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Confined Spaces – A Brief Overview
What is a Confined Space?
OSHA defines a confined space (non-permit and permit-required) as a space that is:
(1) Large enough for an employee to enter and perform work
(2) Has limited or restricted means for entry or exit
(3) Is not designed for continuous occupancy
What is the difference between a “permit-required” and “non-permit” confined space?
Permit-Required Confined Spaces
Non-Permit Confined Spaces
Contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere
Contains a material that has the potential for engulfing an entrant
Could trap or asphyxiate an entrant with inwardly converging walls
Could trap or asphyxiate an entrant with a floor that slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross-section
Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazard
Contains hazards capable of causing death or serious physical harm
From the chart above we can see that permit-required confined spaces can be extremely dangerous for workers, while non-permit confined spaces are not considered life-threatening. This doesn’t mean precautionary steps shouldn’t be taken before entering a non-permit space. Safety is essential no matter what the conditions are and because there is still the possibility of an injury occurring, only authorized personnel should enter the space.
OSHA states that if the workplace contains permit spaces, the employer shall inform exposed employees by posting danger signs, or by any other equally effective means, making them aware of the existence, location of, and the danger posed by the permit spaces.
Here are some examples of signs from SafetySign.com that would meet the requirements from OSHA: