The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) defines a confined space as a space that meets these criteria: 1) being large enough for an employee to enter and perform work; 2) has limited or restricted means for entry or exit; and 3) is not designed for continuous occupancy. This describes many areas where a worker can come in contact with on a daily basis. This illustrates what would be considered a non-permit required confined space.
A permit-required confined space will contain all of the above, plus one or more of the following:
According to a 13-year study done by UC Berkeley Health Researchers, entering a permit-required confined space can present conditions that are immediately dangerous to workers’ lives or health and results in hundreds of deaths. From 2011 to 2018, 1,030 workers died from occupational injuries involving a confined space.
Many owners of confined spaces and employers who enter confined space rely on public fire departments to rescue workers from confined spaces, such as water and sewer pipes, manholes and tunnels. This can delay the extraction of workers from the spaces and increase the risk of life threatening situations.
OSHA requires that any time an employer has workers entering confined spaces there needs to be a written program developed that outline and instructs on the proper safety procedures for working around and occupancy of these confined spaces and lists the rescue plan.