Confined Space Fatality Risk Being Widely Ignored

In the past year I have assisted 3 multi-site organisations, 1 medium and 2 large, that have had numerous “Confined Spaces” that have never been identified or labelled.  As a consequence two of the organisations had been allowing unsafe entry into the spaces – a fatality risk.  One had even had a near fatality and still not complied with health and safety law and risk controls.  One organisation has been lucky – their contracting plumbers have been doing the right thing. Unfortunately anyone else working in the spaces has not.  The hazard is known – we have all heard the stories of people being overcome in tanks or trapped in silos, and rescuers dying in the attempt.  So why do organisations not learn from their near misses (medium enterprise example) or not know the details of the Compliance Code for Confined Spaces (all 3 enterprises).  Is it because the requirements are “too hard”?  Is it a reliance on the contracting plumbers, tradies or workers to do the right thing to protect themselves?  Whatever the reason – it is not hard to fix. The specific tests are on page 4 of the Victorian Compliance Code available free on the WorkSafe website.  To paraphrase – any space that may need to be entered by people, that is not pressurised, is hard to enter or exit, has or is likely to have  compromised atmosphere or contaminants is a big chance to be a confined space.  What does that mean?  It must be labelled, secured and not entered unless the site has checked that people entering have licenses and training, communications equipment and standby personnel, rescue and retrieval equipment, tested the atmosphere and taken necessary precautions – by checking the safe work method statements (SWMS or JSA’s) and licenses.  The site must be aware of when people go in the space and come out, check that the SWMS risk controls are in place and issue a permit to those entering the space.  All this is difficult on multi-site environments if you do not even have a list of what spaces you have!  One place I am currently assisting did not know it has over 100 such spaces over 9 sites – its plumber did!  DON’T WAIT.  Stage 1 get the code, stage 2 make a list, stage 3 get expert advice.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>