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Working Safely In Confined Spaces

A number of people are killed or seriously injured in Great Britain each year in confined spaces. Those killed include people working in the confined space and those who try to rescue them without proper training and equipment.

What is a confined space?

It can be any space of an enclosed nature where there is a risk of death or serious injury from hazardous substances or dangerous conditions (e.g. lack of oxygen).

Some confined spaces are fairly easy to identify, e.g. enclosures with limited openings;

■ storage tanks;

■ silos;

■ reaction vessels;

■ enclosed drains;

■ sewers.

Others may be less obvious, but can be equally dangerous, for example:

■ open-topped chambers;

■ vats;

■ combustion chambers in furnaces etc;

■ duct work;

■ unventilated or poorly ventilated rooms.

Some places may become confined spaces when work is carried out, or during their construction, fabrication or subsequent modification.

What are the dangers from confined spaces?

Dangers can arise in confined spaces because of the following issues.

■ A lack of oxygen.

■ Poisonous gas, fume or vapour.

■ Liquids and solids which can suddenly fill the space, or release gases into it, when disturbed.

■ Fire and explosions

■ Residues left in tanks, vessels etc, or remaining on internal surfaces, which can give off gas, fume or vapour.

■ Dust present in high concentrations

■ Hot conditions leading to a dangerous increase in body temperature

What the law says

You must carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks for all work activities to decide what measures are necessary for safety (under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, regulation 3).

If your assessment identifies risks of serious injury from work in confined spaces, the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 apply. These regulations contain the following key duties:

■ avoid entry to confined spaces, e.g. by doing the work from outside;

■ if entry to a confined space is unavoidable, follow a safe system of work; and

■ put in place adequate emergency arrangements before the work starts.

These duties, and how to carry them out are described here.

To obtain a better understanding of safety, and the assessment of risk, when working within confined spaces, keeping individuals and those around them safe, there are courses available for Confined Space Awareness and those who supervise/manage Confined Spaces.

For more information, or to book a course, contact us below:

01782 438813

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