How to control risk associated with confined spaces

Education & Development Blog

Confined space refers to areas that are substantially enclosed and may include tanks, chambers, pits, cellars, vessels or anything similar that may create the likelihood of harm, accidents or injuries to people working inside and as such require emergency action to remedy. If you work in such areas as a supervisor or skilled worker, it is vital that you understand how to control risk at the workplace. Below are some tips on how to do it.

Identifying risk areas—arranging for risk assessments regularly to identify areas that may pose a potential threat to the well-being of workers is an essential step in controlling overall risk. Not carrying out assessments is a reckless move and should be avoided as much as possible.

Once the key areas are identified, the degree of risk you are dealing with is next on the list. This means checking for structural weaknesses, presence of wild animals, presence of flammable elements, poor construction to determine which course of action to be taken.

Understanding the hierarchy of control—risks can either be eliminated or controlled and this creates a hierarchy where means of control are ranked from the top level of reliability and protection to the lowest. This aids in achieving the highest and most practical methods of protection during moments of risk.

While the most effective control measure is eliminating a risk, that is, by restricting entry to confined spaces, minimizing the risk in a reasonably practical way by either substituting the source of risk with a safer alternative or isolation of the hazard from people exposed to it is an option.

This pay-off is usually determined by a number of things

  • Whether the work can be carried out without requiring a person to enter the space
  • The emergency procedures required
  • The nature of the space at risk
  • Nature of hazard and whether it is associated with airborne contamination or levels of oxygen.
  • The work to be carried out, methods and process.

For more information on this pay-off, visit here

Activation of control measures—control measures need to be adopted to minimize risk while work is being carried out and they include employing safe work practices, applying corrective measures to problematic spots to reduce the risk and using protective equipment. Double checking the control measures to ensure they are working properly at all times is highly recommended.

Planning for emergency measures—despite all the preventive risk control measures you might take, accidents do happen every so often and this might prove harmful to the workers. This requires that emergency measures be put in place and workers trained through drills to ensure minimal harm in the event of a problem. This involves high levels of coordination between workers inside the spaces and people on the outside who are able to attend to requests, notice danger and will be able to conduct extractions when need be.


7 September 2017

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