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What is Confined Space?

A confined space is a work area that carries with it a certain level of danger. Some spaces are not intended or designed for people to work in, areas with poor ventilation that allows hazardous atmospheres to rapidly develop. Confined spaces are often characterised by limited or hard to access entry and exit points, limited ventilation, and often cramped working conditions.

It is recommended that anyone who works in or around confined spaces completes a confined space training course. This helps workers to successfully identify, plan, test, enter and exit confined spaces in the safest manner possible.

Definition of a Confined Workspace:

  • A confined space is an area that is somewhat (or completely) enclosed
  • Not intended or designed for occupation
  • Poses a risk of engulfment
  • Occupants are at risk from
    – Unsafe oxygen levels
    – Gases, vapours, dust, or airborne contaminants
    – Increased chance of fire, explosion or collapse

Examples of Confined Space:

Regularly encountered confined spaces include drains, sewers, tanks, pits, pipes, chimneys, silos, shafts, wells, trenches and tunnels.

How is a confined workspace determined?

Evaluating if an area is considered a “confined space” is quick and easy by answering yes to the following questions.

  1. Is the area large enough for a person to enter?
  2. Is the area NOT intended for human occupancy?
  3. Does the area have limited entry and exit access?

Limited entry is defined as how difficult an area is to enter, exit and perform a task. Limited access means if something goes wrong, it can be difficult to escape or deploy a rescue. Sewers, manhole and tanks are great examples of spaces NOT designed for human occupancy.

Some areas that are large enough to fit inside mean that a person cannot become trapped inside and not considered a “confined space”. However, it’s important to assess the area properly with the aid of your workplace health and safety representative. Some areas that don’t look ‘confined’ can actually still pose a threat, especially where gas or emissions are concerned. Some flammable gases, for example, can ‘pool’ invisibly even in small depressions or trenches that are otherwise fairly easy to access. Ensure you’re fully aware of the risks and adequately trained before attempting any work.

Types of Confined Spaces

1. PERMIT

A permit is needed before entering any confined space. This needs to be written by a competent person and includes a description of the space, the names of those allowed to enter the space, the time the permit is valid, and the things to do before work commences (eg cleaning and entry) and during work (eg continuous communication with, and monitoring of, workers). It also includes a section for a person to acknowledge that everyone has left the space.

Confined space permits ask questions like:

  • What is the purpose of entry?
  • How much time will be spent working inside the area?
  • Who is authorised to enter?
  • Who will be the attendant that stays outside?
  • Describe the atmospheric conditions in the confined space
  • What are the methods of communication between people inside the confined space and people outside the space?
  • List the equipment provided and used for safe entry
  • Are there any extra safety checklists that need to be completed, such as a welding or burning permits?
  • How have you have eliminated hazards before you enter the confined space (lockout/tag out, forced air ventilation, etc.)?

The permit applies to a single area or space, allowing for one or more people unlimited entries. Once the job is finished, make sure to record the confirmation that everyone has left the space.

Examples of confined work spaces that need a permit

  • Areas that could contain a hazardous atmosphere, for example, a fuel storage tank that has recently been emptied, a workspace that has the potential to engulf the person entering like a grain silo, or sewer during flood conditions
  • Areas that have a risk of a serious safety hazard, with dangers like electrocution or moving equipment that could cause harm or death

For many confined space entry projects, a gas detector is a critical piece of equipment to ensure the atmosphere remains safe during the work. Jaybro stocks a wide range of gas detectors for confined space entry, communications and water utilities, entry winches, tripods and accessories.

2. NON-PERMIT

Non-permit confined working spaces do not contain the risk of a hazardous atmosphere, pose a risk of engulfment or display any serious safety hazards. Put another way, it means the area does not contain hazards that could cause death or serious harm. When you enter into a Non-Permit confined space, you do not have to complete a written safety checklist before you can start your work.

Examples of Non-Permit confined spaces include equipment closets, crawl spaces under houses, machinery cabinets, ventilated tunnels, and drop ceilings.

Find out more about confined spaces

Jaybro supplies a range of confined space entry equipment to the civil, construction and infrastructure sectors. For adequately trained workers, we can ensure you get the right davits, winches, harnesses, gas detectors and more to get the job done. Contact our friendly team to find out more. 

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Disclaimer: This information is provided as an introductory guide only and does not constitute professional advice. Ensure you make your own independent enquiries before deciding if a particular product is right for you. Consult the regulations and standards applicable to your area and check with your workplace health and safety representative for further information. Jaybro does not warrant the accuracy, content, completeness or suitability of the information on this site (or any site owned by the Jaybro Group) for your individual purposes.

 

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