As an employee, you have a right to health and safety. If you are a construction worker, a cable installer, or anyone else who occasionally has to work in small spaces, you need to know your rights as well as a few safety tips. Here are some basics to consider if you want to ensure that you are safe when working in cramped spaces.
1. Defining Confined Spaces
A confined space is a small space such as a crawl space or an attic. Typically, these spaces don't have enough headroom for you to walk upright. Additionally, they often have only one entryway, and they generally have limited ventilation.
As a result of these conditions, confined spaces can be dangerous to work in. Namely, if you don't have ample oxygen, you risk passing out or not being able to vacate the space. This risk is even stronger if you are working with chemicals such as refrigerants. As an employee, it's important to understand what confined spaces are and your rights in relation to working in them.
2. Using Confined Spaces Carefully
To be safe in a confined space, you need to have tools to measure oxygen levels. Ideally, you should also have a spotter. For example, while you are in the space, there should be another person outside. If you have any trouble or get hurt, they can call for help. In some cases, they can even drag you out of the space and administer CPR.
3. Training to Use Confined Spaces
The above descriptions are a relatively simplified look at confined spaces. However, you should not enter these spaces without the right training or the right safety elements in place. If your employer is forcing you to enter spaces without training, you have the right to refuse.
If your employer is unresponsive to your refusal, you can contact Safe Work Australia. This independent organisation is devoted to making work as safe as possible for workers. If your employer fails to provide a safe work space, by forcing you to enter confined spaces without training, you can report them, and they cannot retaliate in response to your report.
4. Obtaining Individual Training
If your employer won't cover training for confined spaces, you can opt to obtain your own training. If you are an independent contractor or small business owner, you should also consider enrolling in your own training session. Additionally, if you are applying for jobs that involve working in confined spaces, it can help to have that certification listed on your resume.