When talking about confined spaces, the most important thing is that you understand what a confined space actually is. Confined Spaces has a very specific definition according to the Work Health and Safety legislation, which we will outline in this video.
Confined Spaces must have three key things:
- They must not designed or intended primarily to be occupied by a person
- They must be designed or intended to be, at normal atmospheric pressure while any person is in the space (not pressurized or depressurized)
- They are (or likely to be) a risk to health and safety from:
– an atmosphere that does not have a safe oxygen level
– contaminants, including airborne gases, vapours and dusts, that may cause injury from fire or explosion
– harmful concentrations of any airborne contaminants, or engulfment.
Confined Space Hazards:
- Restricted entry or exit (hard for people to easily get in and out, resulting in people to get trapped in confined spaces).
- Unsafe Atmosphere (The fact that you’re potentially breathing in harmful air is often what causes people to pass out in a confined space)
- Engulfment (where either water or something like grain in a silo can rush in a bury a person)
Other typical hazards (but not as important to look out for)
- Manual tasks
- Mechanical hazards
- Electrical hazards
Once you’ve identified something as a confined space, you need to do the risk assessment on that space. There is a particular set of things that you have to look into when your risk assessing a confined space, as outlined in the image below:
I’m not going to read through all of that list, but it is linked to this particular requirement which is in the code of practice for confined spaces.
What we would suggest is that you use a specific risk assessment template that’s designed to be used for confined spaces not just your standard risk assessment form.
Once you’ve done your risk assessment, you need to think about how youcan control that confined space, using the hierarchy of control.
“Do we actually need to go into the confined space?”
If yes, move onto the next step. If no, then you are done with the control measures as you will not be entering.
2. Entry Permits
Once you do decide that yes, you’ll need to enter that confined space, you should put entry permits in place. This is a particular set of things that needs to be completed and signed off on before a person is allowed to enter a confined space.
By using an entry permit, you are controlling who goes in there and what sort of controls they’ve got in place before they do.
You can download a free copy of a confined spaces entry permit here.
Next, you should think about how you can isolate any energy sources.
4. Atmosphere Monitoring & Ventilation
Think about what atmosphere the person is entering into typically would be, this might be through testing and whether there may need to be some sort of ventilation going on as well.
You need to have a good, clear communication procedure, which means that a person on the outside can communicate and make sure that the person on the inside is OK.
6. Other Controls
- Appropriate training
- Emergency procedures (should something go wrong, how are you going to get people out?)
Oftentimes this is going to involve using things like tripods and davit systems to actually lift a person out so they have to be attached to a harness.
- There’s a lot more in this topic, which you can read about in the code of practice
- You must Identify if the area is a confined space
- Control the entry of the confined space
- Assess the risk of entering the confined space
- If it is required to enter, ensure best possible controls are in place and an entry permit is being used.