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Health & Safety When Working in Confined Spaces

To some, working in confined spaces sounds like a nightmare; for others, it’s a daily reality. The National Health Service estimates that 10% of the UK population suffers from claustrophobia to some degree. But the risks and dangers are real for those whose role requires them to work in a confined space, so appropriate training must be undertaken. 

If you’re looking for details and information regarding health and safety when working in confined spaces, you have come to the right place. At NATAS, we are experts in health and safety training, and we are pleased to offer a comprehensive Confined Space Online Training Course. But first, find out more about the risks of working in confined spaces and why appropriate training is essential in our online guide. 

What is Considered a Confined Space?

Before diving into the risks of working in confined spaces, we must first understand what is considered a confined space. It is a misconception that any small room is a confined space. More accurately, a confined space is a substantially enclosed area with a risk of death or serious injury due to the conditions.

A substantially enclosed space typically has limited openings and is not usually entered by people. Examples include drains, sewers, and silos, among many others. 

The Risks of Working in Confined Spaces 

Sometimes work in confined spaces cannot be avoided, especially during maintenance and construction. Those undertaking this type of work must know the hazards of working in confined spaces. 

Excessive Dust 

Of course, people do not usually enter confined spaces, so the dust build-up can sometimes be extreme. This may seem more irritant than a hazard, but excessive dust inhalation can cause respiratory problems. Even worse, inhaling hazardous dust, such as asbestos fibres, can be fatal.

Dust can be naturally occurring and a result of drilling or grinding in the construction process. With a lack of ventilation, both types of dust build-ups can pose a fire risk. 

Lack of Oxygen 

As part of a naturally-occurring process, confined spaces may deplete oxygen and become hazardous spaces for humans. When working underground, it may be a case of natural reactions between any combination of soils, groundwater, chalk and limestone that replaces the oxygen in the space with carbon dioxide. Similarly, tanks and silos may form rust which can also deplete oxygen.

Gas & Fumes 

Like the lack of oxygen, a lack of ventilation in a confined space may also lead to a build-up of gasses, fumes or vapours. This can create an incredibly toxic environment to work in due to poisonous gasses. These deadly gasses can leak into or enter the confined space through many means, such as burst pipes, contaminated land, or even the work being carried out.

Flooding 

As confined spaces are so small, flooding can occur rapidly, and with few options for entry, escape can be difficult. Both liquids and solids cab flood confined spaces, from sewer work that can lead to workers drowning to trench collapses that can bury those inside. 

High Temperatures 

In a confined space, the temperature can rise quickly, made even faster by the presence of a person carrying out manual work. These naturally occurring hot conditions can quickly climb. The lack of possible and quick escape routes can become dangerous for those working in a confined space. These temperatures can lead to exhaustion, heatstroke and collapse. 

Limited Access 

The dangers of working in a confined space are all eclipsed by the limited accessibility common for confined spaces. No matter the other danger, risks or hazards at force, they are made infinitely worse when rescue or escape is needed. Often, confined spaces are difficult to enter, and it takes time to do so carefully. If someone inside a confined space needs rescuing, it can be extremely difficult to reach and remove them in a safe and timely manner. 

How to Stay Safe When Working in a Confined Space 

Woking in confined spaces is undoubtedly dangerous but sometimes unavoidable. Consequently, safety measures and precautions can be implemented to improve the safety of working in confined spaces. This includes comprehensive and appropriate training undertaken by those who may need to work in confined spaces, manage those who do or even in the event of a possible rescue. At NATAS, we are pleased to offer a detailed Confined Space Online Training Course

4 Components of Working in Confined Spaces

We have also broken down the safety measures for working in confined spaces into four elements you and your team must follow. 

1. Planning the Work

First and foremost, you must carry out adequate planning before attempting to carry out any work in a confined space. This means putting together a detailed risk assessment, site evaluation and document plan for the access strategy. 

2. Accessing the Confined Space 

When it comes time to access the confined space, all those involved must be fully briefed on the action plan. Appropriate equipment and safety must also be tested and in place before entry begins. 

3. Working Inside the Enclosure

From the site evaluation and risk assessment findings, workers must have the most appropriate PPE and equipment when working inside the enclosure. This includes PPE and equipment suitable for conditions and hazards that are known and unknown in an emergency. 

4. Retrieval and Rescue 

In an emergency, a pre-approved plan should be in place as part of the risk assessment. This should detail how the rescue team plans to access the confined space and what will happen if the original access space is no longer viable. 

Book Online Confined Spare Awareness Training Today 

If you or your team require training for working in confined spaces, we can help. Our online training course is available to all who may need it, and getting booked couldn’t be simpler. For more information or advice, please contact our expert team today, who will happily answer any questions. We also offer a range of other courses including our manual handling course, working at height course, and more.  

We can also advise those unsuitable for confined space training, such as those who may be claustrophobic. According to the NHS, this condition can be brought on by past experiences in confined spaces during childhood, among other factors. 

If you’re unsure about any part or aspect of working in confined spaces, get in touch for further guidance. 

Related

THE HEALTH AND SAFETY PRECAUTIONS AROUND WORKING AT HEIGHT

MANUAL HANDLING: EMPLOYER RESPONSIBILITIES WHEN IT COMES TO TRAINING

CLOSING THE HEALTH AND SAFETY KNOWLEDGE GAP

 

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