The Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 sets out a range of measures which ensure work safety in relation to working in confined spaces.
The Regulation establishes that airborne contaminant means a contaminant in the form of a fume, mist, gas, dust or vapour, and includes microorganisms.
A confined space means an enclosed or partially enclosed space that:
It does not include a mine shaft or the workings of a mine.
Confined Space Entry Permits
A Confined Space Entry Permit is a written document that must be issued prior to any worker commencing work within a confined space. It is a strict liability offence for a PCBU to direct a worker to enter a confined space prior to a confined space entry permit being issued.
The entry permit identifies:
The control measures stated in the permit must be based on a risk assessment conducted under section 66 (Regulation) and include the control measure for safe entry and the system of work provided for communicating and safety monitoring.
At the completion of work in the confined space the PCBU must ensure that all workers leave the confined space and that the competent person completes the acknowledgment on the entry permit.
From 1 January 2013 the entry permit must be issued by a person with the knowledge and skills (acquired through training, qualification or experience) to issue the entry permit (the competent person).
Design etc – confined spaces
The Regulation provides that a person in control of the design, manufacture, import or supply of a confined space commits a strict liability offence if they do not ensure that the space is designed so that there is ordinarily no need for anyone to enter it, and, if entry is needed, the space has a safe means of entry and exit and the risks to any person who enters the space is eliminated so far as is reasonably practicable.
Hazard identification and risk assessment – confined spaces
The Regulation provides that a person conducting a business or undertaking at a workplace commits a strict liability offence if:
Risk assessment includes at least an assessment of the nature of the space and the work to be done, whether work can be done without entering the space, different ways that the work can be done, and, the risks associated with the method of work, the plant to be used and any potential hazard in the space.
Entry to and work in confined spaces
must be put up by the PCBU immediately before, during, in preparation of, and in the completion of work in a confined space.
Communication and Safety Monitoring
The PCBU must ensure that prior to workers entering the confined space that a means for continuous communication between workers within the confined space and the outside has been established, and that a standby person monitors the conditions within the space, ideally by observing the work being carried out.
Connected plant and services – Specific control
A PCBU must, so far as is reasonably practicable, eliminate risks associated with work in a confined space in either of the following circumstances:
Atmosphere – Specific control
In relation to work in confined spaces, a PCBU must also manage risks to health and safety associated with hazardous atmosphere. This duty is imposed if:
For the Regulation, LEL, or lower explosive limit, of a flammable contaminant means the concentration of the contaminant in air below which the propagation of a flame does not occur on contact with an ignition source.
The PCBU must ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that purging or ventilation of any contaminant in the atmosphere of the confined space is carried out, but that pure oxygen, or gas mixtures with oxygen in a concentration more than 21% by volume, is not used for purging or ventilation.
The PCBU must also ensure that while work is carried out in the confined space there is a safe oxygen level; or if the atmosphere has an oxygen level less than 19.5% by volume, that any worker carrying out work in the confined space is provided with air-supplied respiratory equipment.
Flammable Gases and Vapours - Specific control
A PCBU must ensure that the concentration of any flammable gas, vapur, mist or fumes exceeds 5% of the LEL for the substance. Where this concentreation is greater than 5%, but less than 10% of its LEL the person must ensure that any worker is immediately removed from the confined space unless a calibrated, continuous-monitoring flammable gas detector is used in the space. If the concentration is greater than 10% of its LEL the person must remove all workers from the confined space.
The PCBU must ensure that an ignition source cannot be introduced into a confined space if there is a possibility of a fire or explosion in the space.
Emergencies – particular measures
The Regulation provides that a PCBU at a workplace commits a strict liability offence if:
If a worker is required to enter a confined space to carry out first aid or rescue procedures in an emergency the PCBU must ensure that the worker has suitable personal protective equipment. This includes providing air-supplied respiratory equipment and protective clothing for potential engulfment where there is an identified risk.
Training about confined spaces
A PCBU must ensure that relevant workers are provided with suitable and adequate information, training and instruction on the following matters:
A relevant worker means a person carrying out work for the business or undertaking who could enter or work in a confined space; or carry out any function in relation to work in a confined space or the emergency procedures; or any person supervising a worker in a confined space.
The Regulation provides that a PCBU commits a strict liability offence if the person does not keep a record of training given to a worker for 2 years.
Any risk assessment completed under section 66 in relation to a confined space must be retained for at least 28 days after the work to which is relates is completed. The Confined space entry permit must be retained at least until the work has been completed.
If a notifiable incident occurs in connection with work in a confined space, a copy of the risk assessment or permit must be kept for 2 years after the incident.
A copy must be available for inspection by WorkSafe ACT or by any relevant worker on request.