It has been over 14 years since Federal OSHA issued its final rule CFR1910.146 "Permit-Required Confined Spaces." Surprisingly State and Federal Review Commissions and Administrative Law Judges still hear contested cases regarding compliance issues associated with the regulation. Many of the cases are based on the employer's contention that a workspace was either "not confined" or, if "confined," it was free of all hazards and thus it was possible to classify the space as a "Non-Permit Confined Space." The reality is that many employers designate the decision for proper classification of the space to an employee with limited exposure to the language found in the regulation in general, or limited confined space safety work practice, in particular. The result can often be costly (monetary fines) and sometimes fatal to one or more employees. This program will cover the fundamental definitions regarding confined spaces as found in the regulation and lead the attendee through the intent of that language and follow up with examples of real world spaces. These real world spaces will be discussed, their proper classification derived, and then the space will be evaluated for its potential to be considered as an "Alternate Procedure Entry" (i.e. vented vault) or its prospects for total and complete hazard elimination, thus achieving "Non-Permit Confined Space" status through the hazard elimination process.

Key Definitions (from 1910.146) needed in this program are listed below:

  • Confined Spaces means a space that:

    • Is large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work AND

    • Has limited or restricted means for entry or exit AND

    • Is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.

  • Permit-Required Confined Spaces (Permit Space) means a confined space that has one or more of the following characteristics:

    • 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 sphyxiated by inwardly converging walls or by a floor which slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross section

    • Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazard.

  • Non-Permit Confined Spaces means a confined space that does not contain or (w/r/t atmospheric hazards) have the potential to contain any hazard capable of causing death or serious physical harm.

  • Alternate Procedure Entry (c)(5):

    • Only hazard is actual or potential hazardous atmosphere

    • Continuous forced air ventilation alone is sufficient to maintain safe entry

    • Document determinations and supporting data

    • Certification made available to entrants

    • No formal written program [requirements in (c)(5)(ii) act as a substitute written program]

    • No permit system or permits [a written certification is required]

    • No attendant or supervisor

    • No rescue provisions

    • Training is required.

  • Hazard Elimination Entry (c)(7):

    • Space poses no actual or potential atmospheric hazards

    • Certify that all hazards within the space have been eliminated

    • Certification made available to entrants.

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