What is a Confined Space
A confined space is defined as a place which is substantially enclosed (though not always entirely), and where serious injury can occur from hazardous substances or conditions within the space or nearby (e.g. lack of oxygen).
A Confined space is sometimes referred to as an enclosed space. A confined space is a space with limited entry and egress and not suitable for human inhabitants.. An example is the interior of a storage tank, occasionally entered by maintenance workers but not intended for human occupancy.
Legislation exists to ensure you and your employer take responsibility
Very often, injuries and deaths occur as a result of work being carried out such as welding, painting, flame cutting, use of chemicals.
Places can also become confined spaces during construction work, fabrication or modification.
Examples include but are not limited to:
- unventilated or poorly ventilated rooms.
What are the risks of working in a confined space?
Every year, a number of people are killed and others seriously injured working in confined spaces across a wide range of industries in the UK, from those involving complex plant to simple storage vessels.
Those killed include not only people working in confined spaces but those who try to rescue them without proper training and equipment.
Dangers can arise in confined spaces because of:
- lack of oxygen
- poisonous gas, fume or vapour
- liquids and solids suddenly filling the confined space, or releasing gases into it when disturbed
- fire and explosions
- residues left behind which can give off gas, fume or vapour
- hot working conditions.
Reducing risks from working in confined spaces
The Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 contain the following key duties:
1. Avoid entry to confined spaces
Ask yourself if the work is really necessary, or if it can be done in some other way that avoids the need to enter the confined space?
2. If entry to a confined space is unavoidable, follow a safe system of work
The results of your risk assessment should help to identify the necessary precautions to reduce the risk of injury, depending on the type of confined space, the associated risk and the work involved.
The safe system of work should be implemented and everyone involved should be trained and instructed.
3. Put in place adequate emergency arrangements before the work starts
The preparation of suitable and sufficient measures to be taken to ensure the safe rescue of a person in an emergency are required before a person enters a confined space.
These arrangements should also consider the safety of rescuers, first aid procedures and liaison with emergency services.