Regulation 4 of the Confined Spaces Regulation 1997 states that working in confined spaces should be avoided unless entry is unavoidable. If the work is deemed as necessary and entry unavoidable, then it is the legal obligation of the employer to deploy safety measures for the worker(s) entering the confined space.
To deploy effective safety measures, a thorough/specific Confined Space Risk Assessment must be completed for each type of confined space entry.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) defines as a confined space as “one which is both enclosed, or largely enclosed, and which also has a reasonably foreseeable risk to workers of fire, explosion, loss of consciousness, asphyxiation or drowning”. For example, it could be a small and restrictive space for the worker making it difficult to move or it may be a larger space such as a silo that only has one form of entrance and exit.
Similarly to a Fire Risk Assessment, an employer must nominate someone to be the ‘competent person’ who will complete the confined spaces risk assessment. It is important that all hazards are identified before work begins so that appropriate safety measures can be put in place.
Confined Space Risk Assessments typically follow the HSE’s 5 Steps to Risk Assessment;
A hazard is anything that has the potential to cause harm. Identifying these will allow for appropriate control measures to be put in place for the workers who will be completing the work, ensuring their safety.
Here the assessor must identify the groups of people who will affected by each hazard. The routine of a business should also be considered here.
Here the assessor should determine the likelihood of any kind of harm occurring due to an identified hazard.
Recording the findings of a risk assessment allow the hazards, risks, and suggested management systems to communicated more effectively.
Revising the assessment when changes occur in the workforce or the Confined Space Entry Plan
Workplace environments can change which can lead to new hazards appearing that weren’t in the original assessment, it’s important to ensure that any new hazards are properly documented and assessed.
Due to this, once specific Confined Space Entry RAMS have been established, the work should be controlled further by the issuing of a Permit to Enter (Hazardous Work Permit / Permit to Work), this prompting the review of the RAMS and potentially adding additional control measures etc. as the findings dictate.
There are several hazards that are common across work taking place in confined spaces. Whether you’re working in a sewer, drain, or crawl space, the potential hazards must be assessed before work can be undertaken. Some of the most common hazards that occur on confined spaces are –
While it is highly recommended that working in confined spaces is avoided unless it is necessary, if the work must be done, we advise that you consider the following –
Note: this list is provided as a guide only and is not meant to be a comprehensive list, as each Confined Space needs to be assessed individually to determine suitable control measures to be applied.
If you need to complete a Confined Spaces Risk Assessment, feel free to contact us for more information on how our health and safety specialists can support you. Call us on 01623 753 654 or send us an email.
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