Life and Death in Confined Spaces
Of all the workplace hazards, confined spaces are some of the most deceptive. What looks like a "normal" space could be a death-trap: filled with hazardous gases or, just as likely, lacking in oxygen.
In 2016 a food waste disposal and recycling firm was fined £250,000 after three employees were overcome by toxic gases, including hydrogen sulphide, and a reduced oxygen atmosphere in an animal waste facility in Stoke-on-Trent.
An employee of the company accessed a compartment within an animal waste trailer to free animal waste and was overcome by the gases. Subsequently, two further employees entered the waste compartment and were also overcome by the gases.
The court heard that this preventable incident could have resulted in fatalities and that the company had been prosecuted twice before for two fatal incidents which involved confined space entry within a processing plant.
A number of people are killed or seriously injured in confined spaces each year in the UK.
This happens in a wide range of industries, from those involving complex plant to simple storage vessels. Those killed include people working in the confined space and those who try to rescue them without proper training and equipment.
A confined space can be ANY space of an enclosed nature where there is a risk of death or serious injury from hazardous substances or dangerous conditions such as the following:
- A lack of oxygen.
- Poisonous gas, fume or vapour Liquids and solids which can suddenly fill the space, or release gases into it, when disturbed.
- Free-flowing solids such as grain can also partially solidify or ‘bridge’ in silos, causing blockages which can collapse unexpectedly.
- Fire and explosions (e.g. from flammable vapours, excess oxygen etc.).
- Residues left in tanks, vessels etc., or remaining on internal surfaces, which can give off gas, fume or vapour.
- Dust present in high concentrations, e.g. in flour silos.
- Hot conditions leading to a dangerous increase in body temperature.
If entry into a confined space cannot be avoided a safe system of work must be put into place, including the precautions identified, developed and put into practice.
Everyone involved will need to be properly trained and instructed to make sure they know what to do and how to do it safely.
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Confined Space Novice Medium Risk
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To book a place on a Confined Space course, call our Sales Team on 01204 677811.