SC11 - Work in Confined spaces
06 Dec 2010



STFC SHE Code 11




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Related UKRI code​



Rev Details Date
1Initial launchNovember 2007
1.1Minor changesMay 2011
1.2Amendments to audit checklistMay 2013
Add Document retention policy Appendix
August 2014
Minor change to definition of confined space
April 2015
​Minor changes to reflect the launch of SHE Assure
​October 2018
​Added HSE flow chart to Appendix 1
​April 2019
​Minor edit to para 4.1.4 to cross-reference SC24
​December 2022

1. Purpose

On average 15 people a year are killed in the UK during work in confined spaces and more are seriously injured. The fatalities are not just confined to complex plant, work in simple storage vessels is just as hazardous. Those killed also include people who try to rescue trapped personnel without proper training and equipment.

The Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 are in place to protect staff and others against risks to their health while working in a confined space.

This policy outlines the steps to be taken by STFC to ensure that staff or others do not work in confined spaces where it can be avoided. Where this is not possible a written suitable and sufficient risk assessment must be undertaken and a safe system of work developed.

2. Scope

This policy is applicable to all staff, users, contractors and tenants working in confined spaces within STFC.

The regulations do not apply to "any place below ground in a mine". However this code should be adhered to within any STFC facility housed in any mine or underground, for example CERN or Boulby Mine.

3. Definitions

3.1 Confined space

Confined Space: means any place such as ducts, vessels, culverts, tunnels, boreholes, manholes, excavations, sumps, inspection pits, experimental hutches, tanks, building voids or other similar space in which, by virtue of its enclosed nature there is a reasonably foreseeable risk of:

  • serious injury from fire or explosion;
  • loss of consciousness arising from increased body temperature;
  • loss of consciousness or asphyxiation arising from gas, fume, vapour or lack of oxygen;
  • drowning arising from increased levels of liquid; or
  • asphyxiation from a free flowing solid.

Confined spaces are not defined by the physical dimensions of a space but by the hazards that may arise in the space. Well established examples of confined spaces include sewers; chemical storage/reaction tanks; silos; fuel tanks; pressure vessels. Examples of confined spaces in the STFC could include large experimental vessels; hot roof voids; underground tunnels. See Appendix 1a for a 'confined space' decision tree.

4. Responsibilities

4.1 Line Managers and Supervisors shall:
  • 4.1.1 Ensure that every effort is made to avoid entry into a confined space. Where entry into any confined space cannot be avoided, a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to health must be carried out in accordance with STFC SHE Code No 6 'Risk Management, see Appendix 1. See Appendix 2and 3 for guidance on carrying out such assessments and for a completed example.

  • 4.1.2 Ensure that, prior to entry into a confined space, a written safe system of work, including emergency procedures, has been developed (see Appendix 4 for an example safe system of work) and a confined space permit to work issued by an authorised confined space permit to work issuer, see Appendix 5and 7.

  • 4.1.3 Ensure that all staff involved in entry into confined spaces are aware of this code, understand its content and comply with local procedures and safe systems of work.

  • 4.1.4 Ensure all staff who will enter a confined space are fit to do so. See SC24, Health Surve​illa​nce and Health Screening Medicals.

  • 4.1.5 Ensure that all staff who enter confined spaces and those who issue permits to work, have appropriate information, instruction, training and supervision in confined spaces working (see Appendix 5).
4.2 Confined space permit to work issuers shall:
  • 4.2.1 Only issue confined space permits where they are competent to do so having successfully completed training defined in Appendix 5. They shall not issue permits for work they are going to carry out themselves unless this has been countersigned by another confined space permit to work issuer.

  • 4.2.2 Assess all associated risks involved in the entry into a confined space, develop a safe system of work and issue a confined space permit, ensuring all necessary precautions, including emergency procedures, are taken, see Appendix 2Appendix 3Appendix 4 and Appendix 7.

  • 4.2.3 Oversee the issue of any permit and its cancellation and check safety at each stage of the work.
4.3 Employees shall:
  • 4.3.1 Assist with the assessment of risks and comply with any safe system of work developed through risk assessment and comply with any requirements of a confined space permit to work.

  • 4.3.2 inform line management of any known health issues that may preclude them from working in a confined space.

  • 4.3.3 Inform their managers if they suspect that the system of work in place, or planned, could be ineffective or inadequate. Report all incidents, including near misses, procedural failures or equipment defects, in accordance with SHE Code 5 "Incident Reporting and Investigation" using the STFC incident reporting system (​Evotix Assure​).
4.4 Directors Shall:
  • 4.4.1 ensure that only competent persons are authorised as "confined space permit to work issuers"; see Appendix 5 for training requirements. The appointment should be recorded in SHE Directory​ where the geographic/equipment scope of the appointment should be defined.
    4.4.1 ensure that only competent persons are authorised as "confined space permit to work issuers"; see Appendix 5 for training requirements. The appointment should be recorded in SHE Directory where the geographic/equipment scope of the appointment should be defined.
4.5 SHE Group shall:
  • 4.5.1 maintain and make available to staff a list of authorised persons competent to issue confined space permits.​

Contact: Baker, Gareth (STFC,DL,COO)