Confined Space Legislation

blog 10 May 2022

If you're carrying out work in a confined space then you need to be aware of the legislation. Read on for more information on legislation around entering, working in and exiting confined spaces.

All those carrying out work in confined spaces should be aware of the relevant legislation. This also applies to employers who need to protect their employees when working in confined spaces.

Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, you must carry out a risk assessment for all work activities to decide what safety measures are needed. For confined space work, this means identifying the hazards, assessing the risks, and deciding what control measures are required.

The Health & Safety Executive’s (HSE) risk management site at is an excellent tool to help you identify the risks. It may be that you need to engage with a confined space specialist to help manage the risks.

What is a Confined Space?

If your assessment identifies one or more specified risks, or a specified risk is reasonably foreseeable the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 apply. According to these regulations, a confined space definition is ‘any place, including any chamber, tank, vat, silo, pit, trench, pipe, sewer, flue, well or other similar space in which, by virtue of its enclosed nature, there arises a reasonably foreseeable specified risk.’

Under the Confined Space Regulations, a confined space must have both of the following features:

  • The space must be substantially (though not always entirely) enclosed and
  • One or more of the specified risks must be present or reasonably foreseeable.

If this is not the case, the space is not considered a confined space under these particular regulations. Specified risk means a risk of serious injury due to fire or explosions, drowning, entrapment, loss of consciousness due to an increase in body temperature, and loss of consciousness or asphyxiation due to gas, fume, vapour, lack of oxygen or entrapment within free-flowing solids.

Some confined spaces are very easy to identify because they have limited openings, but others may not be immediately identifiable as a confined space. For example, an enclosed space may have a safe level of oxygen but the work being carried out may change this. Examples include a spray booth during paint spraying or using chemicals for cleaning purposes.

In every single situation, you should always consider the steps you can take to possibly avoid working in a confined space (Regulation 4.1 Confined Spaces Regulations 1997). If you simply can’t avoid entry into a confined space (Regulation 4.2 Confined Spaces Regulations 1997), you must have a safe system for working inside the space.

This will include a risk assessment and method statement and may also include appointing a trained supervisor and considering factors such as using an effective communications system, testing the atmosphere with equipment such as gas detection equipment and using specialist equipment such as explosion proof lighting and respiratory protective equipment (RPE). Where there is a risk of serious injury in entering, working or exiting the confined space, a permit-to-work system may be required.

Emergency Rescue

According to Regulation 5 of the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997, suitable and sufficient emergency arrangements should be in place for work carried out in confined spaces, dependent on the level of risk. This includes making provision for getting workers out of the confined space in an emergency and having access to rescue and resuscitation equipment. At Sunbelt Rentals, we offer a wide range of confined space equipment, such as safety harnesses, lanyards, fall arrest blocks, safety lines, tripods, breathing apparatus and davit arm systems.

Other Regulations

Depending on the nature of the confined space work being carried out, other regulations may apply. For example, if you or your employees are working in confined spaces within machinery, the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER) and the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992 apply. With regards to the equipment required before entering a confined space, the Personal Protective Equipment Regulations 2002 and the Personal Protective Equipment at Work Regulations 1992 (as amended) apply.

For further guidance about working in confined spaces and the equipment that may be required, please contact our experts today.

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