Do you know the difference between a confined space and a permit-required confined space? This can be rather confusing since many workplaces have both confined spaces and permit-required confined spaces.

So, to clarify, a confined space is just defining a type of space that has three very specific characteristics. It must be large enough to bodily enter and do work AND it must have limited exit or egress AND it is not designed for continuous occupancy. The first and third are not difficult to figure out, but the second (limited exit or egress) is not about the number of exits, it is about the difficulty getting in or out. If you have to bend, stoop, crawl, climb a ladder, use your hands and arms, that is considered difficult regardless of how many ways to get in or out.

Once you know you have a confined space, you have to determine whether it is also a permit-required confined space. That is defined as A CONFINED SPACE WITH A HAZARD. It must meet the definition of a confined space to be a permit-required confined space. The hazards in the confined space are what put an employee’s safety and health at risk. Hazards include atmospheric hazards including lack of oxygen, potential for entrapment or engulfment, the configuration of the space itself (i.e., sloping edges), other serious hazards like energy, movement, sharp edges, heat, cold, etc.

A company must know if it has a permit-required confined space and identify it. If anyone needs to go into that space, there must be a program in place to remove or control hazards before anyone goes in and while they are in the space. The level of detail in your program is determined by how much you can remove or control the hazards before entering.

Listen to my video safety brief as I try to simplify how to assess and identify a permit-required confined space.

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