A clear definition under WSH Act and the subsidiary legislation, Workplace Safety and Health (Confined Spaces) Regulations 2009.
A confined space is any chamber, tank, manhole, vat, silo, pit, pipe, flue or other enclosed space, in which —
- dangerous gases, vapours or fumes are liable to be present to such an extent as to involve a risk of fire or explosion, or persons being overcome thereby;
- the supply of air is inadequate, or is likely to be reduced to be inadequate, for sustaining life; or
- there is a risk of engulfment by material;
Working in Confined spaces is considered hazardous work and there are legal requirements to fulfil before you are allowed to work in a confined space.
Due to the fact that it has restricted or no natural ventilation, mechanical ventilation is often used to ensure adequate air exchange are provided. But the question is, how much is adequate? How can we determine that the air is sufficient for the different work that is carried out in the confined space. The air within these confined space may not be of similar composition as that of the air we are breathing which may result in an irritation of one’s breathing. A risk of higher ratio of methane and/or hydrogen (increase chance of combustion/explosion). An increased number of personnel within the confined space also increase the risk within these spaces. Confined Space Rescue equipment is required by the regulation are to be on standby in case of emergencies (e.g. emergency rescue). Not all companies have the correct equipment and expertise for rescue.
Did you know? QE Safety Consultancy along with SCDF actually conducted a drill for emergency rescue early this year. This provided us first hand information on the current practices of SCDF and how we can adapt to their practices and standards.
Below are the numbers of reported accidents in the year 2015 & 2016
Source: OSHD Annual Report- MOM
What do we do in our assessment of confined space?
A Confined Space Safety Assessor shall be well versed in the legal regulation and the method of assessing different type of confined space. He will determine the suitable air condition, lighting, access, egress and other safety factors that are critical to ensure that the work in the confined space is safe to be carried out.