Explosion, asphyxiation, fire, drowning, and loss of consciousness – these are the types of risks that work in a confined space can pose.
Due to the danger involved, employers that conduct any operations in confined spaces have strict legal duties that they must adhere to. As part of risk controls, they are required to provide confined space training to their workers. This is a legal duty, under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
In this article, we will take a look at Confined space training and important points to understand about it, including how frequently confined space training needs to occur. But first, let’s start with the basics.
What are Confined Spaces?
A confined space is any space that is largely enclosed. Confined spaces include places like silos, tanks, vessels, vaults, storage bins, pits, hoppers, manholes, equipment housings, pipelines, tunnels, and ductwork.
The three things that define a confined space are:
- Limited openings – entry and exit are difficult
- Uninhabitable space – it is not designed for human occupancy
- Limited access – large enough for workers to enter and conduct work
Around 1,030 workers died during 2011-2018 from various occupational injuries due to confined spaces according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI).
What are Employer Responsibilities?
Confined Space Risk Assessment
All employers are required to carry out sufficient and suitable risk assessments for working in confined spaces under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999. The risk assessment should take into account the working environment, working tools and materials, emergency arrangements, and the suitability of workers.
Moreover, the people who are responsible for risk assessment should have the relevant knowledge and experience of the process, equipment, and plant. If the risk assessment indicates a risk of serious injury that can occur while working in that space, then the Confined Space Regulations 1997 apply.
These regulations place the following responsibilities on employers:
- Avoid entry to confined spaces
- If the entry is unavoidable then a safe system of work should be followed
- Adequate emergency arrangements should be made before the work starts
Identifying Confined Space Hazards
As part of their risk assessment, employers must identify all of the hazards caused by their work in the confined space.
The leading cause of death in most confined spaces is asphyxiation. Many conditions that are common to confined spaces like toxic atmospheres, substances and liquids that can drown, oxygen deficiency, and torso compression, can cause asphyxiation.
Access and egress presents another significant hazard. Anyone working in a confined space can be trapped by either getting stuck in one place or if your exit gets blocked for any reason.
Confined spaces also amplify the hazards of the work that you do. For instance, heat, cold, noise, fumes, visibility hindrance, and sparks can all become threats very quickly in confined spaces.
All of these things make the atmosphere flammable and explosive. If any flammable atmosphere ignites, it can result in an explosion and can cause the disintegration of the structure.
In addition, as the name suggests, confined spaces are enclosed spaces and they increase the risk of collapsing due to heat or heat stroke. This risk can be exacerbated due to lack of ventilation or if the workers are wearing any extra protective gear.
The risk assessment will determine what controls must be in place before any confined space work happens. Before an employee is allowed to enter a confined space, the employer is responsible to determine if the space requires a “permit-to-work” to enter. This ensures that the space has been checked for any potential dangers and is equipped with all the tools of a safe system of work.
If there are only a few confined spaces in a workplace, then the employers must label all the access points to limit entry.
In addition, employers should check the atmosphere for any toxins or flammable gases. They should also provide non-sparking tools and protected lighting. Lastly, all the workers should be provided with appropriate breathing apparatus, as required.
Why Confined Space Training is Crucial
An essential risk control is training. Confined space training helps workers and employers understand what constitutes confined spaces and the potential dangers involved. It increases awareness of the hazards that the workers may be exposed to. It also gives them an understanding of what types of risk controls are necessary and how they must be implemented.
This may include things such as atmosphere testing and the required tools and equipment. A worker must have all the relevant knowledge before entering a confined space so that he can work and come back out safely. You can’t enter a confined space without proper training because not only it is illegal, but it can also result in serious accidents, injuries, or even death.
Employers must prevent any harm to their workers as well as lawsuits by providing proper confined space training to their workers.
What Types of Confined Space Training are There?
Training for work in confined spaces must make workers aware of the potential hazards of working in confined spaces and provide them with proper training for any foreseeable risks. There are two main types of confined space training:
- Confined space health and safety training
- Training of skills that are required to work in a confined space
Other types of training, such as online health and safety training that addresses fire safety, should also be undertaken to address any other hazards workers will face.
When Should Confined Space Training be Conducted?
All employers and their workers must take adequate confined space training before they start working. There is no specific legislation or regulations that state how often this training is required.
However, it is advised to take the training before you begin your duties, if there’s a change in duties, if a new hazard is highlighted, or if new information or techniques are introduced. Moreover, generally, all safety training should be refreshed whenever an employer finds it necessary. They can also opt for online health and safety training which is also offered by Human Focus.
Ensure Your Employees Have the Training They Need
Confined space training is essential for not only workers but employers as well as it helps to deal with the dangers of working in a confined space. Human Focus provides two levels of confined space training. Safety in Confined Spaces – What Everyone Needs to Know is an awareness level course designed for anyone that may work in a confined space or manage those that do.
Essentials of Confined Space Risk Assessment provides detailed information about how to risk assess the confined space work your employees are doing. Both courses are vital to help ensuring the safety of your workers and maintaining compliance.