Working in a confined spaces can be fatal, because of a lack of oxygen, an explosion or airborne contaminant. Confined spaces can be found in tanks, pits, pipes, chimneys, silos, sewers, shafts, wells, pressure vessels, trenches and tunnels.


Confined space could be in our houses or workplaces but we must ensure safety precautions are taken before entering this place.

General requirements for employers

Assess the risks

Someone with the right knowledge and skills must prepare a written assessment of all the possible risks of entering, or working in or near, a confined space. That person needs to review and revise it when necessary, and it should include:

  • whether the work can be done without entering the space
  • the nature of the space
  • the amount of oxygen and airborne contaminant in the space – and whether the amount is likely to change
  • the type of work, the range of options for doing the work and how it will be carried out
  • emergency and rescue procedures.

Use a permit

Before someone enters a confined space, you must give them an entry permit (written by a competent person) that includes:

  • a description of the space
  • the names of those allowed to enter the space
  • the time the permit is valid
  • the things to do before work commences (eg cleansing and entry) and during work (eg continuous communication with, and monitoring of, workers)
  • a section for the competent person to acknowledge that everyone has left the space.

The permit applies to one space only, but it allows one or more workers multiple entries.

When the work is finished, make sure the acknowledgment confirms that everyone has left the space.

Erect signs and barricades

Prominently display signs near the confined space entries, banning entry to anyone not listed on the entry permit. Also, install locks and fixed barriers.

Communicate with and monitor those inside

A stand-by person must continuously monitor the conditions inside a confined space from outside the space, and where they can, observe the work being carried out. You must be able to order the workers to get out, communicate with them at all times, and start emergency procedures when necessary. The stand-by person must never enter the space to attempt a rescue.

Isolate services

Minimise or, if you can, eliminate risks resulting from any plant or services connected to the confined space. Also, prevent contaminants entering the space through pipes, ducts, vents, drains, conveyors and the like.

Make sure the air is safe

Clean the air in the space regularly, keep it well ventilated, safely purge any contaminants, and carry out atmospheric testing before anyone enters. Use an appropriate respirator if you are unable to keep safe oxygen levels.

Get rid of ignition sources

Get rid of all ignition sources that could cause a fire or explosion. Ensure the amount of flammable gas, vapour or mist in the space is less than five per cent of its lower explosive limit (LEL). If the LEL is greater than five but less than 10 per cent, you must use a flammable gas detector and if the LEL is greater than 10 per cent, no-one should be in the space.

Have emergency procedures

Your workplace must have good first aid and rescue procedures, and you need to practise them.

Make sure openings in the space are large enough to allow emergency access and are not obstructed. Also, make sure appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), like air-supplied respiratory equipment, is made available to workers carrying out emergency tasks.

Finally, keep plant, equipment and PPE in good working order.

Train your workers

Your workers and their supervisors must understand the risks of a confined space, the controls that are in place, what they need to do and what a permit allows.

Keep records

Keep a copy of your risk assessment for at least 28 days after the work in the space has finished, and keep a copy of the permit at least until the work is completed. If there is an incident in the space, keep the records for at least two years.

Keep a record of worker training for two years.

These records must be made available to us and any worker upon request.

Entering Confined Space At Home

Also ensure that when working in confined space at home, you follow this rule:

  • Ensure that one person is looking out for the person working.
  • Ensure proper ventilation inside the enclosed space, you can use artificial ventilation such as Fan
  • Ensure you take break every 15-30 minutes out of the confined space to take oxygen.
  • You can put signage to inform someone that you are working there.

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