Many people have a general idea of what a confined space is, but can rarely define the three conditions necessary for a space to be confined. To be a confined space, these three conditions must exist:
- It is large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work
- It 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 exit or entry)
- It is not designed for continuous employee presence.
To be classified as a permit-required confined space, the three conditions above must all exist in addition to one of the following:
- Contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere
- Contains a material that has the potential for engulfing an entrant
- Has an internal configuration such that an entrant could be trapped or asphyxiated by inwardly converging walls or by a floor that slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross-section
- Contains any other recognized serious safety or health
Whenever you are assigned work in an area that is a confined space, you should consult your supervisor or the host employer representative to determine the classification and what hazards are or may be present inside the space.
For permit-required confined spaces, each company must develop and implement permit-required confined space policies and procedures. Before any employee engages in permit-required confined space activities, they must be trained on the company’s procedures and be familiar with the hazards of any confined space they work with.
Be aware that there are different training requirements and duties for related positions. The positions are entrant, attendant, supervisor, and standby rescue. Your company’s policies and procedures manual should cover the responsibilities of these positions and you should be familiar with them before performing any permit-required confined space work.
Need help defining and implementing your confined spaces protocol? Contact us. We can help.