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What is a confined space?

It can be any space of an enclosed nature where there is a risk of death or serious injury from hazardous substances or dangerous conditions (e.g. lack of oxygen).

 Some confined spaces are fairly easy to identify, e.g. enclosures with limited openings:

  • storage tanks

  • reaction vessels

  • enclosed drains

  • sewers

Others may be less obvious, but can be equally dangerous, for example:

  • open-topped chambers

  • vats

  • combustion chambers in furnaces etc

  • ductwork

  • unventilated or poorly ventilated rooms

What are the dangers from confined spaces?

 Dangers can arise in confined spaces because of many reasons; these include many relating to the atmosphere e.g.:

  •  A lack of oxygen Poisonous gas, fume or vapour

  • Fire and explosions (e.g. from flammable vapours, excess oxygen)

  • Residues left in tanks vessels etc, or remaining on internal surfaces which can give off gas, fume or vapour

  • Gas, fume or vapour can arise from welding

  • or by use of volatile and often flammable solvents, adhesives etc

What the law says

You must carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks for all work activities for the purpose of deciding what measures are necessary for safety (The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999).

For work in confined spaces this means identifying the hazards present, assessing the risks and determining what precautions to take.

 Testing the air

  • This may be necessary to check that it is free from both toxic and flammable vapours and that it is fit to breathe.

  • Testing should be carried out by a competent person using a suitable gas detector which is correctly calibrated. Where the risk assessment indicates that conditions may change, or as a further precaution, continuous monitoring of the air may be necessary.

    For further information on this subject and the range of training courses and gas detectors available call:

    0845 6039053

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