Atmospheric Condition TBT 17


1. Review any accidents or "near accidents" from the past week.

2. Describe the hazards of the work as they relate to your project. Explain or show the SAFE way of doing the job.

3. Give the Tool box Safety Talk

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One hazard associated with excavation and trenching is the possible presence of hazardous atmosphere.

A hazardous atmosphere is an atmosphere that by reason of being explosive, flammable, poisonous, corrosive, oxidizing, irritating, oxygen-deficient, toxic, or otherwise harmful may cause death, illness, or injury to persons exposed to it. 

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In excavation work, hazardous atmospheres may be generated as toxic gasses and can be released by the digging or accumulate at the bottom of the trench. To help ensure exposure to hazardous atmospheres, take these steps:

  • Ensure that the competent person tests the atmosphere in excavations over 4 feet deep if a hazardous atmosphere exists or could reasonably be expected to exist. A hazardous atmosphere could be expected, for example, in excavations in landfill areas, in excavations in areas where hazardous substances are stored nearby, or in excavations near or containing gas pipelines.
  • Conduct testing for atmospheric contaminants before employees enter the trench and on a regular basis to ensure that the trench remains safe.
  • Increase the frequency of testing if equipment is operating in the trench or if welding, cutting, or burning is done in the trench. These operations, too, can generate toxic fumes.
  • Take precautions to prevent employee exposure to atmospheres containing less than 19.5 percent oxygen and other hazardous atmospheres. These precautions may include providing proper respiratory protection or forced ventilation of the workspace.
  • Make sure that employees required to wear respirators are trained, fit-tested, and enrolled in the respiratory protection program

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