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Working in Confined Spaces, safely – Blog

Everything you need to know for making work in confined spaces safe.

GAP’s ‘Think Safe’ health and safety initiative was an industry first, and led to the creation of our Interactive Toolbox Talks (ITBT).

ITBTs are made up of 15, free to access, interactive modules based on health and safety in the workplace. Each module highlights risks and dangers for certain topics in a fun and eye-catching way.

One module covered is working in confined spaces. The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) define a confined space 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 nearby (for example, a lack of oxygen).”

Some examples of confined spaces which GAP employees may come across working in the industry include:

  • Storage tanks
  • Enclosed drains
  • Sewers
  • Vats
  • Duct work
  • Open-topped chambers.

It should be noted that there are many more, and that some places of work may become confined where work is carried out during the construction or modification.


There are many dangers which can arise whilst working in a confined space. Some of the conditions may arise during construction or alternatively, may be naturally occurring. Working in a confined space is dangerous as there is always a risk of dangerous fumes, reduced oxygen levels and fire. The dangers could arise as a result of the work being carried out, or due to ineffective isolation of plant, and some may already be present prior to any work beginning.

On top of this, there are a number of hazards that can be found when working in confined spaces, including:

  • Poisonous gases found in sewers and manholes connected to the system
  • Oxygen deficiency in tanks and vessels
  • Leaks into trenches & collapsing of trenches
  • Fire and explosions from flammable vapours
  • Residue left in tanks or vessels
  • Hot conditions leading to a dangerous increase in body temperature.

The Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 outlines the following key duties which must be followed for all work in confined spaces:

  • Avoid entry to confined spaces where possible, consider if the work can be done from outside
  • Where entry is unavoidable, follow a safe system of work
  • Put in place adequate emergency arrangements before any work commences.

To help make work in a confined space safer, GAP’s Lifting Division has a Confined Space Package which includes items such as a Rescue Harness, Gas Detector, Escape Set, Recovery Winch, Man-Riding Winch and an Aluminium TripodContact our Lifting Division for more information on hiring this life-saving package.

Safe System of Work

Regulation 4 of the Confined Space Regulation ACoP describes the requirements for developing a Safe System of Work for working in a confined space.  This should include:

  • supervision;
  • competence for confined spaces working;
  • communications;
  • testing/monitoring the atmosphere;
  • gas purging;
  • ventilation;
  • removal of residues;
  • isolation from gases, liquids and other flowing materials;
  • isolation from mechanical and electrical equipment;
  • selection and use of suitable equipment;
  • PPE and RPE;
  • portable gas cylinders and internal combustion engines;
  • gas supplied by pipes and hoses;
  • access and egress;
  • fire prevention;
  • lighting;
  • static electricity;
  • smoking;
  • emergencies and rescue;
  • limited working time.

Risk Assessment

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires that employers and those who are self-employed carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks for all work activities. Where the risk assessment identifies risk of serious injury from working in a confined space, the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 will take precedence.

The law requires that the following should be identified when any work is being undertaken in a confined space:

  • The hazards which are present
  • An assessment of the risk
  • Determinations of what precautions to take to reduce risk.

Once hazards are identified, a full assessment should be conducted, which includes the following:

To aid in identifying risks, it may be necessary to appoint competent people to manage these risks and ensure the employees are adequately trained and instructed.

The HSE released five steps which are needed to manage risks. The five steps you should follow are:

  • Identify hazards
  • Assess the risks
  • Control the risks
  • Record your findings
  • Review the controls.

Following these steps will greatly reduce risk of injury while working in confined spaces.

Remember, Make it Safe, Make it Personal, Make it Home.

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