Confined Space Determination & Assessment

Helping industry determine and correctly manage their Confined Spaces

Confined Space Determination & Assessment

Correct Confined Space Determination & Assessment is a critical element of any OHS or WHS management system. The risk of a confined space can range from low to one that could lead to a fatality. As such, it is essential that all business correctly determine what is and what is not a confined space in their workplace. Following their determination, an assessment of the risk to persons entering them needs to occur as well as the required hazard controls.

We have experienced OHS or WHS consultants who can either work independently or with your work team to determine your confined spaces and assess their risk. Furthermore, for workplaces with multiple confined spaces, we can establish a confined space register that would list all confined spaces and their risk ranking. In addition it would also include a link to their assessment document that details the required workplace controls. Additionally, we can supply and install the necessary “Danger Confined Space” signs at the entry to each identified confined space.  The selected sign material would depend on the environmental conditions that the signs would experience.

Determination of Confined Spaces

In Australia, dependent on what state your business operates in, the document referred to for the definition of the confined space will vary.  For the states that have adopted the national model WHS legislation then the Model Code of Practice Confined Space will apply.  For those states still under their own OHS legislation then generally the definition is the one found either in their OHS regulations or by referring to Australian Standard 2865.

In practical terms there is no major differences between the definitions used in the different documents. As such, we can determine your confined spaces using any definition. Consequently, they are then valid for any other definition.

The main area of conflict that occurs with the determination of confined spaces, is incorrectly applying the definition of a confined space to it, in a non-operational mode. As a consequence, some people ignore this requirement and only apply the definition to a space that is in shutdown status. This is very dangerous as it does not consider the hazards of a potential failure of the controls put in place for the shutdown status. Always focus on its operational mode.

Assessment of Confined Spaces

The assessment of a confined space focuses on the risks associated with persons entering it and performing work tasks within it. The risk levels can vary form very low to extreme. If the initial risk ranking is high or above, then it is essential to establish effective control measures. Furthermore, the maintenance of them is critical whilst persons are working within the space.

What the space did in its operational mode forms the basis of its initial risk assessment.  For example, a tank that just held drinking water is low risk. Whereas, if it contained petrol and some residue was potentially still left then the risk is a lot higher.  Another factor is the size and shape of the space and also how difficult it is to enter and exit the space. This initial risk assessment is its “Inherent Risk”.

On top of the initial assessment is the work task assessment. Once again the work task can either maintain the same inherent risk or increase it.  For example if the task was to inspect the lining of a drinking water tank, then the risk level is unlikely to change.  However, if the task was to glue on patches to the lining of a drinking water tank then the work related risk is high. In turn this would make the overall confined space risk assessment high.

Confined Space Register

Any site that has more than a few confined spaces should establish a Confined Space Register.  If requested to do so, as part of any Confined Space determination and assessment project, we would prepare a Confined Space Register.

To be truly effective, the register should contain a listing of all site confined spaces. Where appropriate, separate work areas or business units would have their own section in the register. Furthermore, it should provide a picture of the main entry and a summary of the space and its inherent risk. If required the register could also hold the risk assessment of typical work tasks performed within the space. 

Confined Space signs

It is a legal requirement to have warning signs at each entrance to a confined space. For cost effectiveness the signs need to be durable whilst considering their installation environment. With the above in mind from cheapest to most expensive sign material:-

  • Stickers are only suitable for inside buildings and where no heat or chemical exposure occurs;
  • Corflute is only suitable for inside building locations again where no heat or chemical exposure occurs.  They also tend to deteriorate over about two years inside and only three to six months outside.
  • Polypropylene signs are only suitable for inside building locations. Also for outside buildings that are within 2 km of the ocean. Poly signs “yellow” and age within about two years when used outside.
  • Metal printed signs are best for outside locations and can stand a degree of heat and some minor chemical exposure.  They fade outside over about 5+ years. However, they are not suitable for with 2km of the ocean.
  • Aluminium “road sign” standard are the most durable signs for any outside location.

Using the wrong sign material, whilst being cheapest in the first instance, will cost more to maintain in the long run.

What does it cost?

As no two workplaces are the same, then no two Confined Space Determination and Assessment projects are the same. However, we can come to your workplace and undertake an initial assessment of the scope of the proposed project.

Following that assessment we would prepare a proposal for your review and approval. Once approved we can start work on your project.

Please contact us today and organise a time for us to visit your workplace.

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Safety Resources Australia Pty Ltd

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