Confined Space Training – What do the regulations say?

Regulations can be confusing, frustrating and difficult to understand; particularly when concerning confined spaces. The definition of a confined space is broad and can lead to a grey area that poses several risks for the safety of workers and the potential for large fines if regulations aren’t adhered to correctly.

What the law says

The Confined Spaces Regulations of 1997 contain the following three key duties:

  • Avoid entry to confined spaces where possible, e.g. by doing the work from the outside
  • If entry to a confined space is unavoidable, follow a safe system of work
  • Put in place adequate emergency arrangements before the work start

Safe system of work

Before any work in confined spaces takes place, a suitable and sufficient risk assessment must take place.

There is often confusion as to whether there are any specific hazards within an environment, but therein lies the problem, just because there are no known hazards doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

A correct risk assessment involves identifying all of the potential hazards that are present, and from this, all risks can be assessed and safety precautions can be determined.

The following areas should be considered:

  • The task and the environment
  • The suitability of employees
  • The working environment
  • Working tools and materials
  • Arrangements in case of emergency

The task itself

If your assessment identifies any risks of injury, the Confined Spaces Regulations outline several key duties:

If possible, avoid entry to confined spaces environments. Check if there is any other viable way for the work to be completed, a different approach (such as working from the outside) can reduce the need for confined space work. Pose the question as to whether the work is necessary at all or consider modifying the space itself so that entry is no longer required.

If entry is unavoidable, follow a safe system of work. Use the results of your risk assessment to identify all possible precautions in order to reduce the risk of injury. This system must be identified and put into practice and everyone involved will need proper training and instruction. Which of course, we can assist with, you can see our confined spaces training courses here.

Suitability of employees

As well as the general training for all employees, you may need to appoint competent people to help you manage the risks. Furthermore, supervisors should be given responsibility to ensure that the necessary precautions are taken, to check safety at each stage and may need to remain present while work is underway.

Working tools and materials

PPE in such environments is a given, but in some cases the use of additional signage and special emergency communication tools and electronic sensors will be necessary. Workers will also need to be mindful of introducing a hazard within the space, such as flammable and aerosol like materials.

There should always be training on how to use all rescue and resuscitation equipment.

Arrangements in case of emergency

Regulation 5 of the Confined Space Regulations states: “... no person at work shall enter or carry out work in a confined space unless there have been prepared in respect of that confined space suitable and sufficient arrangements for the rescue of persons in the event of an emergency, whether or not arising out of a specified risk.”

Having a rescue team present at every confined space entry is not a legal requirement. However, it is a requirement to have both suitable and sufficient emergency arrangements in place.

Your arrangements should be aligned with the level of risk. They should be suitable, sufficient and in accordance with current best practice.

These arrangements may include:

Self-Rescue – for a very low risk entry, this may include the use of gas detection equipment and escape breathing apparatus which gives the wearer sufficient air to evacuate.

Non-Entry Rescue – for a vertical entry where the entrant does not traverse and will not become entangled, this may include the wearing of a harness connected to a mechanical device capable of lifting a casualty out of the space.

Casualty Extraction – for an entry where there’s no risk of a hazardous atmosphere, a casualty extraction team can recover a casualty who has become ill or injured.

Rescue Team – will be more appropriate for an entry where there is a reasonably foreseeable risk of a hazardous atmosphere.

For more information about the confined space training we provide or any of our other training courses click here, email or call 01484  714 000.

Useful Information

For more information about the importance of confined space training visit the Confined spaces section of the Health and Safety Executive website at

The text of the Safe Work in Confined Spaces (L101) regulations published by the HSE can be viewed at the website –

The HSE book ‘Safe Work in Confined Spaces (L101)’ can be purchased from HSE or downloaded free of charge from their website –

The Water UK, Classification and Management of Confined Space Entries can be downloaded from their website by typing ‘confined space’ into the search box at

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