What is a Confined Space?
- A confined space is any space that meets the following criteria:
- Large enough for an employee to enter fully and perform assigned work;
- Not designed for continuous occupancy by the employee; and
- Has a limited or restricted means of entry or exit.
What is a Permit-Required Confined Space (PRCS)?
- A PRCS is a confined space with one or more of the following qualities:
- Contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere;
- Contains a material with the potential to engulf someone who enters the space (e.g. water, grain, sand, etc.);
- Has 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; or
- Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazards – can you think of some examples?
- Once PRCS’s have been identified in the workplace, the employer is required to properly label the space with a danger sign stating: “DANGER—PERMIT-REQUIRED CONFINED SPACE—AUTHORIZED ENTRANTS ONLY” or similar.
- If employees are expected to enter PRCS’s, the employer must develop and implement a written program.
Entering a PRCS
In order to enter a PRCS, the requirements in the OSHA standard and company program must be followed. These include:
- Controlling hazards: Procedures and practices must be in place to eliminate or control hazards to ensure safe permit space entry.
- Detection of hazardous conditions: If a hazardous atmosphere exists or could exist, the atmosphere must be monitored with a gas detector that measures oxygen, flammable gases/vapors, and toxic air contaminants.
- Equipment: Equipment for safe entry, such as personal protective equipment, lighting and other equipment should be available and used.
- Assigned duties: Permit spaces require authorized entrants, attendants, entry supervisors, and rescue service personnel, all of whom have specific responsibilities and roles under OSHA.
- Worker training: Any employee with roles and responsibilities for permit space entry must be trained. Rescue personnel must practice rescue procedures at least once a year.
- Entry permits: A written permit, signed by the entry supervisor, must be posted at the entrance(s) to the space or otherwise made available to entrants before they enter. Permits must detail all requirements for safe entry.
- Contractor entry: In the event that a contractor will enter a permit space, ensure they are informed of the entry requirements, identified hazards, precautions and procedures to follow.
- Emergency Services and Rescue: Whenever possible, a safe means of non-entry rescue (such as a harness and retrieval line) should be used. The employer must designate rescue and emergency services. At least one member of the rescue team must be CPR/First Aid certified.