Confined spaces are a special area of health and safety regulations. The regulations were introduced to reduce the number of deaths and serious accidents caused in confined spaces where people suffocated due to lack of Oxygen or being overcome by dangerous substances. They also took in to account how to prevent and deal with an accident in a confined area.
The regulations look at trying to reduce the need for employees to go into a confined area, introduced safe systems of work and ensured that businesses introduce suitable emergency procedures.
When working in confined spaces, there can be many dangers, and even the most simple thing can be a massive risk. In this example, workers are needing to enter an empty petrol storage tank. Although the area is empty, there is still a massive risk of fumes, and these fumes could be explosive, so they will need to fully risk assess the area before entering and gain the appropriate permit to work.
The area where they will be working displays the permit to work and all appropriate warning signs. There are enough people to enter the tank and monitor the workers from outside. The rescue crew, specially trained to enter a confined space and extract an injured worker, is on call.
Before entering, all the systems of work and the equipment are checked and tested, and all work is carried out in accordance with the permit to work. In this case, gas alarms are used to monitor any build-up of fumes or gas and the area is being flushed with air using fans.
At all times, the person outside knows who is inside and how long they have been in there.
If something goes wrong, there is a confined spaces rescue trailer on hand with all the equipment needed to extract the space. The trailer has many different items, including:
• Breathing apparatus to allow the rescuers to breathe while in the space
• Protective clothing to keep them safe and easily seen
• Torches that are safe by not creating sparks
• Spinal board to put the person on and straps to keep them there
• Boards to monitor who is in the confined space and how long they have been there
• First aid and emergency equipment to deal with the worker till the emergency services arrive
Finally, if you think that you are working in a confined space, ensure that you comply fully with the confined spaces regulations and that you have the correct training and equipment. If in doubt, don’t do it.