Confined Space Training: Why We Do It

Recently, fire investigator Sarah Griffiths, and Road Traffic Collision investigator Ross Clarke, both of Hawkins’ London Office, attended Essential Confined Space Training. They are pictured with instructor Craig Stevens on top of a mobile unit that is specifically designed to train people on how to work safely within a confined space.

There are many hazards associated with operating in confined spaces, and at some incident scenes Hawkins Investigators need to enter such locations to carry out their investigations. These environments can present potentially high risks and, if not properly managed, accidents may occur, the results of which can be fatal. In the UK in 2017, there were 12 fatal accidents involving confined space operations.

In May 2017, a Devon farmer was killed after he sank into a silo full of grain. His colleague (also a family member) desperately tried to save him. Despite having a harness and line on site, the proper safety equipment was not used, and therefore the farmer could not be rescued.

On numerous occasions, when a problem has occurred within a confined space, multiple fatalities have resulted, as those involved failed to follow safe systems of work, or had forgotten their training. Confined space hazards may be encountered at the scenes of fires and engineering losses. They are not only present during land based operations, but are also a significant challenge in the maritime environment.

Examples of confined spaces include:

  • Tanks
  • Vats
  • Silos
  • Pits
  • Flues
  • Large pipes
  • Boilers
  • Wells
  • Ducts
  • Sewers
  • Cellars

This is, of course, not an exhaustive list.

Nick Ashby Confined Within a Power Generator

Investigator Nick Ashby is confined within a power generator in this example

Examples of the hazards:

  • The presence of dusts, fumes, vapours or gases in the environment
  • Low oxygen levels
  • Heat
  • Fire/explosion
  • Inundation by liquids or free flowing solids
  • Restricted space
  • Structural damage or collapses within the space

Recognising the problem, the UK legislated and brought in the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997. The Regulations address the issue by requiring safe systems of work, emergency procedures and training for all personnel who may be required to enter a confined space.

Hawkins & Associates have trained all our forensic investigators to ensure that any of our staff engaged in this type of work are aware of the risks and plan the activity properly. This always begins with carrying out a thorough risk assessment and putting adequate controls in place to mitigate the risks before starting work on site.  

Confined Space Mobile Training Unit

Essential Confined Space’s Mobile Training Unit

Mike Browne


This article was written by Hawkins’ Health & Safety Manager, Mike Browne. He joined Hawkins in 2012 and is based in our Bristol Office.

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