Confined spaces


Confined spaces. The phrase reminds me of the scene in “Shawshank Redemption” where the main character escapes prison by crawling through a narrow pipe. While the pipe in that particular scenario would definitely be considered a confined space, that would be an extreme situation. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration defines a confined space as an area with limited openings for entry and exit. It is not intended for continuous human occupancy, but it is large enough to enter and conduct work. By this definition, a closet is technically a confined space. There is only one way in and out. However, I doubt that you have ever had concerns about the safety of entering your closet. Being that the definition is extremely vague, it can sometimes be a challenge determining what level of safety precautions you should take to perform work inside of a confined space.

When determining the safety precautions necessary to enter and perform work in a confined space, the most important question you should consider is, “Is this space a permit-required confined space or not?” OSHA classified a permit-required confined space as a confined space with conditions that could potentially be IDLH, or immediately dangerous to life or health. Conditions to be considered IDLH could include:

  • A hazardous atmosphere.
  • The presence of a material that could engulf the entrant.
  • Walls or floors that taper or slope into a small area where an entrant could be trapped or suffocate.
  • Any other conditions that could pose a safety risk to an entrant. 

The potential for heat or cold stress, electric wires or any number of potentially dangerous conditions could apply to the final description of a permit-required confined space. If any of the previously mentioned conditions are present and you or your crew need to enter a permit-required confined space, safety should be taken extremely seriously! Entrance into a permit-required confined space typically involves:

  • Air monitoring prior to entry. 
  • Placement of an entrance supervisor.
  • Lockout/tagout procedures.
  • Staging of rescue personnel.
  • Other safety precautions depending on the specific challenges of the space. 

Tioga has personnel trained in confined space entry procedures. We have also entered permit-required confined spaces on behalf of our clients or cleared confined spaces for entry by our clients. If you have any doubts about the safety of a confined space in your facility or construction site, do not hesitate to contact us. Always remember: the most important part of a confined space is that everyone comes out in the same condition they entered. 


Posted by Carlee Smith at 00:00