Are Confined Spaces Dangerous

Are confined spaces dangerous?

Confined spaces sound risky, don’t they?!

People have a perception of the term “confined space”, probably from books, and movies, disaster films and fears that we can all create.

Well actually, “confined space” – it is a bit, although the space doesn’t have to actually be “confined” to still be risky.

Nor by defining it as “restricted”, does it make it now safe!

Confined = it must be fully or partially enclosed and have at least one specified risk

Restricted = entrances or other restrictions in the space may be small or complex

Man trapped in elevator

Is a lift/elevator a confined space?

✔ A lift is fully enclosed 

But is it going to…


❌bury you in a free flowing solid

❌have a lack of oxygen or fill with toxic gas (unlikely)

❌is there a risk of fire or explosion (very unlikely)

❌loss of consciousness due to heat (potentially, dependent on certain factors)

So right now, it’s not a confined space, that’s not to say it couldn’t become one in future

  • The heat of the environment, (summer or lack of ventilation)
  • Lack of oxygen, dependent on the seals of the lift car, the number of people in the space and the ventilation

Defining it as “confined” may actually make it safer!

Once you define it as “a confined space”, then you must have “confined space training, safety measures, procedures, protocols, intrinsically safe / flameproof equipment to work in that confined space.

All putting more controls in place, all making it more safe.

“Confined space” = you have to abide by certain rules, laws or regulations

“Restricted space” = still recognises that it might be difficult to work in the space, so you may put more controls in place, these may even be the same controls as if it were “confined”, but there is no legal duty to follow the confined space regulations

But those 5 aren’t the only hazards!

Psychological stress, leading to elevated temperature, hyperventilation, which inefficiently uses more oxygen – both could lead to unconsciousness

Electrical hazards, biological, mechanical, sharp obstructions or other trauma, fall from height, all of which have the potential to be fatal…

But none of which make this lift, or any other space, a “confined space”

So sometimes it’s better to define it as a confined space, sometimes it’s better to define the space as a restricted space, but it’s important to know the difference and know what and why you are defining it.