Confined Spaces

A confined space is defined as a place which is substantially enclosed (though not always entirely), and where serious injury can occur from hazardous substances or conditions within the space or nearby.

Work in these spaces poses additional risks with:

  • A lack of oxygen and a build-up poisonous gas, fume or vapour.
  • Fire and explosions (e.g. from flammable vapours, excess oxygen etc.).
  • Dust present in high concentrations.
  • Hot conditions leading to a dangerous increase in body temperature.

However, we must be aware that not only do confined spaces pose a risk to those working within the confined space but also to those who may attempt to rescue them without the proper training and equipment

As an employer we are required to:

  • Avoid entry and work in confined spaces to unless there is no other reasonably practical alternative means of doing so;
  • Ensure any work within confined spaces to be undertaken in accordance with a safe system of work;
  • make adequate arrangements to be in place to rescue any person in an emergency situation.

Examples of a confined space would include:

  • storage tanks
  • silos
  • reaction vessels
  • enclosed drains
  • sewers
  • ductwork
  • unventilated or poorly ventilated rooms

National Services Scotland

Work in confined spaces can be dangerous, Managers and employees need to be aware of the risks and know how to prevent them.

For more information and to access the NSS Confined Space Procedure, the frequently asked questions below will provide information on what some of the common confirmed spaces hazards are, things to think about during the risk assessment process and the legal obligations.

If you require additional information you can contact the NSS Health & Safety Advisors through HR Connect Contact Us / Health and Safety.

NHS Golden Jubilee

Confined Spaces Risk Assessment Form

This risk assessment form should be completed by any person requesting to work in a confined space.

Confined Spaces Safe System of Work

This form should be used in association with the Confined Spaces Risk Assessment Form by the person requesting to work in a confined space.

Confined Spaces Permit to Work

This form must be completed by an authorised person to confirm that the work in a confined space can take place.  The person in charge of the work must also use the form to declare that the work has been completed.  The authorised person then uses the form to cancel the permit once work has been completed.

Public Health Scotland

 

Work in confined spaces can be dangerous, Managers and employees need to be aware of the risks and know how to prevent them. 

For more information and to access the PHS Confined Space Procedure, the frequently asked questions below will provide information?on what some of the common confirmed spaces hazards are, things to think about during the risk assessment process and the legal obligations. 

If you require additional information you can contact the NSS Health & Safety Advisors through HR Connect Contact Us / Health and Safety 

Scottish Ambulance Service

The purpose of this policy is to outline the steps to be taken by the Scottish Ambulance Service to ensure that staff, contractors and others do not enter confined spaces where it can be avoided.  Where this is not possible a written, suitable and sufficient risk assessment must be undertaken, a safe system of work developed and a Permit to Work generated prior to entry.

    • Common Confined Space HazardsNational Services Scotland, Public Health Scotland

      Work in confined spaces can create a risk of death or serious injury, this could be from exposure to hazardous substances or dangerous conditions such as lack of oxygen or a build up of water. 

       Examples of confirmed spaces include

      • pits and trenches
      • sewers and drains
      • vats, silos and tanks
      • chambers and ducting
      • some enclosed pieces of medical equipment
      • unventilated or poorly ventilated rooms.

      People are killed and seriously injured working in confined spaces, this includes people trying to conduct rescues without the proper training or equipment. Wherever possible, avoid the need to work in confined spaces by using remote access methods.

      There are various hazards to be considered when working in confined spaces include:

      • lack of oxygen
      • lack of natural light
      • dusts in high concentrations such as flour
      • liquids and solids suddenly filling the space
      • hot working conditions increasing body heat.

      There is a risk with gas, fumes or vapours filling the space as these can be flammable or poisonous.

      Before you conduct any work

      Before conducting any work in potentially confined spaces, you should read and understand the NSS Confined Space Procedure, seek advice form Facilities Team and Health and Safety Executive's regulations and guidance.

      Depending on the risks identified there may need to appoint competent people to help manage the risks and ensure that employees are adequately trained and instructed. ​

      Carry out a risk assessment

      Where entry to a confined space is unavoidable, a thorough risk assessment should be carried out to devise a safe system of work. The Line Manager and Employee should consider the:

      • duration of the task
      • task being performed
      • training requirements
      • physical effort required
      • suitability of those carrying out the task including their health
      • number of those involved, inside and outside the confined space, and rescue teams.

      They should also consider the working environment, including

      • access
      • lighting
      • lack of oxygen
      • by-products of the task being undertaken, for example welding fumes
      • communication methods for raising an alarm and any evacuation difficulties.

      Working materials also need to be considered. This includes

      • fire or spark risk
      • waste removal
      • fume ventilation
      • tools needed and their access.​

      Method statement

      Where the work being carried out is considered to be complex, Line Managers and Employees should provide more detail to those involved in the form of a method statement. This includes how the job is to be carried out and the how the risks are managed.​

      Whilst not a legal requirement, a method statement describes, in a logical way, exactly how a job is to be carried out to ensure safety for all involved. You should also consider the application of a permit to work system.​​

    • What are confined spaces risks?National Services Scotland, Public Health Scotland

      People are killed and seriously injured working in confined spaces, this includes people trying to conduct rescues without the proper training or equipment. Wherever possible, avoid the need to work in confined spaces by using remote access methods.

      There are various hazards to be considered when working in confined spaces include: -

       - lack of oxygen

       - lack of natural light

       - dusts in high concentrations such as flour

       - liquids and solids suddenly filling the space

       - hot working conditions increasing body heat

      There is a risk with gas, fumes or vapours filling the space as these can be flammable or poisonous.

    • What do I need to do before working in a confined space?National Services Scotland, Public Health Scotland

      Before you conduct any work

      Before conducting any work in potentially confined spaces, you should read and understand the NSS Confined Space Procedure, seek advice form Facilities Team and Health and Safety Executive's regulations and guidance.

      Depending on the risks identified there may need to appoint competent people to help manage the risks and ensure that employees are adequately trained and instructed. ​

      Carry out a risk assessment

      Where entry to a confined space is unavoidable, a thorough risk assessment should be carried out to devise a safe system of work. The Line Manager and Employee should consider the:

      - duration of the task

      - task being performed

      - training requirements

      - physical effort required

      - suitability of those carrying out the task including their health

      - number of those involved, inside and outside the confined space, and rescue teams

      They should also consider the working environment, including

      - access

      - lighting

      - lack of oxygen

      - by-products of the task being undertaken, for example welding fumes

      - communication methods for raising an alarm and any evacuation difficulties

      Working materials also need to be considered. This includes: -

      - fire or spark risk

      - waste removal

      - fume ventilation

      - tools needed and their access ​

      Method statement

      Where the work being carried out is considered to be complex, Line Managers and Employees should provide more detail to those involved in the form of a method statement. This includes how the job is to be carried out and the how the risks are managed. ​

      Whilst not a legal requirement, a method statement describes, in a logical way, exactly how a job is to be carried out to ensure safety for all involved. You should also consider the application of a permit to work system.​​

    • What is meant by confined space?National Services Scotland, Public Health Scotland

      Work in confined spaces can create a risk of death or serious injury, this could be from exposure to hazardous substances or dangerous conditions such as lack of oxygen or a build up of water. 

       Examples of confirmed spaces include: -

      - pits and trenches

      - sewers and drains

      - vats, silos and tanks

      - chambers and ducting

      - some enclosed pieces of medical equipment

      - unventilated or poorly ventilated rooms

    • Working in Confined Spaces Safety PrecautionsNational Services Scotland, Public Health Scotland

      Where possible, avoid entry to confined spaces. Establish if the work is really necessary or if it can be done in another way that avoids the need to enter.

      If entry to a confined space is unavoidable then you must follow a safe system of work. Have emergency procedures in place before work starts.​  The results of your risk assessment will help you identify the risks and necessary precautions.

      Safe systems of work

      Make sure you have all the relevant information, knowledge and experience to carry out the work. There needs to be a site specific method statement​ in place for all employees to adhere to before the work is carried out. You may need to have a permit to work system in place.

      Ventilation

      You will need to ensure there is suitable ventilation within the workplace. You may have to introduce temporary ventilation before you start. 

      If the area has restricted or no natural air supply you may have to use breathing apparatus to provide an air supply to the user.

      Isolation

      You may need to isolate local utilities to allow your employees to work safely such as

      - gas

      - water

      - electricity

      Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

      Ensure all your employees have suitable PPE​ to undertake the work.

      Care should be taken to ensure that the PPE used does not introduce other hazards. These can include overheating or restricting communication or movement.

      Ensure your employees have proper 

      - head, hand and foot protection

      - eye and hearing protection

      - waterproof and thermal clothing

      - respirators and breathing apparatus

      - appropriate safety harnesses ​

      Emergency procedures

      Put emergency arrangements in place before any work starts. You must put suitable and sufficient measures in place to make sure employees can be rescued safely if required. You should also consider

      - first aid procedures

      - the safety of rescuers

      - liaison with emergency services

      They must be appropriate to the hazard presented by the activity.

      - There must be an effective means of communication for raising the alarm both from the confined space and by someone outside.

      - Work in confined spaces is often carried out at night, weekends and times when the premises are closed, for example holidays. Consider how the alarm can be raised.

      - Provide rescue and resuscitation equipment. This will depend on the likely emergencies identified.

      - It may be necessary to shut down any adjacent plant before attempting emergency rescue. Ensure access and a means to safely shut down is available.

      - Consider how the local emergency services would be made aware of an incident. Plan what their route of access is. Also consider what information about the dangers need to be given to them on their arrival.

      Rescuers

      Those who are identified as rescuers need to be: -

      - ready at hand

      - properly trained

      - fit to carry out their task

      - protected against the cause of the emergency

      - capable of using any equipment provided for rescue, for example breathing apparatus, lifelines and fire-fighting equipment.

      Training

      Training is critical in all work with confined spaces. Ensure that all employees are given suitable and appropriate training to carry out the workplace task. This will include emergency procedures and if required training in the use of brea​​​thing apparatus.