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A number of people in the UK are killed in confined space incidents each year, with many more seriously injured, across a range of industries. Whilst industries such as oil and gas, utilities and manufacturing may seem the obvious place for confined space working, many facilities have a myriad of hidden spaces that can present a danger to employees. It is important that both FMs and employees are aware of what a confined space is to ensure safe working practices.

WHAT THE LAW SAYS The regulations and the Approved

Code of Practice must be considered before any attempt to enter a confined space. The 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’.

“Whilst we normally associate confined spaces with industries such as water, oil and gas, they can also be found in hospitals, universities and other commercial premises.”

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.


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. Whilst we

After taking a tour around Arco’s Mobile Confined Space Training Unit, we asked Senior Training Consultant, Ken Smith, to talk us through the hidden dangers of confined spaces.

normally associate confined spaces with industries such as water, oil and gas, petro-chemical and power generation they can also be found in hospitals, universities and other commercial premises. Sometimes confined spaces in facilities are not easily identifiable. A confined space can be found in almost all buildings, such as the spaces between walls where cables are run, under flooring or overhead ductwork, unventilated or poorly ventilated rooms and plant rooms where generators are housed.

It is important to provide employees with the correct training so that confined spaces, which may not initially look like a confined space, can be easily identified and workers are aware of the main hazards when working in those spaces. Some of these risks include:

LACK OR EXCESS OF OXYGEN Lack of oxygen can occur, for

example, in a laboratory environment where oxygen is driven out by other gases. It can also occur in lorries or freight containers as a result of the cargo reacting with oxygen inside the space. A normal oxygen level is 20.9%, with 19.5% the minimum working level. Anything below this level can quickly affect the

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