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FEATURE


SMALL MARGINS


After taking a tour around Arco’s Mobile Confi ned Space Training Unit at this year’s Safety & Health Expo, we asked Senior Training Consultant,


Ken Smith, to talk us through the hidden dangers of confi ned spaces. A number of people in the UK are killed in confined space incidents each year, with many more seriously injured. High risk industries include oil and gas, petro- chemical, utilities, shipping and marine, manufacturing and tank cleaning. Those who die include people working in the confined space and those who try to rescue them without proper training and equipment; so it is important for both employers and employees to understand what a confined space is and the dangers that may be hiding.


WHAT THE LAW SAYS The regulations and the Approved Code of Practice must be considered before any attempt to enter a confined space. The


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requirements of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 would also have to be considered in the preparation of any risk assessment and safe system of work including training as a minimum. The Approved Code of Practice to the regulations states that: ‘the priority when carrying out a risk assessment is to identify the measures needed so that work in confined spaces can be avoided’. Where it isn’t reasonably practicable to prevent work in a confined space, it says ‘the employer or the self-employed will need to assess the risks connected with entering


or working in the space’. The Confined Space Regulations 1997 places specific requirements on employers managing confined space work. By understanding the risks, employers are able to make an informed decision on the correct training, personal protective equipment and safety equipment required to keep employees safe whilst working.


CONFINED SPACE


IDENTIFICATION Confined spaces are found in many places in our working life – some we might expect and some we might not. A confined space is a place that is substantially, though not always entirely, enclosed. It is also a place where


there may be a reasonably foreseeable risk from substances or conditions in the space or nearby. It is often a combination of these two circumstances that leads to the increased safety and health risk to confined space workers. Some confined spaces are easy to identify, e.g. enclosures with limited openings such as reaction vessels, enclosed drains, storage tanks or silos. Others may be less obvious, but can be equally as dangerous, such as open- topped chambers, lofts, gas storage areas, and poorly ventilated rooms.


The main hazards to be considered before entering a confined space are as follows:


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