What is a Confined Space? (And What Should We Do About it?)

Construction Site Safety

Construction Site Safety: Confined Space Entry

In the world of engineering and construction, we encounter all types of unknowns during the design process.  For example, we may lack knowledge regarding buried utilities, interior details of inaccessible buildings, past use of the site, etc. In this blog, we will focus on confined spaces and how to deal with uncertain atmospheres in a safe manner.

When is An Area Considered a “Confined Space?”

As defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a “confined space” must meet the following conditions:

  1. Is large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work; and
  2. Has limited or restricted means for entry or exit (for example, tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, hoppers, vaults, and pits are spaces that may have limited means of entry); and
  3. Is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.

Demonstrably Safe Confined Space or Permit Required For Entry 

Furthermore, confined spaces are broken down into two categories:

  • Non-permit confined spaces are those that do not contain atmospheric hazards or have the potential to otherwise cause bodily harm
  • Permit-required confined spaces contain or have the potential to contain one or more of the following:
    • Hazardous atmosphere
    • Engulfment hazards
    • Converging wall hazards
    • Any other applicable health and safety issue

If it can be demonstrated that none of the permit conditions listed above are present, then permit procedures (to be discussed below) are not required by OSHA.  In the case of a permit-required confined space, there is a specific set of procedures that must be followed to ensure OSHA compliance and worker safety.

Construction Site SafetyResponsibility to Notify Employees

Once all applicable permit-required spaces are identified (either on a construction site or at an employer’s location), all employees must be notified of the details.  If the construction manager or employer deems it necessary to enter these permit-required spaces, a written “permit space program” plan must be prepared to describe entrance/exit procedures, appropriate supervision, and other emergency procedures.

Confined Space Entry Permit Process

If entry to a permit-required space is desired, an entry permit must be filled out as event documentation, which contains the details on the space entered, the purpose of entry, the date/duration of the permit, and the individuals involved in the process.  The team must be equipped with air monitoring equipment that can measure oxygen levels, combustible gases, and toxic gases; proper ventilating/lighting equipment; personal protective equipment (possibly respiratory equipment); and any other applicable emergency equipment in case a rescue is required.

The permit-required confined space team shall contain the following personnel:

  • Authorized Entrants are the individuals who are permitted to enter the confined space.
  • Attendants supervise the entrants directly to make sure they are following the procedures outlined in the permit space program.
  • Entry supervisors are typically the foreman or crew chief, and are responsible for the coordination of the entry and terminating the entry whenever deemed necessary.Effective Construction Management

Ask an Expert

Walden has a team of engineers with thorough experience in handling confined space issues, both non-permit and permit-required.  We can help you prepare a written Confined Space Entry Plan to keep your workers safe and in compliance with OSHA standards.  Give us a call at (516) 624-7200, (845) 207-3043 or (518) 320-8312 to ask about Construction Health and Safety Plans today!

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