Confined spaces

Entry into confined spaces can be extremely hazardous. In the UK an average of 15 people die each year as a result of lack of oxygen, poisonous gases, fumes or vapours, fire, explosions and excessive heat.

In the UK the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 were introduced to put stricter controls on work in confined spaces. They include a definition of confined spaces and the risks associated with working in them. A confined space is defined as ‘Any place, including any chamber, tank, vat, silo, pit, trench, pipe, sewer, flue, well or other similar space in which, by virtue of its enclosed nature, there arises a reasonably foreseeable specified risk.’

The three main duties under the Regulations are:

1. Where possible to avoid entering a confined space.
2. If access to a confined space cannot be avoided, a safe system of work must be devised.
3. Prior to starting work you must ensure that adequate arrangements are in place in the event of an emergency.

Employers should ensure sufficient risk assessments are carried out, and a safe system of work – such as a permit to work scheme – is utilised.