The most recent revision of American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z117 Safety Requirements for Confined Spaces was approved February 20, 2003. This session will familiarize participants with the major requirements of the revised standard and provide guidance for implementing it within your organization. The most recent edition of this standard has been substantially updated and improved from the 1995 version.

ANSI Standards are consensus standards that provide guidance to users. Consensus standards are developed by a committee of knowledgeable individuals representing a balanced cross section of interested parties.

Why you should consider adopting the ANSI Z117 standard. In the US we are required to comply with OSHA 1910.146 for confined space operations in general industry environments.

The standard is in the two column format. This style provides mandatory portions of the standard in the left column and explanatory materials on the right. There are also several appendices that provide additional support information. As is common with consensus standards the use of shall and should delineates the required items from those being recommended.

The standard covers most types of confined space operations. Specifically excluded are underground mining, tunneling, caisson work, spaces entered at other than atmospheric pressure, and work in intentionally inert spaces. These activities are covered by other national standards. For example, the American Petroleum Institute (API) has an existing standard on safe entry into inert confined spaces. All other types of confined space entry operations are within the scope of the standard.

ANSI Z117 is a performance rather than prescriptive standard. This means it establishes overall approaches that if effectively applied in the work environment should improve the safety of confined space operations. The standard is not intended to replace existing requirements from other sources such as the OSHA regulations but to provide additional guidance that will improve performance in the field.

An ANSI Standard is particularly useful to organizations that wish to use the "beyond compliance" approach. OSHA regulations are the legal minimum acceptable performance.

The definition section of the standard is designed to clarify any terms used in the standard that are open to interpretations other than what the committee intended.

The space definitions within the standard are similar to those used in the OSHA regulation.

A confined space is large enough to enter, has a primary function of something other than human occupancy, and has restricted entry and exit.

A permit required confined space is one that has actual or potential hazards.

A non-permit space is a space that meets the confined space definition but has little potential for hazards or has the hazards eliminated by engineering controls.

Section three of the standard covers the identification and evaluation of confined spaces.

The identification and evaluation section requires a complete survey of the facility to identify all confined spaces. A process to maintain the documented inventory of spaces must also be established. This periodic review of the facility ensures that changes, additions, and removal of spaces can be accurately tracked.

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