Many job sites have small, confined spaces in which employees work. Some of these spaces have OSHA regulations attached to them that create obligations for your company and the employees that work within the spaces.
This article will help you understand the differences between confined spaces and permit-required confined spaces. We’ll also let you know what obligations you must adhere to as a business if you have some of these spaces on your job sites.
What is considered a confined space?
In order for an area to be classified as a permit-required confined space, it must first be classified as a confined space. OSHA sets the definition for confined spaces. They say that a confined space must possess all three of these traits:
- The space is large enough for workers to be inside of it, doing their jobs
- The space has limited or restricted entries and exits
- The space isn’t designed for continuous occupancy
Simple confined spaces don’t have any obligations attached to them. An example of one would be a closet. People can go in and out of closets on your job sites freely without any restrictions.
When is a permit required to work in a confined space?
If you have a confined space, it may or may not be a permit-required confined space. The critical deciding factor is whether or not the space poses a hazard to the employees who enter it.
OSHA says that a confined space rises to the level of a permit-required confined space when it has one or more of the following traits:
- The potential for a hazardous atmosphere (or an actual hazardous atmosphere)
- It contains material that could potentially engulf an entrant
- It has a configuration that could trap an entrant inside
- Contains other severe health or safety hazards
Sewage entries are an excellent example of this. Employees entering one could become trapped and be exposed to a hazardous atmosphere. In these situations, an employee must complete confined space training before entering the space.
What are the OSHA requirements to work in a confined space?
If you have a permit-required confined space on your premises, you need to start by creating a permit-required confined space program, a written document detailing how you, as an employer, will keep your employees safe while working in a confined space.
Under OSHA regulations, your program must include a hazard analysis and a permitting plan.
A hazard analysis must list every potential hazard an employee could encounter in the confined space. You must also outline specific steps that you’re going to take, as an employer, to keep these hazards at bay so that your employees can work in confined spaces safely.
You also need to be assigned a confined space entry permit, which you can get by satisfying all of the requirements for a permit plan. To get this, you need to:
- List authorized entrants, supervisors, and attendants
- Show that you’ve addressed all of the hazards that you listed in the previous step
- Ensure that the proper personal protective equipment is being used
- Take care of any other lingering safety issues that could impact your employees in the confined space
Who is authorized to work in a confined space?
An employer’s job in relation to permit-required confined spaces isn’t complete after they’ve received a permit. They also still need to ensure that everyone who enters the space has a confined space certificate and training for confined spaces that allow them to do so.
OSHA details the specifics of what confined space training must look like in 29 CFR 1910.146. But the bottom line is that all employees must receive training for all their duties within the confined space.
There are three significant positions listed on a confined space entry permit. Understanding these should help you develop a proper training plan for your team, so we’ll cover them below.
An attendant is someone who monitors the entrants to a permit-required confined space and ensures no one gets in without the proper training.
Attendants are also responsible for any of the duties that were assigned in the permit plan. For example, an attendant may also be responsible for ensuring the confined space is locked at the end of the day or keys for the entryway are tracked.
An authorized entrant is an employee with the training necessary to enter a permit-required confined space.
An entry supervisor is an employee responsible for ensuring that the permit-required confined space is safe to enter. A foreman or a crew chief often assumes this role.
The entry supervisor will typically look over the permit-required confined space and check for hazards before allowing any authorized entrants to go inside of the space that day.
AOTC Can Help
Confined spaces can be hazardous to your employees. That’s why OSHA is so specific about what you need to do before your employees are able to go into these spaces and complete their jobs.
But sending your staff to external training courses can be costly and time-consuming. That’s why hiring AOTC could be your best option.
We can send our licensed instructors to your job site to ensure that your personnel is trained to work in permit-required confined spaces.
Our instructors can also help you with rescue procedures, supervisor training, and entry attendant training. That way, your team can get the work done that it needs to complete in confined spaces in the safest and most efficient ways possible.
If you’d like to learn more about how we can help, reach out to us. We’re happy to answer your questions and help you develop the right plan for your permit-required confined spaces training.