1 1/2 million workers enter confined spaces on an annual basis. Serious
injury or death in a confined space can be the result of asphyxiation,
engulfment, electric shock, falls, and heat stress.
This poses a serious problem for exposed workers
and their employer. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
estimates that 85 percent of these accidents can be prevented by initiating
proper safety precautions such as educating workers or posting danger signs and
caution signs. The OSHA Confined Space Standard establishes uniform
requirements to ensure that the hazards of confined spaces in
workplaces are evaluated, safety procedures implemented, and that the proper
hazard information is transmitted to all affected workers.
Examples of confined spaces that could become permit
Most confined spaces are designed to hold substances such as liquids, gases, and
loose materials, or to house equipment. They come in many sizes and shapes,
though most can be classified in one of two ways: those with depth and open tops
and those with narrow openings. These are examples of each:
Open-topped and deep spaces
Spaces with narrow openings
The entry supervisor is responsible for determining
acceptable entry conditions in a permit space, for authorizing entry and
overseeing entry operations, and for terminating the entry permit.
A 22-year-old worker died inside a toluene storage tank that was 10 feet in
diameter and 20 feet high while attempting to clean the tank. The worker entered
the tank through the 16 inch diameter top opening using a 1/2 inch rope for
descent. Although a self-contained breathing apparatus was present, the worker
was not wearing it when he entered the tank. The worker was overcome and
collapsed onto the floor the tank.
custom signs with warnings to wear appropriate safety
All confined spaces that could be inadvertently
entered should have
danger signs identifying them as confined spaces. Signs should be
maintained in a legible condition. The signs should contain a warning that a
permit is required before entry. Accesses to all confined spaces should be
The hazards that may be present in a confined
space are not easily seen, smelled, heard or felt, but can represent deadly
risks. The worker who enters confined spaces may be, or often is, exposed to
multiple hazards due primarily to ignorance or negligence in the enforcement of
safety regulations. This ignorance and neglect has led to countless deaths by
asphyxiation, fire and/or explosion, and by fatal exposure to toxic materials.
Simple precautionary initiatives such as posting
confined space signs can help prevent these dangerous events.
A permit-required confined space is one in
which dangerous air contaminants may be generated and may not be removed by
ventilation. When an employee works in this type of environment, the chance
exists that atmospheres present may be oxygen deficient, combustible or toxic.
Prevention of injuries to the life and health of workers requires that they be
properly trained and well equipped to recognize, understand and control the
hazards they could encounter. In the process of identifying a confined space,
the supervisor in charge should always assume that a hazard is present.
Confined Space Written Program
Spaces in Construction
Sample Training Presentation
involved in a confined-space entry project has certain
responsibilities and requires a certain amount of training. It is very
important that every individual is familiar with their
responsibilities. There are specific responsibilities and training
requirements of each individual involved in a project.
Space" refers to a space which by design has limited openings for
entry and exit, unfavorable natural ventilation which could contain or
produce dangerous air contaminants, and which is not intended for
continuous employee occupancy. Confined
spaces include but are not limited to storage tanks, compartments of
ships, process vessels, pits, silos, vats, degreasers, reaction
vessels, boilers, ventilation and exhaust ducts, sewers, tunnels,
underground utility vaults, and pipelines.
This publication provides a summary of surveillance findings and the
full text of investigative case reports from 423 incidents in which
480 workers died. These incidents and investigations occurred between
December 1983 and September 1993.
This manual provides information on recognition of confined spaces
and their hazards, and specific safe work practices for testing,
monitoring, and ventilating the atmosphere; isolation of energy
sources (lockout-tagout); respirators; standby/rescue; and addressing
general physical hazards such as temperature extremes, engulfment
hazards, slick surfaces, and noise. A checklist for confined space
entry is appended.
This publication emphasizes the hazards faced by workers and
rescuers who enter confined spaces. It provides summary case reports
of eight fatal incidents that were investigated under the Fatality
Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) program. The report concludes
that in each case there was lack of recognition of the hazards; lack
of testing, evaluation, and monitoring; and lack of planned rescue
procedures. The Alert provides recommendations for addressing these
This publication outlines a classification system for confined
spaces (Class A-Immediately Dangerous to Life/Health (IDLH); Class
B-dangerous, but not IDLH; Class C-potentially hazardous). It provides
a checklist of factors to consider for each class, and provides
information on establishing a permit-based entry system, testing and
monitoring the atmosphere in a confined space, safe work procedures,
and safety equipment and clothing. Other specific topics covered
include ventilation, lockout-tagout, rescue, and training.
One of the initial emphasis areas for the FACE fatality
investigation program was confined space-related fatality. Since the
inception of the FACE program in 1982, hundreds of fatal incidents
involving confined space entry and rescue efforts have been
investigated by NIOSH and State investigators. This link provides a
list of those cases which in turn links to the full-text reports on
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