Richard A. Hanson © 2004
Purpose: For some of you, your primary source of income may not be blacksmithing. Many of you might be employed as mechanics, machinists or welders and as such, you may be at times be required to enter what OSHA defines as “Confined Spaces”. OSHA has set very strict requirements for acceptable atmospheres in confined spaces before entry can be permitted. The regulations require that the atmosphere of confined spaces be monitored either on a periodic or continual basis while workers are in the space. The cost of appropriate monitoring instruments runs several thousand dollars apiece and several may be needed to test for all possible hazardous contaminants. With most of us, our income is rather meager and after the purchase of bare necessities such as beer and Bratwurst, there is little if any disposable income left for the purchase of expensive pieces of equipment that will seldom be used. With that in mind, I have devised some relatively simple tests that will allow you to test the atmosphere of a confined space to determine if it is suitable for entry. Read this entire document before attempting any test procedures!
Disclaimer: This document is not Politically Correct, nor is it Idiot Proof. If you get a chuckle out of it, that was my intent. If you actually try any of these tests, may God have mercy on your soul.
OSHA Regulations require that the atmosphere of any confined space be tested for the following hazards prior to entry:
Flammability: If the atmosphere contains flammable vapors in excess of 10% of the Lower Explosive Limit (LEL) entry cannot be allowed.
Oxygen Content: Oxygen concentration in the air must be between 19.5% and 23.5%.
Toxicity: The concentration of toxic contaminants in the air must be below the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL) of the substance.
Corrosive Material: You must test for corrosive materials if they have been present or are suspected in the confined space.
Radiation: If radiation is or suspected to be a hazard of the space, appropriate tests must be conducted to determine that levels are safe for entry.
Flammability Test: Take the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the last product contained in the space, light it and pass it over the opening to the space. If an explosion occurs proceed no further till the fire goes out. If you are killed in the explosion, you need not conduct further tests. If no explosion or fire occurs, consider the atmosphere non flammable.
Oxygen Test: Take a chicken, tie a long piece of heavy twine to one of the chicken’s legs tie the other end of the twine to a secure fixture outside the space. Throw the chicken into the confined space. Count to 200 and use the string to retrieve the chicken. If the chicken is still alive, consider the oxygen content of the atmosphere safe for entry.
Toxicity: Throw the chicken back into the space and make sure that it hits a puddle of any residual material in the space. Retrieve the chicken via the twine. Observe chicken for 15 minutes or two cups of coffee which ever comes first, for any signs of poisoning. If you retrieve a dead chicken do not enter the space. Likewise if the chicken dies before you have consumed your second cup, entry is not advised.
Corrosive Materials: Take the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the last product contained in the confined space and wipe it around the inside of the opening of the space. If the MSDS turns black and crumbles or if the hand holding it turns black and crumbles, consider the atmosphere to be corrosive. If the hand holding the MSDS falls off and drops into the space, do not attempt to retrieve the hand. Seek medical assistance immediately. If the MSDS burst into flame, this is a good indication that the last substance in the space was highly reactive. It is also highly recommended that you immediately drop a flaming MSDS.
Radiation: Radiation is invisible. It can only be detected using proper tests. If radiation is suspected to be a hazard you must test for it before entering the space. If the chicken has survived all the previous tests, you may continue to use the same chicken. If the chicken has met an untimely demise as a result of previous testing, it may still be possible to use it if it is undamaged from the corrosive test. Once again throw in the chicken, but be sure to shorten the twin so that the chicken does not fall clear to the bottom of the space. This test will provide the best results with the chicken suspended in the air near the center of the space. If the opening to the space is on the side, you may have to tie the chicken to a long pole. Once again expose the chicken for a minimum of two cups of coffee then retrieve the chicken. If the chicken is well done, consider that radiation is a hazard of the space. While it is acceptable to consume chickens that succumb to this test, this directive should in no way be construed to be a license to kill and eat perfectly good test chickens. Anyone caught cooking and eating perfectly good test chickens will be terminated immediately.
Note: If you do decide to eat the chicken, it is advisable to remove the feathers first and as a further warning, while the material in the middle of the chicken may be thoroughly cooked, it is NOT stuffing.