Working in Confined Spaces
Working in Confined Spaces
Any work place from which it is not possible to simply walk away in an emergency must be a
confined space. Closed tanks and vessels, roof voids, undercrofts, large ducts and pipes,
inspection chambers etc. are all examples of confined spaces which may spring to mind.
Any work mishap such as a bumped head, cut finger etc is more serious in a confined space
because of the added difficulty of getting to first aid.
The Health & Safety at Work Act is clear in that a Safe Place of Work with safe access and
egress is required. In addition a safe system of work and safe work equipment have to be
provided. No relaxation of these regulations is allowed for confined spaces.
Ensuring a Safe System of Work
1 No one who suffers from claustrophobia should be expected to work in a confined space. They are a risk to themselves and to others.
2 A Permit to Work System should be set up, to examine all possible hazards and to state the precautions to be taken against each one.
3 A Permit to Work is only a piece of paper. To be effective it has to be read and understood by everyone involved in the job. Make sure you do, before you start the job. Once inside it may be too late to ask questions.
4 Make sure the lighting provision is adequate and safe, i.e. flameproof if fumes, solvents or paint etc are to be used. Have ‘back up’ torches ready in case of lighting failure (also flameproof), Evacuate if lighting fails.
5 Never enter a confined space alone or if no one knows you are in there. If the hazard warrants it, the Permit to Work will insist on a ‘2nd man’ stationed at the entrance to communicate with you.
6 Check your communications system before entering, and regularly whilst working, even if the system consists only of shouting. Radios or intercoms need to be flameproof (as lighting, above). Evacuate if communications fail.
7 If access involves crawling or scrambling, rehearse getting out again as soon as you go in, in case you need to do so in a hurry later, i.e. find out if feet first or head first is quickest.
8 If breathing apparatus is not deemed necessary, ensure space is well ventilated by a blower fan before entering and throughout period of work. Oxygen deficiency can occur due to sludge left in a tank or even just by a tank rusting. Evacuate if ventilation fails.
9 Evacuate immediately if breathing difficulty occurs. Collapse or death can occur in a very short time. Any delay can put rescuers at risk too - so don’t.
10 Evacuate immediately if any of the conditions or precautions stated in the Permit to Work are not or cease to be as stipulated.
For more information visit www.hse.gov.uk