HSE International Issue 109 - Page 16

EVENTS: A+A 2017 The new name for... Mines Rescue Service SAFE ACCESS & CONTROL OF CONFINED SPACES F or a long time, there have been the problems for employers and managers attempting to identify confined spaces in the workplace. Although the Confined Space Regulations have been with us for 20 years now, confusion still remains as to what exactly is deemed a confined space. What is a Confined Space? Firstly, a confined space is not necessarily somewhere that you’d have to “squeeze” into and then crawl about on your hands and knees whilst inside. The key here is that the area would be enclosed and that it would be reasonably foreseeable that it would or could contain a ‘specified risk’. What is a Specified Risk? • Injury caused by fire or explosion • Loss of consciousness caused by an increase in body temperature • Loss of consciousness or asphyxiation caused by gas, fume, vapour or lack of oxygen • Drowning from an increase in the level of liquid • Asphyxiation caused by a free flowing solid or the inability to reach safety due to entrapment by a free flowing solid 16 HSE INTERNATIONAL Therefore, if you have an enclosed space with a specified risk, you must meet the requirements of the Confined Space Regulations 1997. It should be noted that the specified risk may not be indigenous; it may be imported by the nature of the work, i.e. cutting, welding, grinding and spray painting, to name a few. A regulatory requirement to manage confined spaces is to initially identify the enclosed/confined areas for which they are responsible. Having an understanding of the Confined Space Regulations is essential for managers when identifying and understanding the differences between an enclosed area and confined spaces; knowing the elements that turn an enclosed area into a confined space is fundamental to managing the hazards and risks that are associated with working within these areas. Developing a plan with the categorised confined space risks can help prioritise where resources are required, not only for conducting a specific task within the space, but would include entry requirements such as equipment, manpower and what detailed emergency arrangements would be required to extract someone who had become incapacitated.