What's a confined space? Confined spaces include underground vaults, tanks, tank cars, crawl spaces, storage bins, tunnels, wells, sewers, pipelines, pits and diked areas, vessels, and silos. These spaces are difficult and potentially dangerous to enter, work in, and exit. Employees who work in confined spaces face an increased risk of serious physical injury or death from hazards such as entrapment, engulfment, mechanical hazards, and hazardous atmospheric conditions. Confinement, limited access, and restricted airflow can result in hazardous conditions that would not arise in an open workplace.
What's a "permit-required" confined space? Most regulated workplace confined spaces are "permit-required" confined spaces. These spaces are so designated because a permit must be issued by management before workers are allowed to enter. This extra precaution is required because these spaces:
- Contain or have the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere
- Contain a material that has the potential for engulfing an entrant
- Have 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
- Contain other recognized serious safety or health hazards
If you allow employees to enter permit-required confined spaces OSHA requires your company to develop and implement a written program for these spaces. In addition, the regulations state that only trained, authorized entrants, attendants, and supervisors can be involved in permit-required space work. Effective steps must be taken—such as the use of barriers and warning signs—to ensure that no unauthorized employees enter a permit-required confined space.
What information has to be on the permit? Entry permits must include such key safety information as:
- Atmospheric test results
- Names of authorized entrant(s), eligible attendant(s), and individual(s) authorized to be entry supervisor(s)
- Purpose of entry
- Known space hazards
- Measures to be taken to eliminate or control space hazards
- Name and telephone numbers of rescue and emergency services
- Date and authorized duration of entry
- Acceptable entry conditions
- Communication procedures and equipment to maintain contact during entry
|Why It Matters...
- There are nearly 5 million permit-required confined spaces in workplaces across America and another 1 million non-permit spaces.
- Confined space accidents frequently result in death.
- A large percentage of fatalities over the years have involved would-be rescuers without proper training or equipment.
- Special equipment and procedures, including required PPE and alarm systems
What are the training requirements? OSHA requires you to provide proper training for all workers who perform permit space duties. During training, authorized entrants, attendants, and site supervisors need to acquire the understanding, knowledge, and skills necessary for the safe performance of their duties. In other words, they need to come away with a solid respect for the hazards of these dangerous spaces as well as a thorough understanding of all the precautions they need to take to keep safe. Rescue workers require additional special training that teaches them about rescue techniques, rescue PPE and retrieval systems, and first aid and CPR. Training for rescue workers must also include practice rescue drills at least once a year.