Complying with the WHS Act
All of us need to comply with the current WHS (Work Health Safety) Act and Regulations regarding confined spaces. Regulation 5 (extract) defines what a confined space is. Please refer to our article on “What is a Confined Space”.
What are your obligations under the act ? Well that depends on the role you have. Let’s start with the Duty Holder.
“Duty Holder” refers to any person who owes a work health and safety duty under the WHS Act including a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU), designer, manufacturer, importer, supplier, installer of products or plant used at work (upstream duty holders), an officer and workers.
As a WORKER, you are defined as a DUTY HOLDER.
What are the Workers Duties in relation to a Confined Space?
Workers must take reasonable care for their own health and safety and that their work does not adversely affect the health and safety of other persons. Workers must comply with any reasonable instructions given relating to confined space entry permits, risk control measures and emergency procedures, and should carry out work in a confined space in accordance with any relevant information and training provided to them.
The key takeaway here is that it is the Confined Space Sentry’s DUTY to ensure compliance.
Managing Risk in a Confined Space
What is required in the Managing Risks associated with Confined Space? From Regulation 34 – 38 (extract):
In order to manage risk under the WHS Regulations, a duty holder must:
- Identify reasonably foreseeable hazards that could give rise to the risk
- Eliminate the risk so far as is reasonably practicable
- If it is not reasonably practicably to eliminate the risk: minimise the risk so far as is reasonably practicable by implementing control measures in accordance with the hierarchy of control
- Maintain the implemented control measure so that it remains effective
- Review and if necessary, revise risk control measures so as to maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, a work environment that is without risks to health and safety.
The key takeaway here is that it is the Confined Space Sentry’s DUTY the ensure all risks have been identified and the controls are in place.
Consultation with the Workers
Again, an extract from the WHS Act (Section 37):
The WHS Act requires that you consult, so far as is reasonably practicable, with workers who carry out work for you who are (or are likely to be) directly affected by a work health and safety matter.
In this regard, it is required that the Duty Holder:
- Consult with the work team
- Ensure all hazards have been identified
- Ensure all Controls are in place
- Ensure the work team fully understands the hazards and controls
Here is a list of examples for all members in the working party to look out for:
- Restricted entry or exit
- Harmful airborne contaminants
- Unsafe oxygen levels
- Fire and explosion
Other less obvious things to look out for are:
- Uncontrolled introduction of substances
- Biological hazards
- Mechanical hazards
- Electrical hazards
- Skin contact with hazardous substances
- Manual tasks
- Environmental hazards
- Physiological and psychological demands
Confined Space Critical Controls
Risk Management, whether it be in a workplace or just generally, is about identifying the possible hazards, assessing these hazards then putting in place controls to avoid or lessen the effect of the hazard if it were to occur. In the workplace and especially when managing Confined Spaces, Critical Controls must be put in place.
Examples of Critical Controls are:
- Clear communication with people working inside a confined space
- Communication with permit controller when opening and closing permit
- Trained and competent sentry and workers
- Prestart/Bump Testing of monitors
- Monitoring –Initial, periodic or continuous
- Correct monitor for the task (range of gases)
- Confined Space Harness-check no damage
- Confined Space Document -Rescue plan and signage in place
- Permits -Confined space permit, hot work permit
- Isolations -correct isolation box
- Barricading in place to prevent unauthorised entry
- Retractable lanyard/appropriate lanyard
- Clear communication with other work groups above below or around
- Work area set up, intrinsically safe lighting, air or battery operating tools
- Calibration of equipment is prior to start of job and is current
- Secondary ventilation-fans, hatches open, force air
- Housekeeping of area, inspection and clean-up of hazards