Guide

Work safely at height or in a confined space

Manage the risks posed by working in confined spaces

First you must consider whether the work in the confined space is really necessary. Consider whether you could carry out the work  without entering the space. Better work planning or a different approach can reduce the need for confined-space working. If, for example, you need to inspect the inside of a silo you could tackle the work from outside the space using specialist equipment with cameras and sensors.

If you can’t do this, you must plan a safe way to carry out the work. 

Confined space safe system of work

Your system might include:

  • appointing a supervisor
  • checking individuals are suitable for the work
  • checking the size of the entrance
  • providing ventilation
  • testing the air
  • providing special tools and lighting
  • providing breathing apparatus
  • people working in teams, with an observer present at all times

Permit-to-work system

You may need to organise a permit-to-work system which will involve:

  • identifying the person who can authorise jobs and who is responsible for stating required precautions such as emergency procedures and air testing
  • ensuring contractors don't operate outside the system
  • training and instruction on the issue of permits
  • monitoring the system to check it works

Emergency procedure

You must also put an emergency procedure in place before the work starts in case there is an incident. Effective arrangements for raising the alarm and carrying out rescue operations are essential. The contingency plan will depend on the nature of the confined space, the risks identified and the likely nature of the emergency rescue. This will cover:

  • communications from inside the confined space to people outside so that rescue procedures can start
  • providing suitable rescue and resuscitation equipment
  • having properly trained people ready, who are fit and capable of using any equipment provided for rescue
  • first-aid procedures
  • how to contact the emergency services and what information about the particular dangers in the confined space will be given to them on their arrival

Download a guide on safe work in confined spaces (PDF, 322K).