04 February 2015

Updated ACOPs on working in confined spaces and safe use of lifting equipment

The Health and Safety Executive (‘HSE’) has issued in December 2014 two updated approved codes of practice (‘ACOPs’): for work in confined spaces and for the safe use of lifting equipment.

Confined spaces

The ACOP for work in confined spaces is aimed at the employed and self-employed who work in such spaces themselves, and those who employ, train or represent them. The ACOP incorporates new simplified guidance to make the document easier to use, especially:

  • a clarified definition of a confined space
  • a flowchart to help determine whether or not a space is subject to the Confined Spaces Regulations 1997 (‘CSR’)
  • additional examples of workplace risks, including new ones such as specifically created hypoxic (reduced oxygen) environments and fire suppression systems
  • amendments relating to the need to check, examine and test equipment

For a space to be legally defined as ‘confined’ and governed by the CSR, both of the following features must apply:
It must be a space which is substantially (though not always entirely) enclosed; and

  • One or more of the following specified risks must be either present or reasonably foreseeable:
    - serious injury due to fire or explosion
    - loss of consciousness arising from increased body temperature
    - loss of consciousness or asphyxiation from gas, fume, vapour or lack of oxygen
    - drowning from an increase in the level of a liquid
    - asphyxiation arising from a free-flowing solid (such as flour, grain, sugar or sand) or being unable to reach a respirable environment due to being trapped by such a free-flowing solid

The ACOP stresses that a confined space is not necessarily enclosed on all sides, small and/or difficult to work in, difficult to enter or exit or a place where people do not regularly work. Similarly, a place which is not usually ‘confined’ may become so through an intermittent change in the extent of enclosure or confinement, for example by welding consuming oxygen or cleaning chemicals adding contaminants.

Lifting Equipment

The revised ACOP on the safe use of lifting equipment applies to lifting equipment provided for work purposes or to people at work, including cranes, lift trucks, goods or passenger lifts, climbing ropes and vehicle tail lifts. It gives guidance for employers, those working with lifting equipment provided by an employer, those representing them, and anyone acting as a competent person in relation to examining lifting equipment on how to comply with the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations 1998 (‘LOLER’).

The alterations bring the ACOP up to date with regulatory and other changes, and include:

  • A decision tree providing the main elements which must apply to a piece of equipment for it to be subject to LOLER
  • Changes to bring the guidance in line with other advice, such as clarifications that lifting equipment should not be brought within 10m of overhead power cables
  • An expanded context and examples section to show that LOLER applies across every sector using lifting equipment

*What this means for you
Both ACOPs have been reviewed and updated in line with the recommendations made by Professor Löfstedt in his 2011 report on health and safety legislation. The government is aiming to simplify and clarify ACOPs in the wake of criticism in the report that some of them were out-of-date and too lengthy, technical and complex for small and medium businesses to understand. The revisions do not alter the nature or extent of the duty to ensure health and safety in the workplace, but make it easier for dutyholders with more limited access to health and safety advice to be sure that they are complying with the law.

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