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A confined space is one that has a limited or restricted means of entry or exit and is large enough for an employee to enter and perform their assigned work. However, keep in mind that it is not designed for employees to work in for long periods of time or frequently as OSHA has stated here. A few examples of confined spaces are:
- Storage bins
- Pits and diked areas
- Underground vaults
Employees who work in and around confined spaces face substantial risks in every field. In the past ten years, confined space injuries have claimed the lives of more than 1,000 workers just in the United States. Because of this, it’s critical that you comprehend how to safeguard both yourself and others from the risks connected to working in limited locations.
What Are the OSHA Requirements for Confined Spaces?
OSHA states that a space needs to fulfill three conditions in order to be classified as a confined area:
- The space is not intended for continuous human occupancy
- The space is large enough for you to enter and conduct work
- There are limited openings for entry and exit
It is necessary to further delineate an area once it has been designated as a “restricted space.” Confined space is divided into two categories: non-permit and permit spaces.
Non-Permit Required Confined Spaces
A non-permit confined space is “A confined space that does not contain…hazards [or] have the potential to contain any hazard capable of inflicting death or other significant physical harm” is referred to as a non-permit confined space (Source: OSHA). We’ll talk about confined spaces that do require a permit in the next section.
Permit-Required Confined Space
It is important to note that OSHA requires employers to evaluate their workplaces to determine if spaces are permit-required confined spaces or otherwise often called “permit spaces.”
- The guidelines OSHA has defines permit spaces as confined spaces that:
- Contain or have the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere
- Contain material that has the potential to engulf an entrant
- Have walls that converge inward
- Have floors that slope downward or taper into a smaller area
- Contain any other recognized safety or health hazards
Confined Space Entry & Tasks
There are four different titles and positions in regards to working in or around a confined space. These four jobs are:
- Authorized Entrant: An authorized entrant is an employee who is authorized by their employer to enter into a permit space.
- Attendant: This individual is stationed outside one or more permit spaces. They monitor the entrants as well as perform any other duties assigned to them by their employer.
- Entry Supervisor: An entry supervisor is the person responsible for determining if the entry conditions into a permit space are acceptable. They are also responsible for authorizing entry and overseeing similar operations.
- Rescue Team: A confined space rescue team must be on standby for permit-required confined spaces that have the potential to entrap or engulf an entrant.
The Safety Training Requirements
There are four main categories of people, each of whom performs a particular task, as was mentioned in the previous section. Every position is crucial to the security of every worker who enters, works in, or works around confined spaces. The requirements for safety training vary depending on which of the four types of work is being done.
Employees who are chosen to work in confined spaces are called entrants. Entrants should be trained to:
- Recognize hazards
- Alert attendants about the presence of a hazard
- Understand warning signs
- Inspect, store, and use suitable personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Communicate with attendants who are outside of the confined space
- Conduct a self-rescue in emergency situations
The attendant is solely responsible for communicating with the entrants as they do their job. OSHA’s requirements for attendants are to:
- Know the hazards
- Know the behavioral effect of those hazards
- Be able to identify the authorized entrants
- Remain outside the confined space until relieved
- Communicate with the entrants throughout the entire work day
- Monitor and evacuate entrants if necessary
- Summon the rescue team if needed
In most cases, the entry supervisor is the employer or directly represents the employer. Entry supervisors should be trained and ready to serve as either an entrant or an attendant if necessary. However, the requirements for an entry supervisor still vary from that of an entrant or attendant. The requirements are to:
- Know the hazards
- Verify safe entry conditions
- Terminate entry and cancel permits if space entry conditions are deemed unsafe
- Verify availability and effectiveness of rescue services
- Remove unauthorized persons
- Ensure acceptable entry conditions are maintained
There are special and challenging difficulties to deal with when conducting a rescue in a confined location. An improperly planned rescue operation may result in a body recovery rather than a successful rescue.
Operators of Rescue Teams are required to do the following in order to form an effective rescue plan:
- Understand the emergency
- Conduct a site assessment
- Ensure that permit procedures are in place and working
- Create the rescue plan
View a more detailed list in our Confined Space Competent Person
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