Are you doing enough to manage the risk of Confined Spaces?

November 2016

In this short blog I’d like to take a few moments to explain the legal requirements for working in and controlling confined spaces and ask the question ‘Are you doing enough to manage the risk of confined spaces?’

A confined space is one which is either enclosed, or largely enclosed, and which also has a reasonably foreseeable risk to workers of fire, explosion, loss of consciousness, asphyxiation or drowning. It may be small and restrictive for the worker or it could be far larger such as a grain storage silo with hundreds of cubic metre capacity. Once you have determined whether your entry is defined as a confined space and whether or not it is reasonably practical to achieve your task without entering the space, then you should establish a safe system of work.

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This should be produced by a competent person (or persons), documented and communicated to all interested parties.

The safe system of work should include:

- A risk assessment documenting all foreseeable hazards, the risks associated with these hazards and the precautions to be taken to eliminate or reduce these risks.  Further guidance on risk assessment can be found on the HSE website.

- A safety method statement or operating procedure detailing the precautions to be taken in the correct sequence.  There is a long list of items in L101 that should be considered, including, testing the atmosphere, competency, isolations, access and egress and static electricity, and guidance on what to consider for each item.

- A permit to work.  A permit is unlikely to be needed where risks can be easily controlled; the work is simple, and where other activities will not affect safe working.  A permit is not a legal requirement, however, it is often used and is useful:

- To ensure the hazards, precautions, nature and extent or work is communicated to all interested parties
- As a checklist to ensure that all elements of the safe system of work are present
- To control isolations and other pre-entry preparations
- To co-ordinate (or exclude) other works that may affect the confined space entry
- To confirm authorisation to carry out the confined space entry.

The HSE approved code of practice for workers entering a confined space states:

“Workers must have adequate training and experience in the particular work involved to be competent to work safely in a confined space. Training standards must be appropriate to the task, and to the individual’s roles and responsibilities, so that work can be carried out safely.”

Unfortunately all too often these legal requirements are overlooked, just last month the HSE prosecuted a farm owner following the tragic death of a 19 year old man who was killed whilst working in a grain silo, After sentencing HSE inspector Allison Aitken said: “This was an entirely avoidable tragedy which resulted in the death of a young man”.

To assist in your company fulfilling its legal requirements at Alliance learning we offer both a 2-day novice course for confined space entry including the use of Escape Breathing apparatus and a refresher course for those who may need to refresh their knowledge.  Both courses have a practical element to them in our purpose built confined space entry training unit. To book a place on a Confined Space course, call our
Sales Team on 01204 677811.