What is Confined Space?

confined space health and safety

Confined spaces can present a risk of death or serious injury from dangerous conditions such as lack of oxygen or extremes in climate, or from using hazardous substances within the space.

What is confined space?

As defined by the Confined Space Regulations 1997, a confined space is “any space which, by virtue of its enclosed nature, presents a reasonably foreseeable specified risk”.

Some examples of confined spaces include:

  • Tanks
  • Silos
  • Trenches
  • Pipes
  • Sewers

However, confined spaces are not always completely enclosed, small or difficult to work in or get out of. Some less obvious examples of confined spaces include open-topped chambers, ductwork and unventilated rooms.

What are the dangers from working in confined spaces?

There are many dangers which can occur from working in confined spaces, which include:

  • Lack of oxygen – resulting in drowsiness or poor concentration.
  • Release of poisonous gases, fumes or vapours – can accumulate in sewers and manholes, be present in tanks or vessels from connecting pipes or leak into trenches and pits in contaminated land.
  • Liquids or solids filling the space.
  • Fires and explosions – due to flammable vapours or excessive oxygen.
  • High concentration of dust – atmospheres where there is a lot of dust are prone to fires and explosions.

confined space safety

What does the law require you to do about confined spaces?

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers to conduct risk assessments for work activities, make appropriate arrangements to control the risks and ensure that workers are fully trained to perform their jobs safely.

The Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 apply when the risk assessment you have undertaken identifies that there are risks of serious injuries due to work in confined spaces.

Need to know more about confined spaces? Our confined spaces online training course provides an overview of working in confined spaces, how to manage the risks and put suitable control measures in place. Take a look here for more information about the course.