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The two key preparations to prevent confined space fatalities within the cement industry

World Cement,

Within the cement industry, workers regularly enter confined spaces such as furnaces, baghouses, bins, crushers, chutes and grinding mills in conjunction with their day-to-day work. Sadly, Confined Space fatalities and injuries still occur, often due to a lack of identification and training. The only way to protect your workers from death and serious injury is to ensure that you place confined space safety as a top priority.

To reduce the likelihood of fatalities and injuries to your workers you must regularly perform confined space risk assessments and undertake nationally recognised confined space training that is appropriate to the job roles that your personnel perform.

Confined Space Identification and JSEA’s

Job hazard identification within the cement industry is part of daily life. However confined space work demands specific attention as confined spaces present specific hazards and risks. Australian Standard AS 2865 : 2009 Confined Spaces & places the responsibility of Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment squarely on the employer or their representative. The listed objective is to eliminate or minimise the need to enter confined spaces. The only way for employers to comply with AS 2865: 2009 is to undertake confined space identification and risk assessments prior to entry.

During a recent analysis that I conducted of confined spaces fatalities within the last 10 years in Australia, I found that the major cause of fatalities were occupant/s not understanding that the space they were working in could be classified as a confined space and therefore not understanding the consequences if things go wrong. This often led to work such as hot work, the use of petrol driven equipment and the usage of chemicals being completed within a confined space – sometimes with deadly results.

The workplaces in which these deaths occurred were varied; however, in most cases no formal confined space identification, risk assessment, entry permit, isolation register or training was completed prior to entry. In fact the lack of understanding about what confined spaces are, what potential hazards can be found within and what control measures are appropriate could be recognised as a primary cause of these incidents.

Whilst completing a risk assessment of each particular confined space, an important part of your OH&S policy, a specific Job Safety Environment Analysis (JSEA) should be completed by the confined space team for each confined space entry to ascertain the specific hazards and risks based on the job that you are completing.

By ensuring that the confined space team complete the JSEA together, effective control measures can be developed for each job taking into account the work that is required to be done and the specific hazards and risks that may be encountered.

Generic risk assessments of the confined space itself will not normally drastically change from year to year; however, tasks that workers complete may indeed change as various tasks are performed within the one confined space. If the confined space team completes a JSEA that is ‘job based’, all hazards involved with the task should be assessed and controlled, thereby reducing the likelihood of confined space fatalities and injuries.

Confined Space Training

The selection of the type of confined space training to be carried out must be based on the jobs that workers may be asked to perform. Will personnel be required to undertake standby duties? Will the person carry out atmospheric monitoring of the confined space? Will personnel be required to undertake the rescue of casualties from a potentially hazardous environment?

Confined space training should be considered based on the jobs you are asked to perform. Consider three days of confined space training with a balance of both theory and practical activities being the least amount of confined space training to consider for personnel who may need to perform a confined space rescue and two days of confined space training (theory and practical) being the least amount of confined space training applicable for personnel who may need to perform a confined space entry, undertake gas detection and issue confined space entry permits.

Regular confined space training is an effective control measure in the minimisation of risks for confined space operations. Regular training and emergency scenarios should focus on enhancing skills by exposing personnel to a variety of different situations. The best confined space training courses are not conducted in a classroom and are certainly not conducted over a single day. The best training courses are conducted in a real work environment that exposes learners to real emergencies that may happen and prepare them for effective emergency response.


Confined Space Entry is often defined as dangerous or hazardous work – however, it need not be. If organisations complete regular confined space identification, job based risk assessments and regularly complete nationally recognised confined space training suitable to their jobs then the likelihood of fatalies and injuries within the cement industry will be greatly reduced.

Written by Steven Gregory McLeod, CEO, Fire & Safety Australia.

NOTE: Fire & Safety Australia have preferred supplier status with Cement Australia and Adelaide Brighton (both of which complete confined space training with fire and safety Australia and do so on a national basis). The organisation trained over 35 000 people nationwide in 2013. The team complete hands on practical confined space entry, height safety and similar emergency response and safety training and are available to talk safety any time on 1300 88 55 30.

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