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25 Feb 2016

What is a high risk environment?

What is a high-risk environment?

Each year, up to fifteen people are killed in the United Kingdom due to working in a confined space, including 60% of fatalities occurring when individuals attempt to rescue others during a work expedition. Many industries involve people entering confined spaces in order to perform necessary checks and tasks. Therefore, it is essential that risk assessments and safety precautions are implemented by the employer to secure the protection of their employees in a high-risk environment, otherwise known as a confined space.

What is a confined space?

When thinking of a confined space, a claustrophobic small area may come to mind, however, according to the Health and Safety Executive a confined space is any “place which is substantially enclosed (though not always entirely) and where serious injury can occur from hazardous substances or conditions within the space or nearby”. In other words, workers who are involved in the construction, manufacturing, oil and gas, petrochemical and other similar industries may work in confined spaces. These confined spaces can contain hazardous substances or conditions as these spaces are not to be occupied for a substantial period of time. These hazardous substances or conditions can include:

  • Fire and explosions
  • Increased body temperature leading to loss of consciousness
  • Asphyxiation occurring due to gas, fume, vapour or lack of oxygen
  • Drowning due to flooding
  • Asphyxiation from a free flowing solid
  • Dust present in high concentrations

Where can a confined space be found?

The physical dimension of a space does not make it confined, but rather the potential risk of the hazards that could take place in that space. Therefore, whether work is taking place in a storage tank, small electrical chamber or utilities tunnel, it is vital that all confined spaces are identified within a workplace. Further examples of confined spaces include:

  • Boilers
  • Vaults
  • Silos
  • Sewers
  • Manholes
  • Vessels

How can high-risk environments, such as confined spaces, be handled?

Causes of fatalities and injuries in confined spaces prove obvious. Employers or workers do not carry out the right procedures to control for potential hazards in confined spaces, so when there is an emergency there is an insufficient response. High-risk environments need to be identified, entered and operated correctly. A safe system of work must be followed when approaching confined spaces. ABA Engineering has three main ways to aid this procedure and reduce the risk for both employer and employee. ABA Engineering offer:

  1. Confined space training
  2. Provision of trained confined space engineers to undertake work
  3. Provision of support cover to third party workforce

As a result, workers can understand how to recognise, test and evaluate a high-risk environment. Or, have an appropriate trained engineer to carry out procedures for their company. After all, the most important thing is the safety of employees! Reducing the risk of harm in any working situation means a healthy, happy workforce.

For more information on ABA Technical confined space training click here