Working in confined spaces is a high risk working environment.
Any significantly enclosed space where there is a risk of death or serious injury from hazardous substances, lack of oxygen or other dangerous conditions is classed as a confined space. Confined spaces with small openings such as silos, drains, sewers and storage tanks are fairly obvious. Others are not. Ductwork, vats, open-topped chambers may be less obvious.
Before working in confined space commences, certain steps should be taken. All hazards present must be identified and the risks assessed. This information should then be used to determine what precautions are needed and safety procedures developed (including emergency rescue).
If working in confined spaces can be avoided – it should be avoided.
According to the Health and Safety Authority of Ireland and the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work (Confined Spaces) Regulations 2001, Regulation 5 states that:
A person shall not carry out work in Confined Spaces if it is reasonably practicable that it could be avoided.
If the work must be carried out Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment must be carried out prior to the work commencing.
A person shall not enter a confined space unless there is a system of work in place that has been planned, organised, performed and maintained so as to render that work safe and without risk to health.
Anyone entering a confined space must be provided with appropriate information, training and instruction appropriate to the particular characteristics of the proposed work activities.
Before working in confined space commence, the following should be considered:
If someone is working in a confined space, think about the following:
The Health and Safety Authority of Ireland (HSA) has a very useful info page titled Working in Confined Spaces. This page covers some of the most frequently asked questions about working in confined spaces.
As The Irish Times reported; on June 10th, 2015 brothers Alan (45) and Stephen Harris (32) were overcome by fumes while working in an underground sewer at Drumnigh Woods, Portmarnock, Co Dublin. They were taken from the sewer and taken to hospital but unfortunately died of hypoxia due to toxic levels of hydrogen sulphide.
The brothers were wearing wader boots and rain jackets and Stephen Harris was wearing a dust mask.
A toxic gas incident that claimed the lives of two brothers almost killed a fireman attempting to rescue them.
Health and Safety Authority inspector Frank Kerins said the job required specialist equipment in accordance with confined space regulations, including a gas detector and breathing apparatus.
Proactive Health and Safety training is critical to ensure a safe workplace. An effective training program can reduce the number of worker injuries and deaths. It can also reduce instances of property damage, legal liability, illnesses, and missed time from work.
Health and Safety training helps establish a culture in which employees themselves help promote proper safety procedures while on the job. It is important that new employees be properly trained and embrace the importance of workplace safety. The role of training in developing and maintaining effective hazard control activities is a proven and successful method of intervention.
This is why we have established Myelearsafety school. We pride ourselves in how we guide, support and mentor our students. They receive support throughout their learning experience and into their working lives. Our staff have extensive training experience and also have many years industry experience. We understand the challenges that exist within Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety. Our priority is to ensure that all learners are fully prepared to differentiate themselves in the workplace after completing our Health and Safety courses.
Myelearnsafety offers fully online Health and Safety courses.
To find out more, please check our Courses page.
Alternatively, should you need any additional information, please do not hesitate to let us know via email firstname.lastname@example.org
Workplace hazards are anything even remotely that has the potential to cause harm to a person.
Under the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act, 2005 an employer is required to carry out risk assessments, prepare a safety statement and implement what it contains. Health and Safety Authority inspectors visiting workplaces will want to know how safety and health is being managed. If they investigate an accident, they will scrutinise the risk assessments, safety statement, and the procedures as well as the work practices.
The Risk Assessment should identify all workplace hazards, quantify the risks and introduce control measures to reduce the risk of injury or illness to the workforce. Some additional legislation also requires employers to conduct specific risk assessment for specific common hazards such as manual handling, hazardous substances, display screen equipment and fire safety.
A risk assessment is simply put a careful examination of workplace hazards and what could cause harm to people. This is so you can consider whether you have taken enough precautions or should you do more to prevent harm. Risk Assessment will help identify what could go wrong, how likely it is to happen and how serious the result could be. The employer then needs to put control measures in place to prevent the problem occurring.
Hazard and Risk have two quite distinct meanings.
For example, a bottle of bleach at work falls under category of workplace hazards. If the bottle contains hazardous liquid, bur locked in the cupboard it does little harm. The risk increases when the bottle is used. When people are working safely there is less chance that an accident will occur.
Chance is a measure of how likely it is that an accident could happen.
Severity is a measure of how serious an injury or health effect could be, as a consequence of unsafe working or of an accident. The severity can be influenced by the following:
• the environment,
• the number of people at risk, and
• the steps already taken to control the hazard.
Generally speaking, identifying and managing risks can be done in five steps:
Slips and Trips – consider floor surfaces, housekeeping and different floor levels.
Working at Height – e.g. decorations using ladders and construction workers on scaffolding.
Fire Hazards – e.g. flammable substances and sources of ignition.
Moving Vehicles – e.g. forklift trucks and reversing lorries.
Dust – such as wood dust in a sawmill or flour in a bakery.
Hot Liquids – e.g. pans of hot water or oil in a kitchen.
It is not just person conducting the task that may be affected but anyone nearby. For example, builders working on scaffolding above a public walkway may inure pedestrians if equipment or materials are dropped. Some employees will need a separate Risk Assessment, e.g. those who are more vulnerable, such as pregnant workers and young, inexperienced staff.
Consider the consequences of injury or harm. Could someone be seriously inured or even killed? Could lots of people be affected. How likely is it to occur? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then these hazards should be addressed as a priority and further controls put in place to reduce the risk to an acceptable level, using the hierarchy of control (see below).
It is a legal requirement that businesses formally record their significant findings. It is important not only to implement the controls you identified, making sure staff are trained in the new procedures, but to check to make sure they are followed correctly. Some health and Safety training can be delivered on-line. For solutions, please check our Online Health and Safety Training portal myelearnsafety.com
Reviews should take place when:
Reviews should also take place on a regular basis, possibly annually, just to make sure nothing has been missed and to identify new techniques or scientific developments that could be introduced to improve safety.
When considering control measures there is a scale of preference. the higher up the chart, the better or more preferable the method. Some measures will work for some tasks or activities and some for others, but not all will be suitable.
The following is a hierarchy of controls:
If something is hazardous, the most effective option is to remove the hazard altogether if possible.
If hazard cannot be eliminated, can it be substituted for something safer?
Procedures needed to work safely, e.g. limiting the amount of time the worker is exposed to a hazard, increasing safety signage, conducting risk assessments.
Equipment or clothing provided to protect an employee against risks to their health and safety. Must only be used once all other measures have been tried and found unsuitable.
Some hazards are obvious, such as unguarded moving parts of machinery, dangerous fumes, electricity, working at heights, moving vehicles or moving heavy loads. Less obvious, but at the root of many accidents, are hazards presented by untidy workplaces and poor maintenance. In the case of other hazards, such as excessive noise or exposure to chemicals, it may take months or even years before ill health materialises.
When deciding on the controls, you should consider the general principles of prevention. These are a hierarchy of controls that set out how to manage hazards. The focus should be to get rid of the hazard, so that people are protected. If this is not possible then you should work through the principles until you have made it as safe as reasonably practicable. Your reliance on personal protective equipment (PPE) should be one of the last steps in the process (not the first).
Always consider give training and instruction. Once you have assessed the risks and decided on your controls in line with the principles above, you will need to tell your employees about them and to make sure that they are competent to comply with them.
A guide to Risk Assessment and Safety Statements is a very useful publication by the Health and Safety Authority of Ireland (HSA), national body in Ireland responsible for the enforcement of workplace health and safety law, the implementation of a number of chemicals regulations, and accreditation. The information contained in the Guide can help an employer or self-employed person to manage safety and health in their workplace(s) by preparing risk assessments and a safety statement.
Myelearnsafety offers fully online health and Safety courses.
To find out more, please check our Courses page.
There are so many health and safety misconceptions out there. Employers and employees are not aware of how important health and safety is in the workplace. Here are five myths about health and safety in work.
“HSA inspectors are just looking to catch people out and issue fines”.
“Health and safety will cost me and my business money”.
“Health and safety is just more red tape hindering business”
Manual handling? You mean spending a day being told how to lift a box? What a waste of time”
“So many things to get banned because of health and safety. It’s the state gone mad”.
We all have a responsibility to protect and be protected in the workplace. These myths are not true and health and safety in the workplace is to safeguard you and is your legal right. Contact us for more details about all of our courses.