Confined spaces have a history of being potentially dangerous places to work as hazards within them are often magnified. Limited access may be combined with poor ventilation, hazardous surroundings or energized equipment. When workers unknowingly enter oxygen deficient or toxic atmospheres, the results can be fatal.
A code of practice describes the procedures to be followed to allow workers to safely perform work in a confined space. Section 8 of the OHS Regulation requires that the procedures be in writing and available to workers. The code of practice must include as topics the subject matter of each section of this Part, as well as hot work as described in section 169. Section 13 of the OHS Regulation requires that workers affected by the code of practice be familiar with it before work in the confined space begins.
Workers should be consulted about the content of the code of practice as they often have the best understanding of the hazards involved in the work. It may also help to ask for the help of safety professionals such as industrial or occupational hygienists or engineers, as some situations may be particularly complex.
The code of practice must be maintained and periodically reviewed to ensure that its procedures are up‐to‐date and continue to reflect the work activities for which they were originally written. The code of practice must also identify all existing and potential confined space work locations at a work site so that workers can be made aware of unexpected hazards and reminded that special safety requirements apply.
Working in a confined space is potentially one of the most dangerous of all workplace hazards. According to the New Zealand Department of Labour, working in a confined space is 150 times more dangerous than doing the same job outside the confined space. A worker is considered to have “entered” a confined space when the worker’s breathing zone crosses the plane of the confined space access.
See OHS Code Explanation Guide 2009 for more information as well as ensure that you are following the most up to date OHS Code, Regs, and Act.