RegSenseezExplanationConfined SpacesSafety & HealthConfined SpacesConstruction SafetyBest ResultsOccupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), DOLEnglishFocus AreaUSA
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A confined space is a space whose configuration and/or contents may present special dangers not found in normal work areas. Confined spaces may be poorly ventilated and, as a result, contain insufficient oxygen or hazardous levels of toxic gases. Working in a tight space can prevent a worker from keeping a safe distance from mechanical and electrical hazards in the space. Fumes from a flammable liquid that is used in a poorly ventilated area can reach explosive levels.
Such hazards endanger both the workers in the confined space and others who become exposed to the hazards when they attempt to rescue injured workers. In a number of cases, rescue workers have themselves died or been injured because they did not have the training and equipment necessary to conduct the rescue safely.
Because confined spaces are potentially dangerous, employers must evaluate all confined spaces in which their employees work to determine whether hazards exist or whether the work to be done in the space can create hazards. If a confined space contains an actual or potential hazard that can cause death, injury or acute illness, incapacitation, entrapment, or otherwise interfere with a worker’s ability to leave the space in an emergency, it is a permit-required confined space, or permit space.
Employers must take certain precautions whenever workers enter a permit space. These include:
- Specifying the precautions to be taken to protect the workers in the space;
- Training the workers who are covered by the standard to give them the knowledge to protect themselves and others; and
- Planning how to rescue injured workers promptly and safely.
The Confined Spaces in Construction standard protects employees engaged in construction activities at a worksite with one or more confined spaces. All employers engaged in construction activities have a duty under the standard to make sure their employees do not enter a confined space except when following the requirements of the standard.
The presence of a confined space on the worksite triggers this duty. The focus is on the type of work performed, and whether that work could produce, and expose employees to, confined space hazards.
The standard applies to construction work performed in confined spaces, except for certain construction activities that are subject to confined space provisions in other OSHA construction standards.
The following Subparts are exempt from the Confined Spaces in Construction standard:
- Diving: 29 CFR 1926, Subpart Y
- Excavation: 29 CFR 1926, Subpart P
- Underground Construction, Caissons, Cofferdams and Compressed Air: 29 CFR 1926, Subpart S
Where Subpart AA applies and there is a provision that addresses a confined space hazard in another applicable OSHA standard, the employer must comply with both that requirement and the applicable provisions of Subpart AA.
For example, employers engaged in the following activities in confined spaces must also comply with other applicable OSHA standards, such as:
- Process Safety Management: 29 CFR 1926.64
- Hazardous Waste Operations: 29 CFR 1926.65
- Welding and Cutting: 29 CFR 1926, Subpart J
- 29 CFR Subpart AA — Confined Spaces in Construction.
- Attendant: An individual stationed outside one or more permit spaces who monitors conditions within the space(s) and prevents unauthorized entry.
- Authorized entrant: A worker who is authorized by the entry supervisor to enter a permit space.
- Competent person: One who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has the authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.
- Controlling contractor: The employer with overall responsibility for construction at the worksite. The controlling contractor is responsible for coordinating entry operations when there is more than one entry employer and when other activities on the site could foreseeably result in a hazard in the permit space. In addition, controlling contractors must provide any information they have about any permit space hazards and precautions previously used in the space.
- Confined space: A space that:
- Is large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter it,
- Has limited or restricted means for entry and exit, and
- Is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.
- Entry employer: An employer who decides that an employee it directs will enter a permit space. There may be more than one entry employer if the employees of multiple employers must enter the space. Each entry employer is responsible for complying with all provisions in the Confined Spaces standard except those specifically imposed on the controlling contractor and host employer.
- Entry supervisor: A qualified person (such as the employer, foreman, or crew chief) responsible for overseeing entry operations. An entry supervisor also may serve as an attendant or as an authorized entrant, as long as that person is trained and equipped as required by this standard for each role he or she fills. The duties of entry supervisor may be passed from one individual to another during the course of an entry operation.
- Host employer: The employer that owns or manages the property where the construction work is taking place. Where the host employer has information about permit space hazards on the site, it must share that information with the controlling contractor, who is then responsible for sharing it with the other employers on the site. In no case will there be more than one host employer. If the owner of the property on which the construction activity occurs has contracted with another employer to manage the property and provided any relevant information it has about permit spaces on the property to the managing entity, the managing entity is the host employer. Absent such a contract and exchange of information, the owner of the property is the host employer. If the controlling contractor owns or manages the property, it is both the controlling contractor and the host employer.
- Permit-required confined space (permit space): A confined space that has one or more of the following characteristics:
- Contains or has a 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 which slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross-section, or
- Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazard.
Summary of requirements
The following table summarizes the responsibilities of the various categories of employer.
Duties of employers under the Confined Spaces in Construction
|Category of Employer||Employer Responsibilities|
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