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Working in Confined Spaces - what you need to know

What is a confined space?

Confined spaces come in many shape and sizes – but can be described as a place which is substantially enclosed (but not necessarily all the time, for example stranding in a waist high manhole is regarded as working within a confined space) and where injury can occur from conditions within the space, a lack of oxygen or hazardous substances – like gasses.

Some examples of confined spaces include:

  • Tanks
  • Chambers
  • Drains
  • Sewers
  • Pits
  • Trenches

 

What are the risks of working in confined spaces and how can we avoid them?

Every year many people are killed or seriously injured whilst working in confined spaces without correct training or equipment, many are unaware of the common hazards which can be found in confined spaces including:  

  • Fire hazards
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Explosions
  • Dangerous gasses
  • Drowning
  • Rises or drops in temperature

 

Emergency planning is crucial when working in confined spaces; no one should enter a confined space until a thorough risk assessment has been carried out. Taking the time to think about your safety before going into any space can increase your overall safety and reduce the risk of accidents by a large amount.

For example, part of the assessment which is important is finding all the entry and exit points. Knowing this information before entering a confined space can ensure you are more prepared in case of an emergency.

 

 

What should I do when working in a confined space?

Assess the situation

Firstly, decide if the work can be carried out without entering the confined space. This can be remotely, for example, using a video camera. There will be instances where the confined space cannot be avoided, where you should proceed to take all safety precautions before entering.

Correct Training

The best way to ensure you are safe when working in a confined space is to have the correct and up-to-date training and assessment to ensure the competence of your employees (legal requirement). Training provides you with the knowledge, skills and equipment you need to ensure you are always as safe as can be whilst working.

Be Aware of Dangers

Being aware and removing dangers is one of the most important parts of staying safe with a confined space. For example, valves for slowing liquid can usually be closed for a short period of time – helping to make a confined space safer. If you can’t remove dangers, having the correct equipment can ensure you are additionally protected.

Complete Risk Assessments

Completing risk assessments is one way of ensuring you are safe when working within a confined space. Risk assessments can identify confined spaces, but can also help rate the confined space – in terms of the level of risk.

 

What should I not do when working in a confined space?

  • Do not enter the space until it’s safe – It’s vital that you know all the risks involved and you know that they have been prevented to the best ability before you enter the space. Ignoring this can end in a serious injury, or worse.
  • Don’t ignore the hazards – It’s important to make sure you are aware of the risks to you and any coworkers when working in a confined space. Make sure you check the hazards each time you enter; they may not always be the same each time.
  • Don’t forget about any emergency arrangements – When working in a confined space by yourself or with others, you should have emergency procedures set out in case of an emergency. You must be alert at all times, as putting those procedures into practice, may save a life.
  • Don’t enter the confined space in an emergency - If an emergency should arise, it is important that you do not enter the space unless you have correct rescue training and the appropriate equipment, otherwise you might just put yourself in danger as well.

 

Working in Confined Spaces Infographic

Below you will see a collation of the facts and figures associated with working in confined spaces. It highlights the main hazards as being fire, explosion, a heightened body temperature, engulfment from free-flowing solids (such as sand), drowning and asphyxiation from gas or lack of oxygen. You can work safely in confined spaces by following the advice below. MRS Training & Rescue offer a range of confined space training courses including low risk, medium risk, high risk as well as mobile training & tailored confined space courses. Contact us to discuss how we can develop and deliver a course to meet your exact needs by filling in the online form.

 this graphic contains information about working in confined spaces

 

What are the legal requirements surrounding confined spaces and working within a confined space?

The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 states “employers are responsible for ensuring the safety of their employees and others. This responsibility is reinforced by regulations.” It is therefore essential to keep employees safe.

The Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 states that if you are involved with entering, controlling or you are a supervisor of people involved with confined spaces, you must receive training to ensure you have safe systems of entry, exit and rescue.

The regulation states that if entry into a confined space can be avoided, for example, by doing the work from the outside then it should. However, if work is necessary workers must follow strict safety procedures; and put in place adequate emergency arrangements before the work start.

At MRS Training & Rescue we provide high quality confined space training courses which are delivered by our expert team who themselves are former rescuers. We have been around for 100 years and we use our experience and knowledge to pass on the best skills to help ensure you can keep yourself safe in a confined space. We don’t just provide training – we also provide confined space rescue cover offered by our expert confined space rescue team. Our emergency rescue & safety cover is used by companies across the UK (and the world). We are also the 4th blue light service in the UK – the only company allowed to use blue lights other than the traditional 3 emergency services. If you’re looking for confined space assessments, rescue cover or training – speak to us today.

 

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