* What is a ‘confined space’? A confined space is a place that is substantially (although not always entirely) enclosed where there is a risk of death or serious injury from hazardous substances or dangerous conditions (e. g. lack of oxygen). 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: chambers , tanks, silos, vats, pits, trenches, sewers, drains, flues, ductwork, unventilated or poorly ventilated rooms What are the risks of working in confined spaces? 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 * dust * hot working conditions. Legal duties and obligations relating to confined spaces As well as the moral duty of employers to protect employees and members of the public, General Health and Safety Legislation covers all employers and workplaces.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, 1999 require that a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks for all work activities is carried out for the purpose of deciding what measures are necessary for safety. For work in confined spaces this means identifying the hazards present, assessing the risks and determining what precautions to take. In most cases the assessment will include consideration of: * the task * the working environment * working materials and tools the suitability of those carrying out the task * arrangements for emergency rescue. You may need to appoint competent people to help manage the risks and ensure that employees are adequately trained and instructed. You may be the best person to do this, or you may need to train someone else to manage risks or engage the services of a competent person for additional help. 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.