To define a Confined Space doesn’t have to be difficult. When asked, just remember these 5 rules.
A confined space has any one of the following characteristics:
- Spaces that are large enough, and configured in a way that person has no problem when they enter the space to perform work, it’s a confined space. An example of this is an underground tunnel.
- If the space isn’t designed for continuous worker occupancy it’s a confined space. In other words, if the space wasn’t developed or designed for people to work inside if it for a long period of time, it might not have the safety features in place to support life.
- If the space has limited or impeded openings for people to enter and exit, it’s a confined space.
- If the space wasn’t designed for continuous human occupancy, it would be considered a confined space.
- Spaces that contain a hazard which may pose an illness or injury, are it’s a confined space. These hazards can be caused by materials or substances present in the space before entry, or by materials brought into the space by a worker completing a task.
So basically, to define a confined space, ask this question: Can you live in it? If not, it’s a confined space.
Planning for Confined Spaces
Identify the hazards in the confined space, which could include:
Atmospheric hazards (lack of sufficient oxygen or breathing air)
Energy source controls (electrical, thermal, pressure, gravitational)
Tools/equipment (within the space or brought in by entrants)
Chemical hazards (within the space or brought in by entrants)
Rescue or protective equipment that restricts movement, or a shaped or configured space where employees could be trapped (tapered end) or engulfed by materials (a grain silo).
All Site Safety and Health Officers should take a Confined Space course and have a certificate to confirm the course has been taken. This course should be retaken anytime there is an update to the EM 385-1-1 or OSHA Standard. Luckily, the updates don’t happen too often!