Confined Spaces

Is your confined space entry program up to date?

Many workplaces contain spaces that are considered to be “confined” because their configurations hinder the activities of employees who must enter into, work in or exit from them. In many instances, employees who work in confined spaces also face increased risk of exposure to serious physical injury from hazards such as entrapment, engulfment and hazardous atmospheric conditions. Confinement itself may pose entrapment hazards and work in confined spaces may keep employees closer to hazards such as machinery components than they would be otherwise. For example, confinement, limited access and restricted airflow can result in hazardous conditions that would not normally arise in an open workplace.

The terms “permit-required confined space” and “permit space” refer to spaces that meet OSHA’s definition of a “confined space” and contain health or safety hazards. For this reason, OSHA requires workers to have a permit to enter these spaces. The term “permit space” will be used to describe a “permit-required confined space.”

Definitions

By definition, a confined space:

  • Is large enough for an employee to enter fully and perform assigned work;
  • Is not designed for continuous occupancy by the employee; and
  • Has a limited or restricted means of entry or exit.

These spaces may include underground vaults, tanks, storage bins, pits and diked areas, vessels, silos and other similar areas.

By definition, a permit-required confined space has one or more of these characteristics:

  • Contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere;
  • Contains a material with the potential to engulf someone who enters the space;
  • Has an internal configuration that might cause an entrant to be trapped or asphyxiated by inwardly converging walls or by a floor that slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross section; and/or
  • Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazards.

If you do have confined spaces that meet the above definitions, you must have the following in place:

  • Indentified and labeled all confined spaces
  • Control of confined spaces
  • Current training for confined space entry
  • The required equipment for confined space entry
  • The required PPE for Confined Spaces
  • Performed and documented hazard analysis for all confined spaces
  • Have a written and current rescue plan