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Working in Confined Spaces Regulations Guide

Three men in a confined space with gas., wearing orange overalls and green helmets, carrying  safety equipment and saving a man who’s on the floor in recovery apparatus

Working in confined spaces is dangerous and is not to be taken lightly. Even after the introduction of the ‘Confined Spaces Regulations (1997) in January 1998, there have been fatalities and injuries as a result of people working in confined spaces, due to specified risks.

These regulations apply to all premises and work situations – and are designed to aid those who may work in enclosed spaces with specified risks (i.e. confined spaces). As experts in training and safety, we know what the regulations are – and to help, we have provided this guide to help you understand what the regulations are, and what they mean.

Confined Space Regulations Guide

Confined Spaces Regulations – the Basics

What is a confined space?

The regulations define the term ‘confined space’ as:

‘Any place, including any chamber, tank, vat, silo, pit, trench, pipe, sewer, flue, well or other similar space in which, by virtue of its enclosed nature, there arises a reasonably foreseeable specified risk.’

A confined space has two defining features:

  1. It must be a space which is substantially (though not always entirely) enclosed
  2. One or more of the specified risks must be present, or reasonably foreseeable when considering the space and/or the work to be conducted

A man welding in a boiler

What is a ‘specified risk’?

The regulations define the term ‘specified risk’ as:

  • A serious injury to any person arising from a fire or explosion – for example, fumes left in a tanker which catch fire or dusts such as flour, which can alight
  • A loss of consciousness of any person at work because of an increase in body temperature – for example baker ovens or steam cleaning causing hot working conditions
  • A loss of consciousness or asphyxiation as a result of gas, fume, vapour or lack of oxygen – for example, a worker disturbing sludge or decaying material which causes a release of toxic gas fumes
  • Drowning due to an increase of the level of liquid, in an enclosed space – for example, flash flooding due to an area not being isolated
    • The asphyxiation because as a result of a free-flowing solid or the inability to reach a reparable environment due to the entrapment by a free-flowing solid – for example, grain filling a silo while someone is working inside it

Hazards which result in specified risks may be naturally present – or may be introduced as a result of the work taking place in a confined space.

Types of confined space situations

Some confined spaces are easy to identify, but others may be more difficult – as they may not be fully enclosed or viewed as a dangerous working environment. Some examples of unusual confined spaces include:

  • Ship holds – which have open tops and sides
  • Silos – which have open tops and sides
  • Large vats – which have open tops and sides

Water filling a tunnel under a railway

Confined spaces aren’t always difficult to get out of – they may have several entrances or exits, which may be quite large or easy to escape from. They are often spaces where people work in regularly – such as spray-painting rooms in car repair shops.

When considering whether a workspace is a confined area – think about the planned work due to take place in the space. Does it introduce a specified risk or is one present already.  This helps to determine if it should be classified as an enclosed space or as a confined space.

Regulations – and Confined Space Tickets (competence)

After the introduction of the regulations in 1998 – accidents, injuries and fatalities did not decrease significantly. It was determined that this was due to workers not having the correct standard of training. To improve this situation, a working group was set up by the Sector Skills Council.

The group comprised of representatives of the Health and Safety Executive, industries, training organisations and confined space awarding bodies.  The group developed a ‘National Occupational Standard’ for confined space entry and rescue and then created qualifications ( such as City & Guilds 6150) – which covers:

  • Low risk entries and spaces
  • Medium risk entries and spaces
  • High risk entries and spaces
  • Tunnel entries and spaces
  • Emergency rescue and recovery of casualties
  • Top man duties
  • Managing confined spaces

Confined Space Training & Consultancy

MRS Training & Rescue has provided mines rescue services for over 100 years. Since the closure of the majority of coal  mines in the UK – we now focus on training and are approved City & Guilds assessment centres. We  offer confined space training courses and competence assessments throughout the UK. All our courses comply with current regulations and the National Occupational Standards requirements. Our low, medium, high risk and rescue confined space courses are suitable for almost all industries – and candidates who complete courses receive confined space certification which is valid for 3 years.

As well as courses, we also provide enclosed space consultancy services. Our experienced teams throughout the UK work with companies to consult on legislation, guidance and best practice techniques. We can offer tailored training solutions to suit specific industries and work environments. Contact us to learn more about our courses or consultancy services.

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