Lloyd's Register Foundation has issued a call for expressions of interest to determine the need for a programme or network with the primary aim of enhancing safe working in confined spaces.
Confined spaces are found in many workplaces around the world, and can be highly dangerous. Despite significant regulation, training and equipment for safe working in confined spaces, asphyxiation in confined spaces remains a significant problem.
In June 2017 the Lloyd's Register Foundation published its insight report on global safety challenges. This report summarized the challenges to safety around the world based on a survey of those working in industry and academia. One of the global safety challenges identified is that of preventing asphyxiation in confined spaces, using the shipping industry as an example. Seafarer fatalities continue despite training and existing safety procedures. Bulky breathing apparatus and factors around training, culture, and incentive are cited as potential issues across a range of industries. In fact, it was reported that more than half of workers who die in confined spaces across all industries do so whilst trying to rescue their colleagues without proper training and equipmenti. It is also well documented that the wearing of personal protective equipment (PPE) affects workers attitude and ability to perform work, and will in most cases make movement more difficult.
The definition of a confined space varies from one country to another. For the purpose of this call, a confined space is defined as any space which is both enclosed, or largely enclosed, and which also has a reasonably foreseeable risk of death or serious injury from hazardous substances or dangerous conditionsii. Some places may only become confined for periods when work is being carried out on them, and as such, confined spaces are not always obvious. A confined space in this context is one that has at least one of the following characteristics:
- limited openings for entry or exit
- restricted natural ventilation
- not designed for continuous working
In addition to the hazards present in a regular workspace, working in a confined space is particularly hazardous because of the risks from noxious fumes, depleted oxygen levels, or a risk of fire and explosions. Other hazards may include asphyxiation from some other sources (such as grain or dust), hot working conditions, or flooding/drowning among other things. However, oxygen deprivation is the leading cause of fatalities occurring within confined spaces - the danger often being absent at the time of entryiii.
The traditional hazard control methods of elimination, substitution, engineering controls, administrative controls and PPE are commonly applied to confined spaces. However, other special precautions may also need to be taken, depending on the hazard, and often because of the nature of the confined space. Mechanical ventilation is the engineering control normally used whereas the “permit to work” system, or equivalent, is the typical administrative hazard control method employed in confined spaces.
Aims and Objectives
The Foundation’s first step through this call is seeking to:
- understand why accidents continue to happen in confined spaces,
- understand what activities are currently underway to address these causes,
- find out which companies and / or research organisations are active in this space,
- identify any other interest groups in this subject area, and
- establish what else could be done to improve safety in confined spaces.
If you are either interested in participating, or in finding out more, please register your interest here (please note, you will need to register on our grants management system).
The closing date for this call is the 2 July 2018. Expressions of interest received after this date will still be considered, but may miss early opportunities.
iThierry Dumortier (2011), Confined Spaces, https://www.hsimagazine.com/article/confined-spaces-59 [Accessed 22 November 2017]
iiHealth and Safety Executive (2017), Working in Confined Spaces, http://www.hse.gov.uk/toolbox/confined.htm [Accessed 19 November 2017]
iiiJanette Lange (2017), Risk of Workplace Confined Spaces, https://www.reliableplant.com/Read/29672/workplace-confined-spaces [Accessed 19 November 2017]