If you're in charge of safety at any commercial operation, then you know that you have to keep up with a raft of government regulations to ensure that all of your workers are as safe as possible, at all times. You may have encountered a problem in one particular area of the operation, however and will have to send in some workers to an area that is potentially dangerous. There's not much room to operate within this problem area, but you're not sure whether the various rules define this as "restricted" or "confined." What do you need to know to make preparations correctly?
The Law Defined
The law determines that a restricted space is any area that has physical restrictions which could make it difficult for an operative to conduct the necessity work. Notably, a confined space is an area that's not designed or intended to be occupied by anybody and a place that could cause significant risk due to the presence of fire, contaminants or a lack of oxygen. You will need to make that determination, as there are more significant regulations in place for confined areas.
What You Need to Know
However, certain conditions are relevant in both cases and principal among them is the need to enter details into a register that is kept in the main office. You will need to put up some signs to identify the location of these problem areas and make sure that they are physically segregated by a door that must be kept locked at all times.
If you have any of these confined or restricted areas in your facility, then the law expects you to create a full risk assessment before you can schedule any work there. When this is done, all of the hazards must be identified, together with the level of risk. The plan will then need to go into detail to determine how the work is undertaken and what will happen, should an emergency be declared.
You will need to train every one of the employees involved and that includes those who are on standby in case of an emergency. Your plan must be created in writing and you must make sure that all employees have read the documentation and are fully aware of the repercussions. They must know what type of hazard they are likely to encounter, how to mitigate risks and how to act when things go wrong. Furthermore, all of the employees have to be retested every year to make sure that they are still familiar with the rules and the risks and are eligible to work in these spaces.
Confined Space Regulations
When all of that is done, there are additional conditions that are specific to confined spaces, where the risk is greatest. The person in charge has to give their authority in writing before anybody can enter the area or work can commence and the authority cannot be issued under any circumstances if a risk assessment has not been initiated. The atmosphere within must be tested and monitored for safe oxygen levels and if contaminants are found to be present in excess quantity, then nobody can enter without a respiratory device.
Best Course of Action
Make sure that everyone is fully trained before you proceed and have a look at some specific training courses to help you.