Confined Spaces – Are you prepared?

November 13th, 2017

Confined spaces exist in many workplaces and can be lethal if not controlled properly.  This article will outline some facts about confined spaces and how they should be managed.

What is a Confined Space?

A confined space is defined as any enclosed or partially enclosed space that is not intended or designed primarily for human occupancy where there is a risk of

  • Low concentrations of oxygen
  • Air borne containers that can cause harm
  • Concentrations of flammable airborne contaminates may cause injury or fire
  • Or where solids or fluids could more into the space causing suffocation or drowning.

Examples of confined space include the obvious tanks, silos, pits, tunnels etc but also include open topped tanks or pits more than 1.5 metre deep.

Do you have confined spaces in your workplace?

An audit should be taken of every workplace to identify if confined spaces exist, if they do then your workplace should have management controls in place to manage access to these confined spaces.

This audit can be by trained staff or an expert in the field.

This audit should be regularly repeated to ensure that all new confined spaces are identified.  Even if you don’t have any now a change in building structure or introduction of new equipment could create confined spaces, so stay alert!

I have confined spaces now what?

If there are confined spaces in your workplace then you need a management and control procedure for access to these spaces.  This usually takes the form of confined space permit system and signage at access points to confined spaces.

No access should be permitted into confined space without the completion of the correct permit which includes (but is not limited to):

People entering the confined space

Methods for measuring gas and contaminants levels and what is considered to be safe levels

Emergency control and evacuation procedures, if someone collapses in a confined space how will you get them out to safety without endangering other people.

Who needs training?

Anyone who is undertaking entry into a confined space should be properly trained.  Any person designated for emergency recovery of people in a confined space also needs to be trained.

We also recommend that the person authorised to approve all confined space permits have completed the training, how can you approve methods of access, rescue and monitoring air quality unless you understand how these tasks are undertaken?

It is  recommend that training should be repeated annually for those entering confined space and either access or exercise imitating the access to confined space be undertaken at least 6 monthly to ensure skill retention.  Many of the sites that we manage where access is seasonal they repeat the access every year just before the season starts.

Where do we get help?

Riverland Fire and Safety have a trainer recognised by Safe Work SA for conducting confined space training.  The training is at least a full day.  For those with no experience the course may take longer.

Talk to us and we will work out a customised training program for your needs.

If you think you have confined space but are unsure, give us a call and we can conduct an audit of your workplace.