In order to fully understand the information offered in this course, you must first understand the terms used. So, let's take a look at some important definitions for common confined space terms used by most industries and regulatory agencies.
That depends on where you're working. In the United States, a confined space is defined by OSHA as a space that meets the following three criteria:
In Canada, each province may have their own definition of a "confined space," and each of these definitions may be slightly different from OSHA's definition in the U.S. Generally, regulatory agencies in Canada define a confine as having the following three characteristics:
Each section in this course will include a quiz question at the bottom of the page. In the last section, you'll be able to check your score and retake the quiz if desired. Be sure to answer all questions or you won't see your score. To improve your score after you get results, just go back through the sections and change your answers. Do not refresh these pages or you'll have to answer all questions again.
In this course, we will focus on confined space entry as defined by OSHA in the USA.
Entering a confined space may be done for various reasons. It is done usually to perform a necessary function, such as inspection, repair, maintenance (cleaning or painting), or similar operations which would be an infrequent or irregular function of the total industrial activity.
Entry may also be made during new construction. One of the most difficult confined space entries to control is that of unauthorized entry, especially when there are large numbers of workers and trades involved, such as welders, painters, electricians, and safety monitors.
A final and most important reason for entry would be emergency rescue. This, and all other reasons for entry, must be well planned before initial entry is made and the hazards must be thoroughly reviewed.
By definition, a permit-required confined space is a space that meets the criteria for a confined space and has one or more of the following characteristics:
See the Confined Space Entry Decision Flow Chart by clicking the appropriate tab at the top of this page to help you determine if your confined spaces need a permit.
Most confined spaces are designed to hold substances such as liquids, gases, and loose materials, or to house equipment. They come in many sizes and shapes, though most can be classified in one of two ways: those with depth and open tops and those with narrow openings. Below are examples of each.
Confined spaces are found not only in industrial settings but also in public places such as shopping malls and large public swimming pools. Waterfalls and water fountain displays used in malls for beautification may have pump vaults or valve pits that are seldom entered. Some swimming pool pumps are placed in vaults below ground. There have been reports of maintenance employees entering these areas and losing consciousness.
Take a look at this discussion that includes examples of where confined spaces are found in construction.
The general industry confined space standard does not address the unique characteristics of confined spaces in construction, therefore OSHA is creating a separate rule to protect employees from the hazards resulting from exposure to confined spaces in the construction industry.
By their very nature, confined spaces can be hazardous. Below is a list of hazards:
Below is a list of potential hazards:
Read these actual confined space accident summaries to learn more about the dangers of confined spaces.
A confined space entry is considered to have occurred when any part of a person's body crosses the plane of an opening into the space. Each employer should ask these two questions at the onset of each project:
If possible, avoid entering a confined space. Every consideration should be given to completing the task from the outside.
Under certain conditions, you may use alternate procedures for worker entry into a permit space. For example, if you can demonstrate with monitoring and inspection data that the only hazard is an actual or potential hazardous atmosphere that can be made safe for entry using continuous forced air ventilation, you may be exempted from some entry requirements, such as permits and attendants.
However, even in these circumstances, you must test the internal atmosphere of the space for oxygen content, flammable gases and vapors, and the potential for toxic air contaminants before any employee enters it. You must also provide continuous ventilation and verify that the required measurements are performed before entry.
Frank Quarato from the Center For Safety And Environmental Management talks about 29 CFR 1910.146 Permit Required Confined Space.