Unfortunately, working in confined spaces leads to many fatalities in the UK each year. Confined spaces can fall into one of two categories – easy to identify spaces such as silos, sewers and storage tanks and those which are less obvious but still classed as confined spaces, such as ductwork, vents and open topped chambers; even poorly ventilated rooms can be counted as a confined space.
Dangers of working in confined spaces
If you are working in a confined space, there are a number of dangers which could affect you:
- Lack of oxygen
- Poisonous vapour or gas
- Hot conditions – body temperature will rise
- Fire or explosion
The law protects those working in confined spaces and has set out guidelines for employers to follow.
Staying safe working in confined spaces
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 states that a risk assessment must be carried out to identify the hazards presented by the work – arrangements for rescue in the event of an emergency must be considered.
If possible, entry to confined spaces should be avoided; for example, work could be done from outside or using remotely operated equipment. Where work has to take place in a confined space, the following rules should be followed:
- A supervisor should be appointed who will oversee the work
- People should be suitable for the work in question – are they trained and experienced? Is their build and fitness level suitable for working in a confined space?
- The space may need to be cleaned
- Ventilation provision may be required
- The air may need to be tested for toxic gases using a gas detector
- Specialist equipment such as breathing apparatus, tools and lighting should be provided if necessary
- Communications equipment should be provided to allow the worker to communicate with the team on the outside
- Rescue harnesses should be checked and in place
- There should always be an emergency procedure in place which all staff are aware of.
Employers or workers who are looking for further guidance should refer to The Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 or contact HSE for more advice.
Accidents in confined spaces
If you have been injured whilst working in a confined space, it’s important to think about whether your employer took the necessary steps to keep you safe. If you believe your accident was due to their negligence, you could claim for compensation. Contact Accident Advice Helpline today for confidential advice and more information on the claims process. Call free on 0800 689 0500 or 0333 500 0993 from a mobile phone for free, no obligation advice about making a claim.
Date Published: March 3, 2014
Author: David Brown