Work in enclosed spaces can be split into two groups:
- Installation work in new construction (also including major reconstructions and renovations).
- Repair and maintenance of installations in existingbuildings.
Employees are subjected to extremely great ergonomic stresses throughout the body during both installation work and repairs.
It is often necessary to crawl in poor positions, and in many instances across various obstacles such as installations at varying heights.
Therefore, there is often a greater risk of industrial accidents. Problems are caused (the knees are one very vulnerable area), and the work can be mentally stressful.
When working in enclosed spaces, it may be necessary to supplement the place of work assessment with a description of the conditions at the place of work, including access conditions.
It may also be necessary to create a contingency, evacuation and exercise plan. This must describe how any injured people can be evacuated and be approved by the local rescue corps.
In the case of new construction, the problem is more or less resolved. Here, the Building Regulations state that the access height must be at least 1.9 m and a free width of at least 0.7 m in crawl spaces with installations requiring servicing, inspection or maintenance.
If the installations can be serviced via a removable floor, setting up a crawl space is fine.
In existing buildings, it is often impossible to alter enclosed spaces. Here, it is necessary to plan the work so that the amount of time spent in stressful working positions is as short as possible.
This can be implemented by:
- Limiting daily working hours.
- Employees being given the opportunity for extra breaks in addition to their regular breaks for eating and drinking.
- People not working alone (regular contact with the person working).
- Employees being given special workwear, of necessary suitable respiratory protection and other personal protective equipment (including knee pads, helmets and soft, insulating pads to lie/sit on as they work).
- Ensuring that the orientation and work lighting is working and connected to two different groups in the electrical cabinet.
- Using small trolleys to transport tools and materials to the places that they can access.
- Ensuring that equipment is available which makes it possible to get any injured workers out.
- Ensuring that the distance between the access points is no more than approx. 15 m (it may be necessary to make more holes in the existing buildings or to the open air).
- Ensuring that the access holes are at least 60 x 80 cm in size.
- Ensuring that there is a convenience access route to the access holes in the places where such holes are above or below ground level.
- Cleaning the work area thoroughly before work commences.
The distance between the work site and the exits should be shorter than the maximum limit if there is a risk of fire, vapours and similar, if there are pipes and similar which obstruct the escape routes, or if visibility is limited.
Use the assessment schedule (see below) to help establish the maximum daily working hours in a crawl space.
Dust, asbestos, etc.
When working in basements or roof spaces, there is a greater risk of dust, insulation materials and construction material remains which can be harmful to health. In buildings dating back to before 1975, there is a risk of contact with insulation materials which contain asbestos. Asbestos may also be found in other materials used until the mid-1980s.
If asbestos is present, the work area must be cleaned before work may commence. This cleaning must be undertaken by people trained in the removal of asbestos.
In buildings damaged by moisture, it is necessary to be alert to biologically active dust – mould and suchlike.
In other situations, it may be necessary to tidy up before work can begin, e.g. if there is too much dust, animal excrement or construction waste.
Do not crawl around in rubble and other construction waste as this may damage your hands and knees.
Work in lofts, roof spaces and crawl spaces requires a lot of attention and must always be planned. The necessary aids, protective equipment and technical aids must be in place before work commences.