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August 06, 2010
The 6 Confined Space Permit Requirements Your Workers Need to Know

OSHA's requirements for confined spaces (29 CFR 1910.146) can be a bit confusing. But before the initial work assignment begins, you must make sure all of your workers who are required to work in permit spaces, including entrants, attendants, and rescue personnel are trained and understand confined space permit requirements.

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Here are 6 major components of confined space permit requirements that your workers need to know:

1. OSHA Requires Employers to Test Confined Spaces for Hazards

Confined spaces are tanks, vessels, and similar spaces large enough to work in, but difficult to get in and out of and not designed for continuous occupancy.

  • Before a space can be entered, special instruments test for levels of:
    • Oxygen
    • Flammable gases and vapors
    • Toxic air contaminants
  • Before employees can enter the space, breathing or fire hazards must be removed or controlled with ventilation, fresh air, flushing or other methods.

2. Hazardous Confined Spaces Require Detailed Precautions

The employer must:

  • Develop and use a written permit program
  • Create a written permit detailing conditions for working in the space
  • Train workers to work safely in and around the space
  • Use warnings and barriers to keep unauthorized workers away from the space:


3. Only Trained, Authorized Workers Can Perform Confined Space Duties

Employee training covers confined space hazards, signs of danger, safe work practices, communication methods, and rescue procedures.

  • Authorized entrants are assigned and trained to work in a permit space.
  • Attendants are stationed outside the space to maintain contact with and monitor authorized entrants.
  • Entry supervisors determine if work conditions and confined space permits allow entry; and they authorize, oversee, and, when appropriate, stop work in the space.

4. Written Confined Space Permits Detail Hazards and Safety Precautions

Before beginning work, authorized entrants and attendants have to read the signed entry permit that must be posted at or near the space entrance. This permit covers:

  • Reason for entering the space (e.g., repair work)
  • Hazards of the space (e.g., design or shape of space, flammable atmosphere)
  • Results of tests performed in the space
  • Actions taken to remove or control hazards (e.g., ventilation)
  • Acceptable conditions for entering the space
  • Permit date and length of time the permit is applicable
  • Names of authorized entrants, attendants, and entry supervisors
  • Equipment employees must use in or around the space (e.g., communications, rescue, and personal protective equipment)
  • Communication methods to be used by workers in and outside the space
  • Available rescue procedures and equipment
  • Any specific safety precautions and instructions
  • Additional permits related to the job (e.g., hot work)

5. Testing and Other Precautions Continue While Space Is Occupied

  • An employee cannot enter a space with a hazardous atmosphere.
  • Forced air ventilation removes hazards before entry and during work in the space.
  • Atmosphere testing continues while the space is occupied.
  • Employees must leave the space immediately if tests reveal atmospheric hazards.

6. Rescue and Emergency Services Must Be Available When Employees Enter Permit Spaces

Rescue team members must:

  • Be trained in permit space hazards, rescue techniques, basic first aid, and CPR.
  • Have necessary personal protective equipment and rescue retrieval systems.
  • Practice confined space rescues at least yearly.

Conclusion: Read and Follow Confined Space Permit Requirements

Perform work in and around a permit-required space only if you’re trained, authorized, and fully informed. Otherwise, obey warning signs and stay away.

Helpful Training Materials:

See the Permit Required Confined Spaces 7-Minute Safety Trainer trainer's outline, handout, and quiz for a complete training session on Confined Space Permit Requirements.

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