The Basics of Confined Space

What is a Confined Space

A confined space is any space that:

  1. Has limited or restricted means of entry or exit
  2. Is large enough for a person to enter to perform tasks
  3. Is not designed or configured for continuous occupancy
  4. Is any covered space of depth more than 4 feet

A utility tunnel, the inside of a fluid storage tank, a septic tank that has contained sewage and a small underground electrical vault are all examples of confined spaces. The exact definition of a confined space varies depending on the type of industry. That is, confined spaces on a construction site are defined differently than confined spaces in a paper mill. Confined spaces that present special hazards to workers, including risks of toxic or gas accumulation, fires, falls, flooding, and entrapment may be classified as permit-required confined spaces depending on the nature and severity of the hazard.

What are the Requirements Regarding Confined Spaces

A confined space that requires a permit must meet the guidelines as established by either Federal or State safety standards and regulations. These regulations include developing a written program, issuing entry permits, assigning attendant(s), designating entrants, and ensuring a means of rescue.

According to Occupational Safety and Health Administration a permit-required confined space (permit space) has the three characteristics listed above (which define a confined space) and one or more of the following:

  1. Contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere
  2. Contains a material that has the potential for engulfing the entrant
  3. 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
  4. Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazards

How Dangerous Are Confined Spaces

Injuries and fatalities involving confined spaces are frequent and often involve successive fatalities when would-be rescuers succumb to the same problem as the initial victim. According to data collected by the U.S. Department of Labor and Statistics, Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries program, fatal injuries in confined spaces fluctuated from a low of 81 in 1998 to a high of 100 in 2000 during the five-year period, averaging 92 fatalities per year.

Confined Space Rescue and Retrieval Products

Confined space products have several functions.  One is to protect the worker while descending into the space.  Another function is to rescue or retrieve the worker in case the become entrapped in a dangerous environment, injured or overcome while in the confined space.  Below are a few products that help to accomplish rescue and retrieval.  For more products visit our Confined Space product category.

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