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What is Confined Space Entry?

What is Confined Space Entry? post image

Confined space entry involves working in enclosed spaces, particularly in industries such as docks, sewage and mining. Working in these conditions can pose serious risk to workers, and a number of people are killed or seriously injured while working in confined spaces each year in the UK.

In order to prevent accidents on your work site, a risk assessment should be carried out and adequate confined space entry training must be provided. Here is everything you need to know – including what defines a confined space, the latest Working in Confined Spaces Regulations, and how to make your workplace safe for employees.

What is a confined space?

A confined space is an area which is usually substantially enclosed, and where serious injury can occur if the right measures and training are not in place. However, some confined spaces may not be entirely enclosed.

Typically, this kind of space will have limited entry or a way out, and is not suitable for human occupancy.

The main risk factors include:

  • Hazardous substances in the confined space
  • Extreme temperatures (overheating etc.)
  • Dangerous conditions within the space (such as lack of oxygen or dust)
  • Dangerous conditions near the space

Some common confined spaces include:

  • Storage tanks
  • Silos
  • Reaction vessels
  • Enclosed drains
  • Sewers

But there are some less obvious ones to be aware of too, such as open-topped chambers, vats, combustion chambers in furnaces, and even unventilated or poorly ventilated rooms. These can be equally dangerous, so up-to-date confined space entry training is essential for workers in these conditions.

What are the ‘Working in Confined Spaces Regulations’?

According to the Working in Confined Spaces Regulations (and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999), it is necessary to carry out a sufficient confined space risk assessment before commencing on any work.

The risk assessment should identify the following:

  • Any hazards within (or near) the confined space
  • Potential risk to health and safety for workers in and around the space
  • The suitable precautions to prevent accident or injury

In order to conduct a confined space risk assessment, you must consider how the tasks are carried out, what the working environment is like, what tools and materials are to be used, the suitability of the workers in question (and their level of training), and what emergency rescue solutions are available.

According to HSE, employers should limit serious injury by avoiding entry into confined spaces as much as possible. For instance, if it’s feasible to complete the work from outside, this should always be the first action. However, it isn’t always possible to do this – this is why adequate training is absolutely essential.

Confined space entry training

When conducting the risk assessment, employers must consider whether workers are suitable for the task. Not only does physical build and health matter in a confined space, but they must have had recent training and know what to do in an emergency. They should also be trained in the safety equipment they are expected to use, such as breathing apparatus.

At The Safety Maintenance Company, we offer confined space entry training covering everything from laws and legislation to method statements and risk assessments, including practical exercises. This can be taken as a one-day or two-day course, and once passed will be valid for three years.

We can offer training in our training centre or on-site. To find out more about our courses, get in touch and talk to a member of our friendly team. Call us on 0113 257 0842 or drop us email at info@thesmcl.co.uk.