Confined Space Training – Why It’s Important

On average 15 people are killed each year in the UK during work in confined spaces and even more are seriously injured. Fatalities are not just confined to those carrying out work in confined spaces, but also those who attempt to rescue trapped personnel without proper confined space training and rescue equipment.

The Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 are in place to protect staff and others against risks to their health while working in a confined space.

These regulations contain the following key duties:

Avoid entry to confined spaces, e.g. by doing the work from the outside;

If entry to a confined space is unavoidable, follow a safe system of work; and

Put in place adequate emergency arrangements before the work commences

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers and self-employed people to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks for all work activities for the purpose of deciding what measures are necessary for safety. For work in confined spaces this means identifying the hazards present, assessing the risks and determining what precautions to take.

What is a confined space?

It may come as a surprise to some but confined spaces are not defined by the physical dimensions of a space but actually by the hazards that may arise in the space.

Therefore, a confined space is defined as ‘any place such as ducts, vessels, culverts, tunnels, boreholes, manholes, excavations, sumps, inspection pits, experimental hutches, tanks, building voids or other similar space in which, by virtue of its enclosed nature there is a reasonably foreseeable risk of:

  • serious injury from fire or explosion;
  • loss of consciousness arising from increased body temperature;
  • loss of consciousness or asphyxiation arising from gas, fume, vapour or lack of oxygen;
  • drowning arising from increased levels of liquid; or
  • asphyxiation from a free flowing solid’.

Confined Space TrainingRisk Assessment: Identifying Confined Space Hazards

Hazardous gases pose a serious risk to those working in confined spaces. For more information on ‘Common Hazardous Gases Found in Confined Spaces’ click here. (internal link)

Other dangers in confined spaces include:

  • Substances entering through piping or other openings
  • Poor visibility
  • Temperature extremes
  • Noise
  • Risk of drowning
  • Restricted access and egress
  • Restricted movement
  • Loose and unstable materials
  • Slip, trip, and fall hazards
  • Falling objects
  • Moving parts of equipment and machinery
  • Electrical shock

Managing Confined Spaces Work

You should avoid work in confined spaces unless it’s essential to do so. However, if confined space work is unavoidable then ensure you are aware of the risks that may occur within a confined space and ensure the person is capable and trained in the work to carried out, the use of any emergency equipment, and has undergone appropriate confined space training.

Any confined space work should have:

A Supervisor – Someone in charge of the job who can ensure safe systems of work are adhered to.

Persons Suitable For The Work – Someone who has the appropriate confined space training, experience, build, minimal risk of claustrophobia, and fitness to wear breathing apparatus.

Isolation – In all cases a check must be made to ensure isolation of all flows, pipelines mechanical and electrical equipment is effective.

Check The Size Of The Entrance – The access to the confined space must be big enough to allow workers wearing all the necessary equipment to enter and exit the confined space easily, and provide ready access and egress in an emergency.

Atmosphere Testing – Testing for toxic and flammable gas should be carried out before and whilst in the confined space. Remember to use a gas monitor with appropriate sensors and a fitted oxygen sensor.

Provision of Special Tools and Lighting – Non-sparking tools and specially protected lighting may be required. Use low voltage tools if working in metal tanks

Provision Of Breathing Apparatus – Essential if the air inside the confined space cannot be made fit to breathe because of present gases, fumes or vapours or lack of oxygen


All confined space work should also have Safe System of Work Elements such as:


A permit-to-work ensures a formal check is undertaken to ensure all the elements of a safe system of work are in place before anyone is allowed to enter or work in the confined space.

If confined spaces working is rare, then a permit to work for all confined space work may be appropriate. If your organisation has a small number of confined spaces then you may want to label them at the access points to restrict entry and make entry subject to a permit.

Emergency Arrangements

Important consideration should be given to:

How the alarm will be raised in an emergency

Is there effective communications between those inside and outside of the space?

What are the rescue arrangements if things go wrong?

Any Rescue Team on stand-by must be properly trained, including First Aid, sufficiently fit to carry out their task, be equipped with a rescue harness and be trained in using this and any other equipment required for a confined space rescue or practice drill.

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

Published on 11th January 2017 – Confined Space Services 

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