If your risk assessment identifies risks of serious injury from work in confined spaces, these regulations apply and require you to:
prohibit entry into a confined space to carry out work unless there is no other reasonably practicable method to carry out the work
modify the confined space if possible so that entry is not necessary e.g. have the work done from outside
ensure any such work in a confined space is carried out in accordance with a Safe System of Work
ensure adequate arrangements are made for the rescue of any person in the event of an emergency (see below)
ensure confined space entry is controlled via a permit to work system.
The following hazard types (the specified risks) should be addressed in the risk assessment with the control measures then detailed in the permit to work:
Fire or explosion
Loss of consciousness from increase in body temperature/lack of oxygen
Asphyxiation from gas/fume/vapour/lack of oxygen
Drowning from an increased level of fluid
Asphyxiation from a free flowing solid
Entrapment by a free flowing solid
Working at height
Restricted space/low ceiling height
Contact with electricity/electrical cables
Authoritative guidance on methods by which compliance with the Confined Spaces Regulations may be achieved is given in the form of an Approved Code of Practice (ACoP) and Guidance published by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE ACoP L101) – Safe Working in Confined Spaces.
Only a competent person can enter a confined space and all other personnel should be trained in emergency rescue procedures. The ‘top man’ should never enter the confined space to perform a rescue.
Workers should have adequate training and experience appropriate to the task and their expected roles and responsibilities.
Are there ‘classes’ of confined spaces?
It is noticeable that some training organisations are providing certificates for different classes of confined space. In reality, according to the Regulations, a space is either ‘confined’ as per the regulations, or not.
Care should be taken if such certificates are offered, as full training as required by the Regulations may not have taken place.
Some organisations offer on-line courses, however, the acceptability of such training should be carefully considered in line with the risk assessment process previously highlighted.
The following emergency arrangements should be considered in the risk assessment and detailed in the permit to work:
How the alarm would be raised e.g. communication methods
Equipment required e.g. life lines/first aid equipment/breathing apparatus
Number of competent persons required
Identification of plant in the area that may need to be shut down
Fire precautions/extinguishing equipment
Precautions to protect nominated rescuers
Emergency means of access/egress
First aid/medical assistance to be available including resuscitation equipment
Means of contacting emergency services
Training/refresher training for rescue personnel.
Key Points to Note
Work in confined spaces should only occur if it is not practicable to do the work by another method
Carefully consider the level of supervision required
Consider what communications equipment may be require
Oxygen levels below 16% can lead to fatalities
A practice that has often been used known as ‘sweetening’ should not be considered due to increased flammability of the atmosphere (this is a deliberate addition of oxygen)
Gas meters should be appropriate for the type of atmosphere and routinely calibrated
Fitness levels required for staff to enter confined spaces should be determined
The possibility of purging/ventilating the space and options to isolate the space require consideration.
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