In many worksite situations, workers are at risk for engulfment hazards. Engulfment results when a worker is surrounded and overcome by a granular substance such as soil, sand, gravel, sawdust, seed, grain, or flour or if submerged in a liquid such as water or a chemical. Engulfment causes physical harm when the material has enough force on the body to cause injury or death by constriction, crushing, or strangulation. Respiratory hazards associated with engulfment includes suffocation from breathing in a fine substance that fills the lungs or from drowning in a liquid.
Trenches or excavation pits at construction sites pose an engulfment hazard when a cave-in or soil collapse engulf a worker. These trenches or open pits should have an adequate number of exit ladders, daily safety inspections, and should include safety engineering such as proper shoring and sloping.
Piles of loose granular materials pose an engulfment hazard if they shift or slide. Workers should not stand, climb, or walk on piles of materials without safety equipment like a hoist with a boatswain’s chair or a body harness. The hoist operator should pay out and retrieve excess line to maintain reasonable tautness. The hoist should be able to stop and hold any expected load including the impact of a fall.
Workers should be instructed on the hazards of over-sized containers and storage bins at the worksite as well as the materials kept in them. They should also be instructed on safety protocols, rescue operations, and the use of life safety equipment.
Trenches or excavation pits at construction sites pose a cave-in hazard where the collapsing soil can engulf workers. Such operations should have an adequate number of exit ladders, daily safety inspections, and should include engineering principles such as shoring and sloping.
Containers can be dangerous if workers need to enter them for maintenance or repair, or if they need to work over them to load or unclog materials. Containers include storage bins, silos, vats, tanks, bunkers, and hoppers. The dangers involved include entering or falling into a confined space, a hazardous atmosphere, and/or engulfment by the materials.
Each container type at a site should be evaluated to determine if it is a confined space. Open containers should have a railing and toe board around them. If there is no railing, there should be a grate or walkway with railings. If work is necessary over an open container without railings or a grate, workers should wear safety harnesses with retrieval lines.
Workers should not enter a container unless they are wearing a retrieval harness. They should have a buddy on the outside of the container and a reliable form of communication between them. Use of lockout/tagout protocols should be enforced to ensure that mechanical moving parts like augers do not activate and materials do not shift underneath the worker.