Where possible, avoid entry to confined spaces. Establish if the work is really necessary or if it can be done in another way that avoids the need to enter.
If entry to a confined space is unavoidable, then you must follow a safe system of work. Have emergency procedures in place before work starts. The results of your risk assessment will help you identify the risks and necessary precautions.
Safe systems of work
Make sure you have all the relevant information, knowledge and experience to carry out the work.
There needs to be a site-specific method statement in place for all employees to adhere to before the work is carried out.
You may need to have a permit to work system (external site) in place.
You will need to ensure there is suitable ventilation within the workplace. You may have to introduce temporary ventilation before you start.
If the area has restricted or no natural air supply, you may have to use breathing apparatus to provide an air supply to the user.
You may need to isolate local utilities to allow your employees to work safely such as:
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Ensure all your employees have suitable PPE to undertake the work.
Care should be taken to ensure that the PPE used does not introduce other hazards. These can include overheating or restricting communication or movement.
Ensure your employees have proper:
- head, hand and foot protection
- eye and hearing protection
- waterproof and thermal clothing
- respirators and breathing apparatus
- appropriate safety harnesses.
Put emergency arrangements in place before any work starts. You must put suitable and sufficient measures in place to make sure employees can be rescued safely if required. You should also consider:
- first aid procedures
- the safety of rescuers
- liaison with emergency services
They must be appropriate to the hazard presented by the activity.
- There must be an effective means of communication for raising the alarm both from the confined space and by someone outside.
- Work in confined spaces is often carried out at night, weekends and times when the premises are closed, for example holidays. Consider how the alarm can be raised.
- Provide rescue and resuscitation equipment. This will depend on the likely emergencies identified.
- It may be necessary to shut down any adjacent plant before attempting an emergency rescue. Ensure access and a means to safely shut down is available.
- Consider how the local emergency services would be made aware of an incident. Plan what their route of access is. Also consider what information about the dangers needs to be given to them on their arrival.
Those who are identified as rescuers need to be:
- ready at hand
- properly trained
- fit to carry out their task
- protected against the cause of the emergency
- capable of using any equipment provided for rescue, for example breathing apparatus, lifelines and fire-fighting equipment
Training is critical in all work with confined spaces. Ensure that all employees are given suitable and appropriate training to carry out the workplace task. This will include emergency procedures and if required training in the use of breathing apparatus.
Find out more
You can find out more about working in confined spaces on the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website.