Work in confined spaces such as drains, pits, tanks and other enclosed places can kill if workers are overcome by low oxygen levels or a build up of hazardous gases. There can be little warning before unconsciousness takes hold leaving very little time to get help.
It can be fumes in the atmosphere which can cause the harm along with other hazards which need to be considered including flammable substances, explosive atmospheres, heat stress, free-flowing solids and liquids. These are known as “specified risks” within the Confined Space Regulations 1997.
The HSE’s guidance was updated in December 2014. It is worth reading if you oversee confined spaces or work within them and forms the HSE’s primary source of information on the subject. The wording has been made clearer than in the previous version, although the meaning has unchanged.
“A confined space is not necessarily
A) Enclosed on all sides,
B) Small and/or difficult to work in,
C) Difficult to get in or out of or
D) A place where people do not regularly work.”
A confined space could include a spray booth, wood pellet store, an unventilated room where fumes are generated, tank containing flammable residues, manholes and sewers.
Contact us if your health and safety documentation needs updating, or find out more about working in confined spaces on the HSE website.