Dangers at home: Confined spaces and their potential risks

Learn how to keep your family safe


We don’t often complete hazard assessments at home. Whether we are gathering vegetables from a cellar, using chemicals in our garage or going into our crawl space to identify an issue we assume that we are safe. The setting is familiar and it is easy to become complacent. As safe as we feel at home though, we must remember that staying safe is a 24-hour job.

In July 1999, a teenager was asked to retrieve vegetables from an underground cellar adjacent her farmhouse. When the teen did not return, a sibling and his father went to investigate and found the teen unconscious on the floor. The second teen and his father attempted to save her and both also soon collapsed. The cellar, which was a confined space, had only one way in and out, no ventilation and contained a water well.

When rescuers arrived at the scene, they began confined space entry protocol and discovered that the cellar contained only six percent oxygen. Respiratory Protection Standards consider any area with an oxygen level below 19.5 percent to be oxygen-deficient and immediately dangerous to life or health.

By the time rescuers arrived, both children were in respiratory arrest and the father was in critical condition with late-stage hypoxia.

A simple task at home can be filled with unidentified risks. This tragedy could have been avoided if the family had known how to properly identify hazards, understand the risk of low oxygen and treat the area as a confined space entry.

When we talk about Confined Space Entry training, most people associate it with industrial or construction work areas. This makes sense since most workers are required to have Confined Space Entry training prior to working on a job site.

But, the lessons learned during confined space entry classes are useful in any environment. A confined space is any area that has limited or restricted means for entry or exit and is not designed for people to work or live in and will have a hazardous atmosphere. This can include things ranging from industrial tanks to a crawl space in your house.

Confined spaces can be found anywhere: at work, at home, or even in recreational areas. Regardless of the location of a confined space, it is important to know how to properly assess and handle the hazards.

Hazards don’t care if you are at work or at home. Oxygen deficiency can happen anywhere and, the consequences can be deadly.

If you would like to learn how to properly identify hazards and learn to properly handle situations, such as confined space entry, you should look into attending one of our courses. The lessons learned in our classroom can save lives on the job site and in your home. You can sign up for our confined space entry courses here.