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Topic: Risk assessments - workplace

working in confined spaces
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Working in confined spaces

Working in confined spaces

Working in confined spaces can be extremely hazardous and may present particular risks to staff, including the potentially life-threatening build-up of toxic fumes and dusts.

Residual risk

If these risks are left unmanaged, they could cause accidents and potentially put you on the wrong side of the law. To ensure that this doesn’t happen, you should complete a risk assessment for such work, which identifies all “significant” hazards and appropriate “reasonable” ways of reducing risks to an acceptable level.

Note. The Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 state that you must first decide whether or not the work could be carried out without entering a confined space. Even if you decide to carry out the work remotely you will still need to carry out a risk assessment to deal with any residual risk.

Managing the risks

To help you identify the hazards associated with confined space working and the appropriate ways of controlling them, use our example Risk Assessment - Working in Confined Spaces. It covers the generic hazards associated with this type of activity and suggests control measures to reduce risks to an acceptable level.

You should ensure that your document only addresses “significant” hazards, i.e. any that could and, more importantly, are likely to cause an accident or injury.

Note. This risk assessment only deals with the general hazards associated with confined space working. It will be up to you to examine the specific hazards associated with your work area and to develop your own risk assessment based on your findings. Where possible you should try to eliminate such work and consider ways of carrying out the tasks remotely.

Make your instructions clear

Don’t include activities in your document that simply don’t need to be there. Work to the principle that if there is any chance of your staff being unaware of the safe way of doing something, then you will need to make it clear in your document. Finally, always ensure that any control measures you identify and follow only go so far “as is reasonably practicable”. 

Note. The list of potential hazards is not exhaustive. However, for your risk assessment to be considered suitable and sufficient in the eyes of the law it must accurately reflect the “significant” hazards found in your workplace. 

 

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