Confined spaces are spaces that have limited or restricted means of entry and exit, and may contain harmful atmospheres or stored substances that pose a risk to employees working in them.
Some examples of potential confined spaces can include:
- Vats, tanks and silos
- Pipes and ducts
- Ovens, chimneys and flues
- Reaction vessels
- Underground sewers and wells
- Shafts, trenches, tunnels and pits
What are the risks?
Working within a confined space can be extremely dangerous, some of the risks include:
- Loss of consciousness, injury or death due to contaminants in the air
- Fire or explosion from the ignition of flammable contaminants
- Suffocation caused by a lack of oxygen
- Enhanced combustibility and spontaneous combustion
- Suffocation or crushing after being engulfed by loose materials stored in the space, such as sand, grain, fertiliser, coal and woodchips
Controlling the risks
School Leaders have a legal obligation to identify any hazards associated with work in any confined spaces at the school and eliminate any risk involved. If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the risk, senior management must reduce the risk as far as is reasonably practicable, taking into account:
- The nature of the confined space
- The oxygen level or contaminants within the space
- The work required to be done in the space
- Any work done outside of the space that could increase the risk
- The entries and exits
- Emergency procedures required
School leaders should conduct any risk assessment in consultation with employees and / or health and safety representatives, and can use the WorkSafe guidance or compliance code to assist with this process.
When using contractors to perform work in confined spaces, senior management should ensure that a confined space entry permit is issued prior to any works taking place.
No employee should enter a confined space at any time.