What do the confined space regulations say?

   01 December 2023         Blogs

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 are the 1997 confined space regulations?

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

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

What should be done before working in a confined space?

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

A safe system of work for confined spaces

If your assessment identifies any risks of injury, the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 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, Develop can assist with – you can see our full range of 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.

Safety arrangements in case of emergency rescue from a confined space

Regulation 5 of the Confined Space Regulations 1997 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 rescue 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 – this will be more appropriate for an entry where there is a reasonably foreseeable risk of a hazardous atmosphere.

Confined spaces training

At Develop Training, we believe that a well-trained workforce is the bedrock of workplace safety. Our tailored training programmes equip your employees with the knowledge and skills necessary to navigate confined spaces safely, ultimately reducing accidents and saving lives.

Remember, investing in training is an investment in your employees’ well-being and the overall success of your business.

We offer a wide range of confined space training solutions including:

Awareness of Confined Spaces

Confined Space Entry & Escape Breathing Apparatus

Level 2 Award in Working in High Risk Confined Spaces

Level 3 Award in Emergency Rescue & Recovery of Casualities from Confined Spaces

Level 2 Award in Working in Low Risk Confined Spaces

Confined Space Medium Risk & Top Person

Authorised Person: Confined Spaces

View our full range of confined spaces courses here: www.developtraining.co.uk/training/utilities/confined-spaces


Our locations

Training can be offered at our Derby, Swindon or York based centres or at a location of your choice via our mobile confined space unit: Learn more


Contact us

Contact us today on 0800 876 6708 or enquiries@developtraining.co.uk to learn more about our comprehensive confined space training solutions.

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