Working in confined spaces can be necessary for many different job roles but there are a number of hazards that can arise from employees operating within a confined space. They can include issues with breathing, flooding and ventilation issues. Several regulations have been passed regarding the safety of workers in these situations.
Confined spaces aren’t just small areas, these can vary in size. Examples of confined spaces include sewers, silos, storage tanks and poorly ventilated rooms.
Steps to take when working within confined spaces
As with many aspects of workplace safety, avoiding the hazard is the best way to ensure your employees’ safety. However, if this is impractical you must take steps to minimize the risks.
If you are working in spaces that contain any kind of toxic/dangerous fumes it is advisable to seek ways to ventilate the area. Additionally, if the space contains limited oxygen you should provide the appropriate breathing equipment.
We would suggest if an employee must work within a confined space you understand a: how to measure their condition, and b: how to get them out safely if any complications arise.
The confined spaces regulations (1997) should be applied when a risk assessment has uncovered any hazard involved in working within a confined space.
It must be stated that other regulations may apply depending on the location and the industry. Confined working in the construction industry will be subject to the construction (design management) regulations 2015 in addition to the confined spaces regulations.
How to assess the risk of working in confined spaces
If you operate a workplace where employees may be exposed to working in confined spaces you should carry out a comprehensive risk assessment and ensure there are measures in place to keep workers safe.
If you need some further information on how to fill out a risk assessment, we have some guidance on this here.