Confined spaces

Topics: Occupational safety and health, Risk, Safety Pages: 12 (2443 words) Published: April 3, 2014
Health and Safety

Confined spaces
A brief guide to working safely

This leaflet explains what you, as an employer, may need to do to protect your employees when working in confined spaces. It will also be useful to the self-employed or employees and their representatives. The leaflet will help you take the necessary action to meet the requirements of the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997.

Confined spaces can be deadly
A number of people are killed or seriously injured in confined spaces each year in the UK. This happens in a wide range of industries, from those involving complex plant to simple storage vessels. Those killed include people working in the confined space and those who try to rescue them without proper training and equipment. This is a web-friendly version

of leaflet INDG258(rev1),
published 01/13

What is a confined space?
It can be any space of an enclosed nature where there is a risk of death or serious injury from hazardous substances or dangerous conditions (eg lack of oxygen). Some confined spaces are fairly easy to identify, eg enclosures with limited openings:


storage tanks;
reaction vessels;
enclosed drains;

Others may be less obvious, but can be equally dangerous, for example:


open-topped chambers;
combustion chambers in furnaces etc;
unventilated or poorly ventilated rooms.

It is not possible to provide a comprehensive list of confined spaces. Some places may become confined spaces when work is carried out, or during their construction, fabrication or subsequent modification.

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Health and Safety

What are the dangers from confined spaces?
Dangers can arise in confined spaces because of the following issues.

■■ A lack of oxygen.

This can occur:

▬▬ where there is a reaction between some soils and the oxygen in the


▬▬ following the action of groundwater on chalk and limestone which can

produce carbon dioxide and displace normal air;

▬▬ in ships’ holds, freight containers, lorries etc as a result of the cargo reacting

with oxygen inside the space;

▬▬ inside steel tanks and vessels when rust forms.

■■ Poisonous gas, fume or vapour.

These can:

▬▬ build-up in sewers and manholes and in pits connected to the system; ▬▬ enter tanks or vessels from connecting pipes;
▬▬ leak into trenches and pits in contaminated land, such as old refuse tips and


old gas works.
Liquids and solids which can suddenly fill the space, or release gases into it, when disturbed. Free-flowing solids such as grain can also partially solidify or ‘bridge’ in silos, causing blockages which can collapse unexpectedly. Fire and explosions (eg from flammable vapours, excess oxygen etc). Residues left in tanks, vessels etc, or remaining on internal surfaces, which can give off gas, fume or vapour.

Dust present in high concentrations, eg in flour silos.
Hot conditions leading to a dangerous increase in body temperature.

Some of the above conditions may already be present in the confined space. However, some may arise from the work being carried out, or because of ineffective isolation of plant nearby, eg leakage from a pipe connected to the confined space. The enclosure and working space may increase other dangers arising from the work being carried out, for example:

■■ machinery being used may require special precautions, such as provision of ■■

dust extraction for a portable grinder, or special precautions against electric shock;
gas, fume or vapour can arise from welding, or by use of volatile and often flammable solvents, adhesives etc;
if access to the space is through a restricted entrance, such as a manhole, escape or rescue in an emergency will be more difficult (see Emergency procedures).

What the law says
You must carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks for all...
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