers involved.
There should be a proper orientation on the safety, rescue, and communication equipment a worker may need in case of an emergency. Getting adequate training will prepare the worker for whatever may happen in the manhole. This also minimizes the dangers as much as possible.
The workers outside the manhole must also be trained on how to support the workers inside to ensure a reliable overall safety support system.
Evaluation Of The Construction Equipment
The situation around and inside a manhole must be certified safe before any employee can enter. Ensure all gas valves are off, and the pipe sludge should be appropriately checked as they can be a carrier of toxic gas.
Workers must be equipped with equipment that would make their jobs faster, like manhole lifting keys used to lift manhole covers easily. This will lessen the time spent inside the confined space and reduce exposure to risk and contaminants. Safety equipment should also be provided and evaluated carefully before the commencement of the job.
Another important thing is good lighting. Workers should ensure there’s good lighting in the manhole area before entry. Such can prevent accidents and hasten the process since workers will be able to see clearly what they’re doing.
Provide Warning Signs On The Construction Site
The head of construction should place warning signs where they’re visible for workers and passersby. These will notify them of the inherent hazards of the construction site. For one, a barricade, like a fence or tied rope, may also be used to isolate the manhole work spot.
However, warning signs may be enough in preventing accidents as some people, out of curiosity, will still like to peer into the manhole to see how the work is being done. Thus, having one or more people outside the manhole would be best as they can easily ward off people who aren’t part of the work or help workers inside in case of manhole emergencies.
Compulsory Use Of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
It’s pertinent that workers be protected with the use of PPEs. This is because manholes are usually filled with dangerous contaminants, like bacteria, protozoa, viruses, and parasitic worms. These contaminants can cause diseases in humans.
As such, health and safety regulations should always be checked for those coming into contact with the sewage. Having as many protective gears as possible will keep any worker safe from the said contaminants, as well as from scrapes, cuts, and injuries.
Employers should provide these gears and enforce their proper usage. In addition, workers should also be vaccinated from time to time. This helps them develop a strong immune system against sewage contaminants.
Proper Safety Precautions Education
Employees should have regular training on standard manhole safety precautions. The safety guidelines can be reviewed periodically to keep workers updated on changes and new safety solutions.
They should be taught standard hygiene practices, such as avoiding touching the nose, eyes, mouth, face, and open wounds with their hands while working to prevent infections. They should also not eat around the work area; instead, there should be a designated area for this.
Construction workers should also be careful when handling clean areas to prevent cross-contamination. Gloves should be worn all the time to keep the hands clean. Workers should also be familiar with the dangers of moving around with worn working gears when they’re away from the job site. More so, manhole workers should ensure they remove water waste and debris stored inside foot gears and clothing before leaving the construction site.
Provide Common Manhole Safety Equipment
Employers must make available standard safety equipment for emergency circumstances to foster workers’ safety. This includes a first aid box, safety harness, protective clothing, footgear, rescue ropes, certified breathing aid, safety helmet, communication devices, and gloves.
All these items must be certified safe, and workers should never use outdated methods or equipment when working in a manhole.
A manhole site should also have ventilation blowers to supply fresh air to the workers inside the manhole. Using a ventilation blower also ensures that the air inside is safe. If there are generators on the worksite, you should remove them far away to prevent poisoning the air. In addition, all pipelines connected to the manhole should be blanked before work starts. This will prevent any dangerous fumes or gas from entering the manhole while workers are there.
More importantly, there should always be a proper rescue plan. Having a “what if” plan can eliminate unnecessary delays when there’s an emergency. Besides, one or more persons with training in emergency rescue should always be around to help those inside the manhole in case of any unfortunate incident.
With proper training and the right safety equipment, workers can minimize accidents and injuries when working in a manhole. All safety precautions should always be adhered to inside and around the manhole construction area at all times. Site managers should ensure they only hire competent workers. Also, always evaluate the work situation, and do a risk assessment before entry. This way, workers that go into manholes are confident that they’re safe and will return in one piece.