Confined spaces

A confined space includes any enclosed or partially enclosed space that:

  • is not designed or intended primarily to be occupied by a person
  • is, or is designed or intended to be, at normal atmospheric pressure while a person is in the space
  • is or is likely to be a risk because of the atmosphere, contaminants or engulfment.

Examples of confined spaces that may be found on a construction site include some types of excavations or trenches, drainage or sewerage pipes, and crawl spaces.

Legislation

The specific requirements for confined spaces are located in the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (WHS Regulation), Part 4.3 – Confined spaces and apply only to those confined spaces that are entered by, intended or likely to be entered by, or could inadvertently be entered by any person. The requirements are summarised below.

The provides guidance on managing the risks associated with confined spaces.

Specific legislative requirements for confined spaces

Duty to eliminate need to enter and risk of inadvertent entry into confined spaces (designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers)

Designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers of plant or structures that includes a confined space must, so far as is reasonably practicable, eliminate the need for any person to enter the space and the risk of a person inadvertently entering the space

WHS Regulation 2011, s64(2)(a)

Duty to minimise need to enter and the risk of inadvertent entry into confined spaces (designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers)

If it is not reasonably practicable to eliminate the need to enter or the risks of inadvertent entry into a confined space, then designers, manufacturers, importers and suppliers must ensure that:

  • the need or risk is minimised
  • the space is designed with a safe means of entry and exit, and
  • the risks to any person that enters the space is eliminated or minimised so far as is reasonably practicable

WHS Regulation 2011, s64(2)(b)

Managing risks associated with confined spaces (PCBU)

The person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) must manage the risks associated with entering, working in, working on, or working in the vicinity of a confined space, including the risk of a person inadvertently entering the confined space

WHS Regulation, s66(1)

Risk assessment by a competent person

The PCBU must ensure that a risk assessment carried out for the purpose of managing risks associated with confined spaces is:

  • done so by a competent person
  • recorded in writing
  • reviewed and revised by a competent person as required to reflect any review of control measures, and
  • has regard to the matters listed in r66(4) of the WHS Regulation

WHS Regulation, s66(2), (3), (4) and (5)

Requirement for a confined space entry permit

The PCBU must not direct a worker to enter a confined space unless that person has a confined space entry permit for the work

WHS Regulation, s67

Confined space entry permit requirements

A confined space entry permit must:

  • be completed in writing by a competent person
  • state the confined space to which the permit relates
  • state the names of the persons permitted to enter the space
  • state the controls to be implemented
  • include space to record that work in the space has been completed and that all persons have left the space

WHS Regulation, s67(2)

Control measures to be based on risk assessment

The control measures stated on a confined space entry permit must be based on a risk assessment carried out by a competent person (see r66) and must include controls for safe entry and a safe system of work

WHS Regulation, s67(3)

Completion of work in a confined space

The PCBU must ensure that when work for which an entry permit has been issued is completed all workers leave the space and a competent person makes the appropriate record on the permit (see r67(2))

WHS Regulation, s67(4)

Confined space signage

The PCBU must ensure that signs are erected in a clear and prominent location next to each entry into a confined space that identify the space and inform workers that they must not enter without a permit.

The signs must be erected:

  • while work is being done in preparation for work in the space
  • immediately before work in the space commences
  • while the work is being carried out, and
  • while the work is being completed

WHS Regulation, s68

Communication and safety monitoring

The PCBU must provide a system of work that includes:

  • continuous communication between workers inside and workers outside the confined space
  • monitoring of conditions inside the confined space by a standby person who is in the vicinity of the space and, if practical, observing the work

WHS Regulation, s69

Specific controls for confined spaces

The PCBU must manage specific risks associated with:

  • the introduction of any substances or condition by any connected plant or substance (e.g. exhaust)
  • the activation or energising of any connected services (e.g. electrical)
  • contaminants in the atmosphere of the space, including the purging or ventilation of the contaminant
  • oxygen levels within the space
  • any flammable gases and vapours
  • any ignition sources within the space that may case fire or explosion

Specific guidance and requirements on managing these risks are listed in the relevant Regulation

WHS Regulation, s70, s71, s72 and s73

Emergency procedures

The PCBU must establish and practice first aid and rescue procedures to be followed in the event of an emergency in a confined space

WHS Regulation, s74(1)

First aid and rescue procedures

The PCBU must ensure that first aid and rescue procedures:

  • are initiated from outside the confined space
  • the entry and exit openings are large enough to allow emergency access
  • the entry and exit openings are not obstructed
  • plant, equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE) provided for first aid and rescue procedures are maintained in good working order

WHS Regulation, s74(2) and (3)

Personal protective equipment (PPE) in emergencies

The PCBU must ensure that suitable PPE is provided to workers required to enter a confined space in the event of an emergency to perform first aid or carry out a rescue. For example, air supplied respiratory equipment is provided where the atmosphere in the confined space contains harmful concentrations of contaminants or unsafe levels of oxygen

WHS Regulation, s75

Information, training and instruction for workers

The PCBU must ensure that the relevant workers are provided with suitable and adequate training with regards to the hazards, risks, controls and procedures relevant to working in a confined space. Records of the training must be kept for 2 years

WHS Regulation, s76

Records to be kept

Confined space risk assessments and entry permits must be kept for specific periods of time, depending on the circumstances:

  • risk assessments must be kept until at least 28 days after the work is completed
  • entry permits must be kept at least until the work is completed
  • in the event of a notifiable incident, both must be kept for at least 2 years after the incident

Risk assessments and entry permits must be available to any relevant worker on request for the period that it is kept.

Entry permits must also be available for inspection for the period that they are kept

WHS Regulation, s77

Safe work method statements

Safe work method statements are required for all high risk construction work, including any construction work that is carried out in or near a confined space

WHS Regulation 2011, s291 and s299

Notifiable incidents

A number of potential dangerous incidents can take place in a confined space, including:

  • an uncontrolled escape, spillage or leakage of a substance
  • an uncontrolled implosion, explosion or fire
  • an uncontrolled escape of gas or steam
  • the interruption of the main system of ventilation in an underground excavation or tunnel

Dangerous incidents must be notified to Workplace Health and Safety Queensland.

View more information about the notification of dangerous incidents, including the notification form

WHS Act, s35, s36, s37, s38 and s39

Last updated
02 May 2017