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Comment Environment, Health, Safety & Security

A very confined space

By Mike Resetarits |

Circa 1978, Reese and I visited a petrochemical plant in Corpus Christi, Texas. Primarily, our job was to inspect trays that had been installed in three columns. Each of those columns was about 10 ft in diameter and 100 ft tall. Our first mistake: We tried inspecting all three columns on the same day. By the time we got to the third column we were physically drained. Nevertheless, with shaky legs and arms, we climbed up the outside of the third column. We entered the top of the column via a 24-in. dia. manhole. Our second mistake: We told no member of the plant staff that we were entering the third column. Per our instructions, the deck manways on the 40 trays had been left open. This afforded us a path downward through the stack of trays, for our inspection. I went down first. Reese followed (above me). At each successive tray, I checked the installation and took a few measurements. Above me, Reese took notes. The trays were spaced 2 ft apart. The manway cross-section was only 17 in. by 17 in. This made descents, and ascents, difficult. After about one hour, Trays 1 to 30 were sufficiently inspected, and there were just 10 more trays to go, but I began to feel light-headed and weak. Reese was just above me, but I could only see his…
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