What is a Confined Space ?

Applicable Standard or Code of Practice

The current standard or code of practice is the Model Code of Practice, Confined Spaces from Safe Work Australia. For more information, click on this link.


Confined Space Definition

From the Model Code of Practice: Confined Spaces (Safe Work Australia):
A confined space means an enclosed or partially enclosed space that:

  • is not designed or intended primarily to be occupied by a person; and
  • is, or is designed or intended to be, at normal atmospheric pressure while any person is in the space; and
  • is or is likely to be a risk to health and safety from:
    • an atmosphere that does not have a safe oxygen level, or
    • contaminants, including airborne gases, vapours and dusts, that may cause injury from fire or explosion, or
    • harmful concentrations of any airborne contaminants, or
    • engulfment.

Confined spaces are commonly found in vats, tanks, pits, pipes, ducts, flues, chimneys, silos, containers, pressure vessels, underground sewers, wet or dry wells, shafts, trenches, tunnels or other similar enclosed or partially enclosed structures, when these examples meet the definition of a confined space in the WHS Regulations.


Note that the previously applicable Australian Standard: AS2865 – 1995 Safe Working in a Confined Space is now no longer referred to.

For comparison, the definition from AS2865 – 1995 is included here:

6.2 Confined space – an enclosed or partially enclosed space which:
(a) is at atmospheric pressure during occupancy;
(b) is not intended or designed primarily as a place of work;
(c) may have restricted means for entry and exit; and
(d) may –
(i) have an atmosphere which contains potentially harmful levels of contaminant;
(ii) not have a safe oxygen level; or
(iii) cause engulfment.

Confined spaces include but are not limited to –
(A) storage tanks, tank cars, process vessels, boilers, pressure vessels, silos and other tank-like compartments;
(B) open-topped spaces such as pits or degreasers;
(C) pipes, sewers, shafts, ducts and similar structures; and
(D) any shipboard spaces entered through a small hatchway or access point, cargo tanks, cellular double bottom
tanks, duct keels, ballast and oil tanks, and void spaces, but not including dry cargo holds.


Please see the Model Code of Practice: Confined Spaces from Safe Work Australia for more information: Model code of practice confined spaces

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