How to stay safe in confined spaces on site

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Does your team conduct work in confined spaces? Are you informed about all the safety precautions necessary to do this work? Read on to learn what is considered a confined space, what the hazards are, and how you can manage them. 


What is considered a confined space? 

According to Safe Work Australia, a ‘confined space’ is defined as a closed-in or partially enclosed area that:

  • Is not made to be inhabited by people.
  • Should be at normal atmospheric pressure while occupied.
  • May be or is definitely a risk to health and safety.

The ‘confined space’ terminology does not automatically apply to all small spaces. To be considered a confined space, an area must meet the definition above.


What hazards can be present in confined spaces?

There are lots of potential risks when working in confined spaces. Many are invisible to the naked eye and cannot be smelt. This makes detection tools essential. Here are some hazards you may face when working in confined spaces.

  • Air contaminants.
  • Flammable contaminants that can cause a fire or explosion.
  • Low levels of oxygen.
  • A higher level of oxygen could cause combustion.
  • Loose materials like sand or grain that could fall. 


How do we minimise risks in confined spaces?

According to the Work Health and Safety Regulations (the WHS Regulations), risks associated with working in confined spaces must be identified, assessed, eliminated (where possible), and controlled. These control measures need to be reviewed over time. But there are more specific methods for managing risk as well.


Conduct a risk assessment

A suitably qualified person must do a risk assessment of the confined space, bringing attention to all of the probable risks associated with working in and near that environment. No one should step into a confined space before all the relevant risks have been identified and a strategy has been put in place to deal with them. 


Use entry permits

Entry permits are necessary for safety in confined spaces. Permits detail which confined space it is regarding, the names of permitted persons, and for how long the work will occur in the confined space. Risk control measures are also included, as well as documentation on the completion of the project, that work has ended, and all people have left the space. 


Avoid entering the confined space

One way to eradicate risk is to avoid entering a confined space. There may be other ways of completing the necessary work, such as using mechanical tools. When alternative methods for completing the objective can be found, people should not enter the confined space. 


Adopt atmospheric testing

The air quality in a confined space must be constantly monitored to ensure workers can breathe safely. Atmospheric testing indicates if there are sufficient levels of oxygen and alerts personnel to the presence of dangerous gases and other airborne contaminants. Respiratory protective equipment may need to be used. 


Establish emergency procedures

As confined spaces often have less room to enter and exit, you must establish emergency procedures to adopt should something go wrong. It is also important to have someone outside of the confined space act as an onlooker who can call emergency services or provide first aid should the need arise. This person should not attempt a rescue, though, as that can lead to harm from unseen hazards. 

For more on risk control measures for safety in confined spaces, check out Safe Work Australia’s Model Code of Practice


Trust All Star Access Hire for safe, well-maintained equipment

At All Star Access Hire, we take safety seriously, which is why we keep our young fleet so well-maintained. It’s also why we offer a 24/7 emergency breakdown phone service, so if your equipment stops functioning, we can fix it or swap it out ASAP. That leaves you to get on with the job as quickly as possible without compromising safety on your site. 

Access our 24/7 phone line by calling (03) 9397 3555.