Such surveys are often essential to progressing a development project but there are risks and hazards to consider for ensuring the team members’ safety during their work. Working in confined spaces, for example, while searching for bats requires specialist training that several RSK ecologists have just completed.
As part of a one-day training course, some of RSK’s bat surveyors learned how to recognise what constitutes a confined space, to risk assess them and to implement safe systems of work. They also learned how to use gas detection equipment and Escape breathing apparatus (respiratory protective equipment) and participated in a simulation exercise in a purpose-built chamber.
Getting to grips with the Escape breathing apparatus kit
The Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 covers all work in spaces that are substantially or totally enclosed. Almost every opening below ground can be considered a confined space but assessing what constitutes an enclosed location above ground is not always straightforward. For example, a deep but open trench beside a busy road may be classified as a confined space owing to the risk from low-lying noxious gases from traffic emissions. These can accumulate in a trench, so anyone who enters it may quickly lose consciousness. Perhaps counterintuitively, a standard loft space in a residential home does not usually meet the definition of a confined space, though it does depend on the work planned.
Every potential confined space should be assessed individually and an appropriate safe system of work must be put in place, including an emergency plan.
Ecologist Jess Breeze descends into the simulation chamber
RSK’s ecologists learned about the four key risks:
- injury through fire or explosion
- loss of consciousness from raised body temperature, lack of oxygen or the presence of noxious gas
- drowning owing to excessive ; liquid levels
- asphyxiation from a free-flowing solid, for example, grain in a silo.
They also got to grips with gas detection monitors that are so sensitive to decreased levels of oxygen that they sound the alarm if someone simply breathes near the sensor!
Ecologist Lindsay Stronge said, “This was an excellent day of training that will help us to prepare our site-specific risk assessments when considering surveys in confined spaces. The ‘escape room’ was a fun but important test of what we had learned. Pairs of surveyors descended into the chamber. On the sounding of an alarm, they used their breathing apparatus while they evacuated the space.”