General duties of employers and employees

Duties of employers

Under all NOHSC standards and codes, employers have a duty to:

Additional or more specific requirements apply in some areas.

Hazardous substances;

Duties of employees

Under all NOHSC standards and codes, employees have a duty to:


What is a Confined Space?

Confined spaces are fully or partially enclosed areas which aren’t designed to be normal places of work, and where entry and exit are restricted. They include things like storage tanks, silos, pits or degreasers, pipes, shafts or ducts, or confined space onboard ships.

Working inside spaces like this (including putting one’s head or upper body inside them) can be dangerous for various reasons. Fatalities or severe injuries can occur because:

Confined spaces can increase the risk of injury from other hazards too—such as equipment operating in the space, noise (tasks such as hammering may become louder), radiation, or temperature (conditions may be too hot or too cold as a result of the work process or the weather conditions, bad ventilation or inappropriate clothing).

The constraints of the space can also make manual handling injuries and falls more likely.

Standards and codes of practice

Joint National Standard for Safe Working in a Confined Space
Australian Standard AS2865-1995 (produced jointly by Standards Australia and the NOHSC)

A set of requirements for employers (and designers) about:

  • how to eliminate or minimise the need to enter confined spaces; and
  • how to protect the health and safety of anyone who needs to enter a confined space.

Special duties

In addition to the duties outlined previously, employers must also:

- entry permits (for one month);

- risk assessment reports (for five years);

- training (for the term of the employee’s employment).

The national standard also sets out various duties which apply to people who design, manufacture or supply confined spaces.

Identifying hazards and assessing risks

Getting Started

Start by listing the confined spaces in your workplace, noting any work associated with them (regular maintenance, for example) and whether it is necessary to enter the space to perform the work.

You’re looking for:

Use checklists, perhaps based on those in the accompanying show.

Controlling risks

1. Options which eliminate the hazard

The best option is eliminate the need to enter the confined space at all—use tanks designed to be self-cleaning, for example, or equipped with observation windows.

2. Options which minimise the risk

Substitution: If it’s absolutely necessary to work in a confined space, substitutions can be made to ensure the work itself is as safe as possible—using a non-flammable solvent instead of a flammable one, for example, or a brush instead of aerosol application.

Isolation: The space should be isolated from all potentially hazardous services to prevent accidental activation of things like machinery, accidental energisation, or accidental introduction of contaminants or other unwanted materials through piping, vents, drains etc.

Engineering controls may include mechanisms for lockouts, for cleaning contaminants from the confined space, for monitoring conditions inside the space, or for ensuring the atmosphere (including oxygen level, pressure and temperature) is safe (and remains safe all the time anyone is inside the space).

Try to get the design right in the first place: If the space can’t be designed to eliminate the need for entry, the design of the space should minimise the risk to anyone entering or working inside it (including providing safe means of exit and entry).

3. Backup controls

Safe work practicesshouldbe designed to ensure that, wherever a risk to health and safety has been identified:

Personal protective equipment such as respiratory equipment, safety harnesses and protective clothing, may be used when risks cannot be sufficiently controlled using other means, or as a temporary measure until other controls can be implemented.


Risk factors are things which could affect the risk of harm from working in confined spaces

Risk increases with:

·         State of the atmosphere inside the space

Risk increases with:

Risk increases with:

·         The requirements of the work to be done

Risk increases with:

      Number of people inside the space

        The length of time spent inside the space

    Number of people outside the space

       Fitness, skills and experience of employees

Training tips

Training programs about working in confined spaces should cover:

Training should be provided for people working in or on confined spaces, as well as people who:

Advice and training materials can be obtained from State and Territory governments, and employer and employee groups.