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Document Number: GDL-007

GUIDELINES FOR
ENTRY AND WORK
IN CONFINED SPACES

Introduction
ISSUE: 01
George Ebejer

1 of 4

DATE: 30 January 2007

Document Number: GDL-007

Some people imagine confined spaces as only being small, enclosed


areas. However, size is not a part of the definition of a confined space. A
normal workroom can become a confined space if there is little ventilation
and hazardous substances are being used. A confined space may be
enormous, such as a large freight container or a petroleum storage tank,
but people working in it may be at risk due to lack of oxygen, presence of
flammable or explosive gases and/or toxic gases.
Definitions
Confined Space means a space that:
1.

Is large enough and so configured that an employee can


bodily enter and perform assigned work
Has limited or restricted means for entry or exit, and,
Is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.

2.
3.

Some examples of confined spaces are:

Mud, cement or grit hoppers


Petroleum storage tanks
Fuel tanks
Mud tanks
Water tanks
Sumps or pits
Tunnels
Freight containers

Atmospheric Conditions are the amounts and levels of gases, liquids,


vapours or pressure inside the confined space. Normal atmospheric
conditions would contain around 20.8% Oxygen, no flammable gases and
no toxic gases.
Oxygen Enriched Atmosphere is an atmosphere containing more than
21.5% oxygen by volume.
Oxygen Deficient Atmosphere is an atmosphere containing less than
19.5% oxygen by volume.
Lower Explosive Limit (LEL) is the minimum concentration of
combustible gas required for the gas to ignite at normal atmospheric
conditions.

ISSUE: 01
George Ebejer

2 of 4

DATE: 30 January 2007

Document Number: GDL-007

Risks of Working in a Confined Space


Work in a confined space may put workers at risk for a number of reasons.
1.

If flammable substances are present or the air is oxygen


enriched for some reason, a fire or explosion could occur.

2.

There may be fumes, gases or vapours present that pose a


risk to workers if they are inhaled. These may come from
substances that the worker is using, substances that were
kept in the space, eg a tank containing chemical residues,
substances from natural sources or contaminated land or
substances from other, less obvious sources, such as from
equipment which is being used outside the confined space,
such as fumes from a generator running nearby the entrance
to the space.

3.

There may be insufficient oxygen for the workers to breathe,


causing unconsciousness and possible death. Lack of oxygen,
also known as an oxygen deficient atmosphere, could be due
to a number of factors, including:

the air being displaced by heavier gases


lack of fresh air entering the confined space and the
oxygen being used up by the person breathing in the
confined space
natural processes using up the oxygen, such as
biodegradation of organic matter in sewers or rusting of
steel in tanks
carrying out activities that use up oxygen in a confined
space, such as welding.

4.

Liquids may get into confined spaces and cause drowning,


such as raised water levels in a sewer.

5.

Free-flowing solids may either cause asphyxiation or trap the


worker so that they cannot leave the confined space. An
example of this is grain, grit or cement flowing into a silo while
workers are present in the vessel.

6.

Heat in a confined space could cause adverse effects to


workers inside the space. A confined space may be hot for a
number of reasons, such as the type of work being carried out,
eg welding, or if it is a furnace that is still hot when the
workers enter.

Entry Procedures
ISSUE: 01
George Ebejer

3 of 4

DATE: 30 January 2007

Document Number: GDL-007

1.

The Project Supervisor identifies the confined space.

2.

The confined space must be properly isolated. All lines


connected to the space must be blanked off or disconnected.

3.

Prior to entry, the confined space should be tested by a


competent person in the following order:

Oxygen Level must be between 19.5% and 21.5% by


volume.
Combustible gases must be less than the LEL (preferably
0%)
Toxic gases must be lower than the permitted limit in
parts per million measured as an 8 hour time-weighted
average, but preferably 0 ppm.

4.

Once assured of the conditions of the space, a permit-to-work


should be issued.

5.

The permit-to-work should be duly signed by all persons


concerned with the work in the confined space and should
include the details of the atmospheric conditions of the space
as resulted from the testing.

6.

A copy of the permit should be posted at the entrance of the


confined space. Ideally, a sign indicating "Men Inside" should
also be placed at the entrance to the space.

7.

When the confined space presents awkward conditions for


entry and exit, a stand-by person should be appointed, to stay
on the look out for the people inside the confined space.

8.

The persons entering the tank must be briefed on the


conditions and hazards of the confined space and any
precautions that need to be or are being taken.

9.

The permit-to-work must be closed when:


a.
b.

10.

ISSUE: 01
George Ebejer

The work has been completed, or


When the conditions inside the space change
and are no longer as described on the permit.

At the end of the job, the Foreman or Supervisor must ensure


that all persons who entered the space are accounted for and
that no equipment or material has been left inside.

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DATE: 30 January 2007