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Category Health and Safety
Type Procedure
Approved by Chief Operating Officer
Date Procedure Took Effect 27 April 2018
Last approved revision 11 March 2022
Sponsor Chief Operating Officer
Responsible officer Director of Health, Safety and Wellbeing


To minimise the risks to health and safety that may be associated with the use of walk-in refrigerated spaces, including risks associated with entrapment, working in isolation and prolonged exposure to cold, by describing the requirements for safe design, maintenance and use.

Organisational scope

University campuses and all other University work areas.


Walk-in Refrigerated Space
Any enclosed space that personnel can enter and which is capable of maintaining a temperature of less than +10°C, including cold rooms, walk-in freezers, temperature control rooms and refrigerated shipping containers.
Safety Device
Any piece of fixed equipment associated with the walk-in refrigerated space that is intended to allow personnel inside the space to communicate or raise an alarm with the outside or to facilitate escape from the space, including; any alarms, phone or other communication devices, door or lock release mechanisms, alternative escape exits or emergency lighting.


1.Risks associated with walk-in refrigerated spaces.

  1. There is potential for personnel to be trapped inside walk-in refrigerated spaces, resulting in prolonged exposure to cold temperatures, hypothermia, and death.
  2. Personnel who are working by themselves inside the space will be at increased risk if an accident or medical event occurs as they will be isolated from other building occupants and may not be discovered for some time.  This risk is heightened if one or more of the following applied;
    1. The area is remote from normally occupied parts of a building (e.g. basement, roof space, outbuilding or field location).
    2. The area is being accessed outside of normal working hours for the area the concerned.
    3. A person will be working by themselves in such an area for an extended period.
  3. Personnel working in walk-in refrigerated spaces for extended periods of time could become hypothermic if they are not wearing appropriate clothing.

2.Design requirements

  1. To minimise the risks of entrapment and risks from working in isolated spaces, all fixed walk-in refrigerated spaces in University facilities shall include the following design features:
    1. Access doors must be able to be opened from the inside and outside.  Where door mechanisms include a latch and/or lock (including padlocks) there shall be either;
      • A mechanism to allow users inside the space to release the latch or lock without the use of tools or key, or
      • A clearly marked alternative exit that can be opened from the inside without the use of tools or keys.
    2. There must be a means of raising an alarm from inside the walk-in refrigerated space in the form of one of the following:
      • A phone, or
      • An alarm able to be activated by personnel inside the space and which is monitored by Campus Watch, or
      • Another means approved in writing by the Director, Health, Safety and Wellbeing.
    3. Independent emergency lighting indicating the way to the exit and to any safety device.
    4. Independent lighting within the space which cannot be switched off from outside and which activates an indicator lamp on the outside of the space (to indicate the area is occupied). All switchgear and lighting both internal and external to the space which performs an emergency function should be appropriately labelled to identify that function.
  2. Where existing fixed walk-in refrigerated spaces that are owned by the University do not meet the requirements above, these shall be upgraded through the Statutory Budget upgrade process.  The statutory budget working group is responsible for prioritisation of any remedial work in accordance with the risk.

3. Maintenance requirements

  1. The Property Services Division is responsible for the maintenance and repair of all fixed walk-in refrigerated spaces in the University owned facilities.
  2. The maintenance interval for the inspection of any safety device shall be 3‑monthly.

4. Leased facilities

  1. Where the University leases facilities that include walk-in refrigerated space, the lease agreement must include provisions to ensure;
    1. That these meet the design requirements in clause 2 above or will be refurbished to meet these requirements as part of the lease agreement.
    2. That 3‑monthly inspections of any safety devices will occur.

5. Mobile or temporary facilities

  1. Mobile and/or temporary walk-in refrigerated spaces such as Refrigerated Shipping Containers may not be able to meet the design requirements specified in clause 2 and must only be used as a temporary measure and when there is no practical alternative, including;
    1. To provide a walk-in refrigerated space in a field location for fieldwork activities.
    2. To provide a temporary walk-in refrigerated space while an existing permanent facility undergoes repair, maintenance or refurbishment or a new facility is being built.
  2. Divisions, Schools or Departments operating mobile or temporary walk-in refrigerated spaces must have documented operating procedures in place to ensure the safe operations of these in accordance with (6) below.

6. Safe operating procedures

Divisions, Schools or Departments that operate walk-in refrigerated spaces, including mobile or temporary facilities, must have documented procedures to manage the risks associated with these. These must address the following aspects:

  1. A description of any safety devices present and how these are operated.
  2. Where a walk-in refrigerated space is kept locked when not in use, procedures to ensure the space is checked for occupants prior to being locked.
  3. Procedures to eliminate or minimise the increased working in isolation risk if one or more of the following applies:
    1. The walk-in refrigerated space is located in a place remote from normally occupied parts of a building (e.g. basement, roof space, outbuilding or field location).
    2. The walk-in refrigerated space will be entered at times when staff are not ordinarily present in the area concerned e.g. outside of normal working hours, weekends and holiday.
    3. Personnel may be working inside the space alone for an extended period, including more than 45 minutes in a space maintained below +10°C but above 0°C, or more than 15 minutes in a space maintained below 0°C.
  4. In the case of clause 6(c)iii, the procedures must also include any requirements for appropriate clothing and personal protective equipment to protect users from prolonged exposure to cold temperatures.

7. Training

  1. Division, Schools or Departments that operate walk-in refrigerated spaces must ensure that all personnel using these facilities are trained in the safe operating procedures described in clause 6 and that all training is documented.  This training may form part of other training carried out.
  2. Refresher training must be carried out at intervals of no more than 5 years, or following any change to procedures or to the provision or operation of any safety devices.

Related policies, procedures and forms

Health and Safety Policy

Contact for further information

If you have any queries regarding the content of this procedure or need further clarification, contact:

Laboratory Health and Safety Advisor

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