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Confined Spaces

A confined space is a place which is substantially enclosed (though not always entirely), and where serious injury can occur from hazardous substances or conditions within the space or nearby (e.g. lack of oxygen).

Under domestic law (the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974) employers are responsible for ensuring the safety of their employees and others. This responsibility is reinforced by regulations.


Apply where the assessment identifies risks of serious injury from work in confined spaces.

These regulations contain the following key duties:

  • Avoid entry to confined spaces, e.g. by doing the work from the outside;

  • If entry to a confined space is unavoidable, follow a safe system of work, and;

  • Put in place adequate emergency arrangements before the work start.

Require employers and self-employed people to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks for all work activities for the purpose of deciding what measures are necessary for safety.

For work in confined spaces this means identifying the hazards present, assessing the risks and determining what precautions to take.

Emergency Procedures

When things go wrong, people may be exposed to serious and immediate danger. Effective arrangements for raising the alarm and carrying out rescue operations in an emergency are essential.

Contingency plans will depend on the nature of the confined space, the risks identified and consequently the likely nature of an emergency rescue.

Emergency arrangements will depend on the risks. You should consider communications and rescue and resuscitation equipment.


How can an emergency be communicated from inside the confined space to people outside so that rescue procedures can start? Don’t forget night and shift work, weekends and times when the premises are closed, e.g. holidays. Also, consider what might happen and how the alarm can be raised.

Rescue and Resuscitation Equipment

Providing suitable rescue and resuscitation equipment will depend on the likely emergencies identified. Where such equipment is provided for rescuers to use, training in correct operation is essential.

Capabilities of Rescuers

Rescuers need to be properly trained people, sufficiently fit to carry out their task, ready at hand, and capable of using any equipment provided for rescue, e.g. breathing apparatus, lifelines and fire-fighting equipment. Rescuers also need to be protected against the cause of the emergency.

Shut Down

It may be necessary to shut down adjacent plant before attempting emergency rescue.

First Aid Procedures

Trained first aiders need to be available to make proper use of any necessary first aid equipment provided.

Local Emergency Services

How are the local emergency services (e.g. Fire and Rescue Service) made aware of an incident? What information about the particular dangers in the confined space is given to them on their arrival?

If you have any questions relating to Confined Space Entry, call Lyn on 0800 083 6458 or e-mail


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