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Confined Spaces

Policy

This policy outlines the Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) requirements for confined spaces. 

Summary

  • The Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Act 2004 (Vic) and OHS Regulations 2017 (Vic) require the Department to provide or maintain, systems of work that are, so far as is reasonably practicable, safe and without risk to health — including the management of confined spaces.
  • No Department employee is permitted to enter a confined space for example, storage tanks, silos, ducts, chimney, underground sewer, well, or any shaft or trench, at any time.
  • The principal and/or their delegate must ensure that a qualified contractor is engaged for any works to be conducted in a confined space.
  • The principal and/or their delegate, in consultation with the contractor, is to complete and sign a Confined Space Entry Permit prior to the commencement of any works in a confined space.
  • Under the OHS Act 2004, employees while at work must take reasonable care for their own health and safety and the safety of others who may be affected by their actions or omissions.
  • Central and regional offices provide a range of supports and services to assist principals and employees to be safe and well, including access to the OHS Advisory Service and local OHS regional officers who can provide free advice on managing risks related to confined spaces.
  • The Confined Spaces Procedure (in the Procedure tab) must be followed, and sets out the practical step-by-step instructions for implementing this policy.
  • This policy forms part of the Department’s OHS Management System, see OHS Management System (OHSMS) — Employee Health, Safety and Wellbeing for further information.

Details

The principal and/or their delegate must ensure that:

  • a suspected confined space is identified in consultation with the Victorian School Building Authority and the OHS Advisory Service
  • an identified confined space is recorded in the ‘Hazard Type’ column on the OHS Risk Register (for example, list the hazard as a confined space)
  • risk controls are identified and implemented to manage confined spaces using the hierarchy of controls and recorded on the OHS Risk Register
  • a confined space is made secure to prevent unauthorised access and has signage at all entry points to the space
  • all contractors engaged to undertake works in confined spaces are approved contractors as per the Contractor OHS Management Policy
  • the approved contractor supplies a Safe Work Method Statement (SWMS) or equivalent
  • in consultation with the approved contractor, a Confined Space Entry Permit is completed and signed prior to the commencement of any works in a confined space. This permit is only valid for twenty four hours
  • a copy of the signed permit is retained
  • if the scope of work changes, the confined space work is to cease immediately and a new Confined Space Entry Permit is to be re-issued
  • all hazards, incidents and injuries are reported on eduSafe Plus (login required)

Definitions

Approved contractor
A contractor who has completed the appropriate training for confined spaces and hold current certification in:

  • DEFWHS010 — identify confined space
  • RIIWHS202D — enter and work in confined spaces
  • PUASAR025A — undertake confined space rescue

An approved contractor must also hold current workers compensation and public liability insurance (the Department’s stipulated minimum cover for public liability is $10 million).

Confined space
Defined as:

  • having an enclosed or partially enclosed space with restricted entry and exit
  • containing an oxygen concentration outside the safe oxygen range
  • containing a concentration of airborne contaminants that may cause impairment, loss of consciousness or asphyxiation
  • containing a concentration of flammable airborne contaminant that may cause injury from fire or explosion
  • risk of engulfment in any stored substance (for example, grain, sand or saw dust) except liquids

Examples of confined spaces include storage tanks, silos, ducts, chimneys, underground sewers, wells, or any shaft or trench.

Confined Space Entry Permit
A Confined Space Entry Permit is to be issued by the principal or their delegate. The permit provides details of a formal check to ensure all elements of a safe system of work are in place before persons are permitted to enter the confined space. A Confined Space Entry Permit is valid for a maximum of twenty four hours.

Hierarchy of controls
There are a number of ways that risks associated with hazards can be reduced however, the effectiveness of each method may vary. The prioritising of approaches in managing the risks associated with a hazard is called the hierarchy of controls and indicates the decreasing level of effectiveness of various approaches. The hierarchy of controls are:

  • eliminating the hazard at the source
  • substituting the hazard with something else that poses a lesser risk
  • isolating the hazard with an engineering control
  • implementing administrative controls and changing the way work is done
  • providing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Often a number of different approaches are used in conjunction with each other to provide a more effective risk treatment.

Relevant legislation

Department policy on requirements for confined spaces in schools

Reviewed 07 October 2021

Policy last updated

15 June 2020

Scope

  • Schools
  • School councils

Contact

OHS Advisory Service

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