Confined Spaces “The horror stories”

Danger con space


Confined spaces are not to be taken lightly by no means, on average 25 people per year in the UK die in a confined space incident that’s 2 people every month! Confined spaces are not new!

What do YOU consider a confined space? A tank? A sewer? A pit? how about a BATHROOM?


A bath restoration company has been ordered to pay out over £80,000 in fines and costs after a worker suffered a “shocking death” from inhaling toxic fumes while working in a London flat.

Colin Pocock, 55, was working for Multicrest Ltd, a franchisee of Renubath Services Ltd, using an industrial paint and varnish remover to strip a resin coating from a bath at a housing association property in Wandsworth, south London, when he was overcome by fumes on 16 June 2009.

The stripping agent contained dichloromethane, also known as methylene chloride, a carcinogenic toxic chemical. Southwark Crown Court heard today that fumes rapidly built up in the confined space and Mr Pocock died at the scene as a result of over exposure. His body was later discovered by the occupant of the flat.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found there was insufficient natural ventilation in the bathroom and Multicrest Ltd should have provided mechanical ventilation equipment to compensate for this.

HSE also discovered written documentation drawn up by Multicrest stating that work of this nature should only be done in well ventilated areas, but no equipment was provided to employees to ventilate such areas. Managers were also unaware of how work needed to be done in bathrooms and failed to provide adequate safe working arrangements.

Multicrest Ltd, of Hampton, Middlesex, was fined £25,000 and ordered to pay £56,286 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

In May 2012, following an HSE investigation into work carried out on properties across south West England between February 2006 and July 2009, Renubath Services Ltd admitted identical failings relating to inadequate ventilation arrangements at Westminster Magistrates’ Court. The company, which is now in liquidation, was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £21,202 in prosecution costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the HSWA.

After the latest hearing involving Multicrest Ltd, HSE inspector Steve Kirton said: “This is a shocking death resulting from totally inadequate ventilation in the enclosed bathroom space in which Colin Pocock had to operate.

“The risks associated with stripping agents containing dichloromethane are well known, yet he was exposed to lethal fumes with virtually no protection. Mechanical ventilation equipment is often a necessity, but all he had to rely on was a small open window, a basic mask and pot luck.

“The use of substances that create toxic fumes must only be used where the fumes cannot build up and affect people, and the work must be properly planned and supervised – none of which happened on this occasion.”



It can be any space of an enclosed nature where there is a risk of death or serious injury from hazardous substances or dangerous conditions (eg lack of oxygen).
Some confined spaces are fairly easy to identify, eg enclosures with limited openings:

  • storage tanks;
  •  silos;
  •  reaction vessels;
  •  enclosed drains;
  •  sewers.

Others may be less obvious, but can be equally dangerous, for example:

  • open-topped chambers;
  • vats;
  • combustion chambers in furnaces etc;
  • ductwork;
  • unventilated or poorly ventilated rooms.

It is not possible to provide a comprehensive list of confined spaces. Some places may become confined spaces when work is carried out, or during their construction, fabrication or subsequent modification.

The links below are a reminder that lives are lost due to negligence, the lack of knowledge and awareness and provisions for CONFINED SPACE RESCUE being overseen.

Staffordshire Company sentenced over cooker death

Apple farm boss guilty of manslaughter

Sheffield Forgemasters fined over worker’s cellar death

Four die in Sullivan mine mystery