Work and Rescue Journal: What is a Confined Space?
posted by Arco Professional Safety Services
Work and Rescue Journal: What is a Confined Space
First of all, forget all your preconceptions of what a confined space is; forget about the size of the space, forget about how difficult or risky it is to get in to or out of a confined space.
A Confined space is by nature a substantially enclosed space, though not always entirely, that has certain hazards within that space that could cause harm. So, to summarise, for a space to be a confined space it needs to be:
- Substantially or totally enclosed; and
- Poses the reasonably practicable occurrence of a specified risk;
The specified risks are:
- Serious Injury to a person as a result of fire or explosion; and/or
- The loss of consciousness of any person because of the increase in their body’s temperature; and/or
- The loss of consciousness or asphyxiation of any person arising from gas, fumes, vapours or the lack of oxygen; and/or
- The drowning of any person arising from the increase in the level of liquid; and/or
- The asphyxiation of any person arising from a free flowing solid; and/or
- The inability of a person to reach a respirable environment due to entrapment by a free flowing solid.
“Under domestic law (the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974) employers are responsible for ensuring the safety of their employees and others. This responsibility is reinforced by regulations.”
- The Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 
Apply where the assessment identifies risks of serious injury from work in confined spaces.
These regulations contain the following key duties:
- Avoid entry to confined spaces, e.g. by doing the work from the outside;
- If entry to a confined space is unavoidable, follow a safe system of work; and
- Put in place adequate emergency arrangements before the work start
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 
“Require employers and self-employed people to 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. For work in confined spaces this means identifying the hazards present, assessing the risks and determining what precautions to take.” Health and Safety Executive http://www.hse.gov.uk/confinedspace/legislation.htm
- The Confined Space Regulations 1997 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/uksi/1997/1713/introduction/made
- Safe Work in Confined Spaces – Approved Code of Practice and Guidance- Third Edition 2014