Confined spaces pose dangers because they are usually not designed to be areas where people work. Confined spaces often have poor ventilation which allows hazardous atmospheres to quickly develop, especially if the space is small. The hazards are not always obvious and may change from one entry into the confined space to the next.
Whilst rarely entered, the consequences can be fatal if the risks are not managed appropriately. There are some slight variations between state/territory regulations, but the definition from the Safe Work Australia Code of Practice – Confined Spaces is:
A confined space means an enclosed or partially enclosed space that:
- Is not designed or intended primarily to be occupied by a person; and
- Is, or is designed or intended to be, at normal atmospheric pressure while any person is in the space; and
- Is or is likely to be a risk to health and safety from:
- An atmosphere that does not have a safe oxygen level, or
- Contaminants, including airborne gases, vapours and dusts, that may cause injury from fire or explosion, or
- Harmful concentrations of any airborne contaminants, or
There are a range of requirements under the various state-based legislation and codes of practice. Greencap offers a range of services to assist businesses with meeting these requirements:
Identification of confined spaces
Development of a register of confined spaces, including labelling requirements (both in relation to a confined space entry and also proactively under normal operating conditions. What is the difference between a confined space and a restricted space?
Risk Assessment of confined spaces
Awareness of the key hazards and risks associated with a space, control measures required for safe entry/exit from the space
Development of documentation to assist organisations with setting standards and requirements in relation to confined spaces
Emergency Rescue Procedures
If there is an incident within a confined space how is the worker going to be safely removed from the space
What training is required for workers entering confined spaces, stand-by person/s and people issuing and/or signing off on confined space permits and rescue procedures.
Further details about risk management, training and emergencies, and tips about cleansing confined spaces and atmospheric testing, can be found within AS/NZS 2865: 2009 Confined Spaces
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you renew confined space training?
Workers should undertake refresher training through an accredited Registered Training Organisation (RTO) to ensure they are competent to undertake a Confined Space Entry, the frequency of refresher training should be determined with regard to how often employees are required to carry out tasks associated with entry to or work in confined spaces. You must hold an existing Confined Space Entry ticket or statement of attainment to complete a Confined Space Entry refresher course. Greencap recommends that you contact your preferred RTO to confirm if you existing confined space ticket/statement of attainment is current enough to be applicable for the refresher training or if you need to complete the full Confined Space Entry course.
What is involved in confined space training?
A Worker/employer must ensure that relevant employees are given information, instruction and training in: the nature of any hazards associated with the confined space; the need for, and proper use of, measures to control risk; the selection, use, fit, testing and storage of any personal protective equipment (PPE); the contents of any relevant confined space entry permit, and; emergency procedures, which may include rescue and first aid procedures in confined spaces. Confined space training provides workers with the technical understanding and knowledge to understand the risks associated with entering and working in confined spaces.
What are some of the hazards of working in a confined space?
Oxygen deficiency within the space, a level of contaminant that may exceed Occupational Exposure Standards, Fire or Explosion from a contaminant (e.g. gas, dust or vapour), engulfment or being overwhelmed by and atmosphere or contaminant, entanglement in moving equipment, crushing from equipment of contents such as grain, sand, flour or fertiliser.
What is involved in a confined spaces risk assessment?
Under the WHS/OHS Regulations, a written risk assessment needs to be carried out to identify, assess and control the risk related to a confined space including risks associated with entering, and working in, or in the close vicinity of, a confined space. The risk assessment must be carried out in accordance with the Compliance Code or Code of Practice. A single or generic risk assessment may be carried out for a class of confined spaces in a number of different work areas or workplaces where the confined spaces are the same (e.g. storm water drains across a site). This will be only appropriate if all of the hazards being covered are the same. A task and location specific risk assessment must be carried out on individual confined spaces if there is any likelihood that a worker may need to enter the space and/or be exposed to greater, additional or different risks. A risk assessment should be undertake prior to any confined space entry to ensure all risks are identified, assessed and controls implemented to eliminate or mitigate the risk.
When should a business establish and update their emergency rescue procedures?
A business must establish procedures for the control and management of an emergency in a confined space, including procedures for: the rescue of any person from the confined space, and first aid to be provided to any person in the confined space and after rescue from the confined space. Therefore rescue procedures must be developed for all confined space entries and must be practised to ensure they are effective and efficient. The type of rescue procedures being established and updated will depend on the nature of the confined space, the risks identified and the likely nature of an emergency rescue.