Confined space: Supervision, resourcing and communication
Control measure knowledge
Prior to commencing operations, incident commanders should consider putting in place appropriate supervision and ensure that personnel are competent to work in confined spaces.
The incident commander may decide that a greater degree of supervision is required, based on their risk assessment. They should appoint a confined space supervisor, who has the appropriate level of managerial authority, knowledge, skills and competence to ensure they can effectively manage the required resources as determined by the incident plan.
A confined space supervisor should ensure that:
- A suitable and sufficient risk assessment process is ongoing and being recorded
- Appropriate control measures are implemented and maintained
- Hazards and risks are communicated to all those involved
- They regularly update the incident commander of the tactical plan, progress and any findings of the risk assessment
A confined space supervisor, where available, can advise incident commanders of the hazards and risks associated with restricted access and egress and with the operational requirements at incidents involving confined spaces.
If the risk assessment requires, it may be necessary to appoint dedicated safety officers to monitor the working environment or specific hazards. Entry control procedures should be used to monitor the safety of personnel if they are committed to work in a confined space environment. Incidents involving confined spaces are more likely to require a greater degree of control and supervision.
Incident commanders should also apply the most appropriate level of breathing apparatus (BA) entry control supervision for a confined space incident. For further information refer to:
- Operations: Breathing apparatus entry control
- Foundation for breathing apparatus: Supervision of breathing apparatus entry control points
Competent personnel are those with the necessary knowledge, skills, experience of and familiarity with the relevant processes and equipment, which enables them to understand the risks involved and apply the necessary safeguards.
In line with safe person principles, only competent personnel should be deployed in this environment, and only if they have the appropriate equipment, supervision and personal protective equipment (PPE).
An effective communication system must be in place and should enable communication:
- Between all personnel working inside the confined space
- Between personnel inside the confined space and those outside
- To request further resources in case of emergency
Adequate fallback arrangements should be in place in the event communications fail.
The equipment used for communication should take account of the other equipment, PPE and respiratory protective equipment (RPE) that is used when working in confined spaces.
Where there is a risk of explosive atmospheres, all communication equipment used in a confined space must be protected so that it does not present a source of ignition. For further information refer to:
- Fireground radios guidance: ATEX-approved radios
- The Equipment and Protective Systems Intended for Use in Potentially Explosive Atmospheres Regulations
- The Equipment and Protective Systems Intended for Use in Potentially Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (Northern Ireland)
- Health and Safety Executive (HSE) ATEX and explosive atmospheres
Alternatives to normal communications should be considered, including dedicated urban search and rescue (USAR) capability and existing on-site systems. A leaky feeder system and deploy repeaters should be requested if required and available.
Ensure that communication equipment that meets the appropriate ATEX classification is available to personnel who are competent to work in confined spaces
Consider identifying or developing specialist personnel to be confined space supervisors
Use only communications equipment that meets the appropriate ATEX classification when personnel enter any potentially explosive atmosphere
Conduct regular checks to ensure communication equipment continues to function
Implement fallback arrangements if there is a failure in the communications equipment
Consider requesting and appointing a confined space supervisor
Apply the most appropriate level of BA entry control supervision for a confined space incident
Commit competent personnel to work in a confined space only following a risk assessment
Liaise with the incident commander to establish or verify the safe system of work
Ensure an analytical risk assessment is carried out
Regularly review the risk assessment and the safe system of work
Regularly update the incident commander of progress or concerns