Construction Health and Safety Consultancy and CDM Adviser Services

Don’t Get Caught In A Tight Spot!
Posted by David Cant on January 7, 2015

Don’t Get Caught In A Tight Spot!

Safety in Confined sapcesWorking in confined spaces is a bit tricky at the best of times.

So it’s pretty handy to have a polished up version of the Approved Code of Practice in time for a brand new year!

Even if you don’t think that you’re technically in a “confined” space – it’s worth checking out the new regulations and guidelines. After all, there’s nothing worse than finding out you’re on the wrong side of the rules when it’s too late to do anything about it!

So here’s a speedy summary about what you’ll find:

What exactly is a “confined space”?

What’s the first thing that comes to mind? A tight, cramped, stuffy little room?

Actually – a confined space doesn’t have to be a room. In fact, it doesn’t even have to be inside.

It can be anything – including chambers, tanks, silos, pits, mines, wells… basically anything that is enclosed and faces a foreseeable and specified risk or injury or harm to anyone there.

What risks can you face?

Flammable substances

One of the biggest risks in closed spaces?

They’re pretty explosive. Literally.

Flammable substances are that much more hazardous when they’re trapped in a small area, with no way out. As well as obviously flammable things like gases and liquids, it could even include airborne contaminants – like flour or wood dust.

Excessive heat

Things don’t have to go up in flames to pose a serious risk. Even just getting too hot might be enough to pose a major hazard.

If you’ve got a heat source – or equipment that generates heat – in a small, closed area – it’s going to get pretty hot – pretty damn quick.

Without taking measures to reduce the temperature, you’re at real risk of heat stress or even unconsciousness! So you really don’t want to treat this lightly.

Solid materials – which flow

To get your head around this one – picture a tiny room, filled to the rafters with sugar or flour.

Now imagine yourself trapped in there.

You get the picture pretty quick. It’s not a pleasant scenario, even if the substance is not harmful by itself.

Your takeaway points on what to do

–      Start off with a risk assessment. One of the first things you’ll need to work out is if you’re in a “closed space” or not.

–      If you are, then you’ll need to identify any potential risks, just as with any other role.

–      Find out any information you can about the space you’re in – you might be able to find engineering drawings or geological maps that tell you more about the space.

–      You’ll also want to monitor how the space is used over time – are you using it safely? Is there a risk of contamination from something outside? Do you have proper plans for an emergency rescue?

It might sound a little grim now – but you’ll be glad to have a plan to fall back on if the worst really does happen!

Do you work in a tight space? What are your biggest peeves?


David Cant is a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner extraordinaire. He has a wealth of Industry experience and is the MD of Veritas Consulting. David also Blogs about Health and Safety here Health and Safety Consultants

His aim is to flavour Health and Safety with integrity, served with a side of humour You can find David on - Twitter and Google also Linkedin

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