WHAT IS A CONFINED SPACE?
A confined space is a place which is substantially enclosed (though not always entirely), and where serious injury can occur from hazardous substances or conditions within the space or nearby (e.g. lack of oxygen). 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.