Although much of the work we carry out involves working at height, accessing confined spaces is another important aspect of what we do. A confined space is defined as any space of an enclosed nature that carries a risk of serious injury or fatality from hazardous substances or dangerous conditions (such as a lack of oxygen). These spaces can include but are not limited to:
- Drains and sewers
- Storage tanks
- Silos and pits
- Combustion chambers
- Reaction vessels
In this post we will cover the various risks and regulations around working with confined spaces. We will also discuss the basics of equipment and best practices and point you in the right direction for finding out further information.
Risks & regulations
There are a range of risks faced by those accessing and working in confined spaces, from the obvious to the less apparent. An awareness of all the potential dangers is key in order to assess the risks and take the necessary precautions. Such specified risks can include the following:
- Lack of oxygen
- Fire and explosions
- Poisonous gas, fume or vapour
- Increase in liquid or solid filling the space
- Increase in body temperature due to hot conditions
- High concentrations of dust
With a high risk of injury and death, the Confined Space Regulations were introduced in 1997 in order to better moderate the industry and those working on a self-employed basis. It is now the law to have received training prior to entering or working with confined spaces and a failure to comply can result in prosecution.
The 1997 Confined Spaces Regulations explain the following key duties:
- Avoid entry to confined spaces, e.g. by doing work from outside
- If entry to a confined space is unavoidable, follow a safe system of work
- Put in place adequate emergency arrangements before the work starts
If the work cannot be completed without entering a confined space then it is essential that a safe system of work is established. This will vary depending on the type of confined space but it must be carried out with the sole aim of reducing the chance of injury.
Appoint a supervisor to oversee the process and make certain that the necessary precautions are taken and adhered to. These responsibilities include ensuring all workers are fully trained, mechanical and electrical isolation of equipment, adequate ventilation, supply of appropriate equipment and tools, as well as the necessary emergency and rescue provisions in place.
It is essential that the most appropriate equipment is used in all confined spaces scenarios. Suitable confined space access equipment is designed to keep workers safe and in compliance with the related Health and Safety regulations. Equipment you will need to consider includes:
- Breathing apparatus
We offer the full range of necessary equipment via our Shop.
Working in confined spaces poses a number of risks for the workers and supervisors involved but these can be mitigated with the appropriate training and preparation. For more information on how Martin Castle Ltd may be able to help, whether for a confined space job or for training, get in touch with the team.