Working in confined spaces can create a number of challenges. These challenges can be physical (cumbersome specialist equipment, the demands of the work environment etc.) as well as psychological (the emotional demands of working underground, in deep water and/or in darkness).
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website explains that; “A confined space is one which is both 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…”.
The risks of working in confined spaces
By law, employers are duty bound to ensure that any staff who are likely to work in a confined space have the correct training and the right equipment. Both employers and employees need to be aware of the potential risks within a confined space, which include (but are not limited to);
- Limited amounts of oxygen
- High levels of toxic fumes
- Risk of flooding
- Potential for fire and/or explosions
- Difficult access (or more importantly, exit)
Working in confined spaces is high risk, but by identifying the hazards, writing an appropriate risk assessment, getting the necessary training and putting the right measures in place (before the work begins), will ensure the continued safety of staff.