Working in enclosed spaces

Published by:
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO
Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO

Working in an enclosed space means that the workplace is difficult to access and has little natural ventilation. It is often cramped, poorly lit, and there are few ways to escape. Hazardous substances may also be present. Examples of enclosed spaces are lift shafts, cargo holds, storage tanks, and cooling cells.

Hazards when working in enclosed spaces

In the Netherlands, if you have employees who work in enclosed or confined spaces, there may be risk of:

  • suffocation (lack of oxygen, in Dutch)
  • intoxication (loss of consciousness)
  • poisoning
  • fire or explosion

You must protect your employees against hazards so they can work safely in enclosed spaces (in Dutch).

Working in confined or enclosed spaces

For work in confined and/or enclosed spaces you must have a Health and Safety Plan (Veiligheids- en gezondheidsplan, V&G-plan) in place for work in enclosed spaces. You incorporate your risk inventory and evaluation (RI&E) and your company emergency response plan in the Health and Safety Plan. You must put measures to prevent certain dangers in the company emergency response plan. Also, a superior must inform and instruct employees about dangers, measures, and procedures.

Permit to work

Your employee must have a valid permit to work in confined and enclosed spaces. The permit to work contains agreements between the employer or client and employee about the work and how it will be done safely. You can use the Health & Safety plan as a basis for this document. You should make sure the permit to work is always up to date. You renew or extend the permit to work:

  • every day
  • when work is interrupted
  • when changing a work team

Inspection and measuring

You must have an expert (a safety expert or gas analyst) inspect the space and measure whether hazardous substances or toxic gases are present. Employees may only access the space after measurements have shown that there is no danger.

Other safety measures

To work safely in enclosed and confined spaces, you also have to:

  • post a warning sign at the entrance to the confined or enclosed space
  • keep access routes and the enclosed area free of obstructions
  • provide an outside guard (manhole guard)
  • install emergency lighting
  • ventilate the area
  • seal off pipes
  • stop machines and equipment in the area

Questions relating to this article?

Please contact the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, RVO