Confined Spaces

There are 2 main types of confined spaces – permit and non-permit required. First, what is a confined space?

OSHA defines a confined space as being made up of 3 main parts:

  1. being large enough for an employee to enter and perform work;

  2. has limited or restricted means for entry or exit; and

  3. is not designed for continuous occupancy.

This also illustrates what would be considered a non-permit required confined space. Without any other hazards present, any space that meets these requirements above would be classified as a non-permit required confined space. Click here to see the flow chart.

Now, a permit-required confined space will contain all of the above, plus one or more of the following:

  1. a substance that has the ability to engulf or asphixiate the entrant

  2. a potentially hazardous atmosphere

  3. inwardly converging walls within the space or a floor the slopes downward, tapering to a small cross-section

  4. contains any other serious safety or health hazard

Once a confined space has been identified as having any one of the above potential hazards, an employer must identify it as such by either signs or another effective means of communication. Any time an employer has workers that will be entering confined spaces, there must be a written program that outlines and instructs employees and contractors on the proper procedures for working in and around these spaces.

One important document is the actual permit for the permit-required confined space. This is called the entry permit and is defined by OSHA as: "A written or printed document that is provided by the employer to allow and control entry into a permit space and that contains the necessary information as required in paragraph (f) of this standard’s section".

OSHA lists (14) items that need to be on an employer's entry permit.

(1) The space to be entered;

(2) The purpose of entry;

(3) The date and authorized duration of the permit;

(4) The authorized entrants within the permit space, by name or some other means that will enable the attendant to determine quickly and accurately, for the duration of the permit, which authorized entrants are inside the permit space;

(5) Names of attendants;

(6) Supervisor’s name, with a space for the signature or initials of the supervisor who originally authorized entry;

(7) The hazards of the space to be entered;

(8) The measures used to isolate the permit space and to eliminate or control any hazards before entry (i.e. purging, flushing, or ventilating the space as well as lockout and tagging of equipment);

(9) Acceptable entry conditions;

(10) The results of any initial and periodic tests performed, accompanied by the names or initials of the testers and by an indication of when the tests were performed;

(11) The rescue and emergency services that can be called on and the means (such as the equipment to use and the numbers to call) for reaching those services;

(12) The communication procedures used by authorized entrants and attendants to maintain contact during the entry;

(13) Equipment, such as personal protective equipment, testing equipment, communications equipment, alarm systems, and rescue equipment, to be used;

(14) Any other information whose inclusion is necessary, given the circumstances of the particular confined space, in order to ensure employee safety; and any additional permits, such as for hot work, that have been issued to authorize work in the permit space.

The differences between the 2 types of confined spaces is quite important. Confined Space work is one of the leading causes for occupational fatalities in the US. A big part of that comes from employers not having a written program and employees not being properly prepared for, or even having knowledge of, the potential hazards certain spaces pose.

Confined Spaces

The following table notes areas meeting the definition of a confined space at the main campus and at affiliated off-campus locations. This is not a complete list and every space must be reviewed prior to entry for adherence to the confined space criteria.

Space Description
Manhole access points - All Sewer, storm drain, steam or chilled water, electrical
Electrical vaults  
Elevator pits Includes equipment sumps
Boilers  
Air handlers  
Attics  
Sump pits  
Pipe chases  
Utility tunnels - All Regardless of means of access (e.g., manhole or walk-in)