2024 Webinar: Preventing Fatalities in Confined Spaces at Dams

When:  May 14, 2024 from 12:00 to 14:00 (ET)
Speaker(s): Paul Schweiger, P.E., Gannett Fleming, Inc., Vice President and Manager, Dams and Hydraulics Section; Joshua Paquet, Gannett Fleming, Inc., Subject Matter Expert 

PDH's: This webinar is eligible for 2 PDH credits.

Most dams have facilities that include permit-required confined spaces. These spaces can include towers, risers, galleries, manholes, vaults, conduits, instrument enclosures, tunnels, adits, drainage systems, etc., that are often unmarked and possess several unique hazards to dam inspectors, operators, and trespassers that are not intuitively obvious without confined space training. Unfortunately, several dam inspectors, contractors, and operators have recently lost their lives while working in and around confined spaces at dams. In addition to the tragic loss of life, the dam owners and others responsible for conducting work at these dams were subject to significant litigation and payment of fines. In almost all cases, the experience drastically changed the policies and practices of these dam owners and organizations, including the implementation of mandatory training of their staff, clearly marking confined spaces as hazardous areas, and restricting access to these spaces.  

The professionals tasked with designing, inspecting, or working in or around confined spaces at dams should have training to help them identify permit-required confined spaces and to know how they need to be treated. Before performing a manned inspection of a permit-required confined space at a dam, a confined space entry plan should be developed that includes advanced notifications, assigned inspection team responsibilities, use of special equipment, and following well-established confined space entry protocols.   

The purpose of this webinar is to provide dam safety professionals an introduction into permit-required confined spaces at dams and the challenges and special requirements that these spaces entail. The importance of this topic will be reinforced using case histories at dams that included loss of life and near-tragedies. Factors to be considered before entering a confined space will be discussed along with recommendations for training personnel, needed equipment, and the preparation of a confined entry plan.  These and other lessons learned will be shared to serve as a helpful resource for dam safety professionals. 

Key Takeaways: 
1. Learn about permit-required confined spaces and where they most commonly occur at dams.
2. Gain an awareness of confined space incidents that have occurred at low head dams.
3. Understand how permit-required confined spaces need to be treated at dams.
4. Review best practice techniques for safely entering permit-required confined spaces.
5. Review available resources for confined spaces at dams.