A confined space is a place that is sustainably enclosed and where serious injuries can occur from hazardous substances or conditions within the space or nearby (e.g., lack of oxygen)
According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)
Many people are killed or are severely injured while working in confined spaces every year in the UK. This happens in a wide range of industries from those involving complex to simple tasks. Those killed as a result of confined work include people working in confined spaces and those trying to help them without prior training and adequate equipment.
What is a Confined Space?
A confined space as explained earlier is any space with enclosed nature where there is a risk of death or serious health injuries. Some confined spaces are easy to identify. Such as:
- Storage tanks
- Reaction vessels
- Enclosed drains
What are the Dangers of Confined Spaces?
When talking about confined space dangers, they are numerous and can occur due to various issues:
- Lack of oxygen
- Poisonous gas, fumes, or vapors
- Liquids or gases that can suddenly fill space
- Fires and explosions from flammable vapors or excessive oxygen
- The residue left in tanks can give off fumes or vapors
- Dust present in high concentrations
- Hot conditions leading to an increase in temperature
What Does the Law Say?
According to the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, employers must conduct appropriate and sufficient risk assessments for all the activities to decide what measures can help control the risks and work safely.
This means identifying and assessing the hazards and risks of confined spaces and taking precautions accordingly to control and mitigate the risks.
In most cases your risk assessment must include:
- Tasks to be carried out inside the confined spaces
- The work environment including the actual confined space and the area around it
- The tools and equipment to be used in confined spaces and methods of getting the equipment in confined areas and its suitability for the work environment
- The suitability of those carrying out the task to ensure they are both physically and mentally fit to conduct such work
If a conduct risk assessment identifies confined space risks, then the Confined Space Regulations 1997 are implemented. Such regulations involve the key duties:
- Avoid entry to the confined areas
- If it is necessary to work in a confined space, then follow the proper safe system of work
- Have in place proper emergency arrangements before the starting the work
Avoid Entering Confined Spaces
Employers must identify and analyses ways to see if their employees can work from outside of a confined space. Better work planning and an effective approach can help minimize the need for confined space entry.
If the situation is unavoidable and it is necessary to work from inside a confined area, then it is advisable to follow proper precautionary measures to undertake the confined space tasks.
Safe System of Work
It is essential to enter a confined area to conduct work, employers must ensure that their staff follows the proper safe system of work to lower the chance of any hazard or incident as much as possible.
Use the information from your risk assessment to identify the necessary precautions to take to mitigate the risks.
Everyone involved in the process must be adequately trained, instructed and guided to ensure they know how to work safely.
Is a Permit to Work Needed to Work in Confined Spaces?
Yes, a permit to work ensures that a formal check is undertaken to guarantee all the elements of the safe system of work are in place before individuals are allowed to enter confined areas to undertake the work.
Some prominent features of a permit to work are:
- Clear identification of who may be suitable for work
- Adequate instruction and guidance with regards to permit
- Regular monitoring and auditing of the tasks to ensure work is undertaken carefully and safely
Confined Space Training
It is a legal duty of employers to give guidance, instruction and adequate confined space training to their staff to ensure they are following safe systems of work and are well aware of the nature of work and its related risks. Proper training ensures they are competent enough to carry out work safely, as well as help others around them in case of an emergency.
This article is a brief guide on working safely in confined spaces. It explains the dangers related to confined space work, and the confined space laws and regulations. It further describes what one can do in case of an emergency and the importance of safe systems of work to undertake the task securely and competently.
It is advisable to avoid confined spaces as much as possible and do the work outside of such areas, but if it is essential to work within then proper guidance and control measures must be followed to ensure workplace safety. Piattaforma lavoro