A number of people are killed or seriously injured in confined spaces each year, in a wide range of industries. Those killed include people working in the confined space and those who try to rescue them, often without proper training and equipment.
A confined space is any enclosed space with a risk of death or serious injury from hazardous substances or dangerous conditions (e.g. lack of oxygen). Some confined spaces are easy to identify (e.g. storage tanks, enclosed drains, sewers, etc.), while others may be less obvious but equally dangerous (e.g. open-topped chambers, vats, combustion chambers in furnaces and ductwork). Even large spaces which are poorly ventilated can be classed as confined spaces.
It’s not possible to give a comprehensive list of confined spaces. Some places may become confined spaces when particular work is carried out, during their construction or following modifications.
In addition to duties under a wide range of other health and safety regulations, the Confined Spaces Regulations apply where the risk assessment identifies a reasonably foreseeable risk of serious injury, either within a confined space or nearby, arising from:
- fire or explosion;
- loss of consciousness due to an increase in body temperature;
- loss of consciousness due to asphyxiation, either because of the presence of gas, fumes, vapours or a lack of oxygen;
- drowning due to an increase in the level of a liquid;
- asphyxiation due to a free flowing solid; or
- the inability to reach a respirable environment due to entrapment by a free flowing solid.
This page doesn’t cover the additional measures needed for working in mines, ships, docks, offshore work, nuclear or diving operations.