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Confined spaces pose dangers because they are usually not designed to be areas where people work. Confined spaces often have poor ventilation which allows hazardous atmospheres to quickly develop, especially if the space is small. The hazards are not always obvious and may change from one entry into the confined space to the next.
The risks of working in confined spaces include:
- loss of consciousness, impairment, injury or death due to the immediate effects of airborne contaminants;
- fire or explosion from the ignition of flammable contaminants;
- difficulty rescuing and treating an injured or unconscious person; and
- asphyxiation resulting from oxygen deficiency or immersion in a free-flowing material, such as grain, sand, fertiliser, water or other liquids.
A confined space is an enclosed or partially enclosed space that:
- is not designed or intended primarily to be occupied by a person; and
- is, or is designed or intended to be, at normal atmospheric pressure while any person is in the space; and
- is or is likely to be a risk to health and safety from:
- an atmosphere that does not have a safe oxygen level, or
- contaminants, including airborne gases, vapours and dusts, that may cause injury from fire or explosion, or
- harmful concentrations of any airborne contaminants, or
Confined spaces are commonly found in vats, tanks, pits, pipes, ducts, flues, chimneys, silos, containers, pressure vessels, underground sewers, wet or dry wells, shafts, trenches, tunnels or other similar enclosed or partially enclosed structures.
The Code of Practice - Confined Spaces provides practical guidance for managing the risks associated with confined spaces work.
Access to confined spaces
All confined spaces within the University are clearly marked with a confined spaces sign. Access to confined spaces within the are restricted and require a Confined Space Entry Permit to be completed through the University's Contractor Management System. A confined space entry permit must:
- be completed in writing by a competent person;
- state the confined space to which the permit relates;
- state the names of the persons permitted to enter the space;
- state the controls to be implemented; and
- include space to record that work in the space has been completed and that all persons have left the space.
Additionally, a risk assessment must be completed for all confined spaces work.