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Working in Confined Spaces

1 December 2023

Working in confined spaces is a high risk working environment.


What does it mean Working in Confined Space

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 Commence

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).


Confined Space Entry

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.


Questions to Ask

Before working in confined space commence, the following should be considered:

If someone is working in a confined space, think about the following:

  • If a worker gets overcome by fumes how will anyone know this is happening?
  • Once workers become overcome by fumes how can they be rescued?


  • Make sure you are fully aware of all the risks associated with working in confined space!
  • Make sure that the person performing work in confined space is competent (capable and trained) to work in confined spaces and in use of emergency equipment.


  • Work in confined spaces if it can be avoided.
  • Let unskilled people engage in confined space work.
  • Let anyone enter confined space unless sure it is safe to do so.
  • NEVER ignore risks associated with working in confined space.


Useful Resources

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.

In addition, the UK’s Health and Safety Executive info page titled Introduction to working in confined spaces can provide additional very useful information about working in confined spaces.


Tragic Example

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.

How It Could Have Been Avoided

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.


Online Health and Safety Training

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