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OSHA General Industry Regulations for Permit Required Confined Space

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With a name like Diversified Fall Protection, you might think all of our systems are designed to protect employees working at heights.   Although MOST of our systems are designed to do just that, we also offer descent and rescue solutions for confined space applications.  This post offers up some pointers on how to keep your employees safe and OSHA compliant when working in confined space. 

Let’s start with OSHA’s definition of confined space.  OSHA 1910.146(b) defines a confined space as a work area that:

  • Is large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work; and
  • Has limited or restricted means for entry or exit (for example, tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, hoppers, vaults, and pits are spaces that may have limited means of entry.); and
  • Is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.

Prime examples of confined space include underground vaults, tanks, storage bins, manholes, pits, silos, underground utility vaults and pipelines.  The OSHA regulation cited above (1910.146) also is specific to “permit-required confined spaces”, or are areas that:

  • May contain a hazardous or potentially hazardous atmosphere.
  • May contain a material which can engulf an entrant.
  • May contain walls that converge inward or floors that slope downward and taper into a smaller area which could trap or asphyxiate an entrant.
  • May contain other serious physical hazards such as unguarded machines or exposed live wires.
  • Must be identified by the employer who must inform exposed employees of the existence and location of such spaces and their hazards.

If you read OSHA’s complete text of 1910.146, you’ll note a long, comprehensive list of provisions to ensure worker safety and facility compliance.   For our purposes here, we are going to focus most of our attention on the types of systems OSHA requires for safe descent and rescue from confined space areas:

For confined space applications, OSHA also requires employers to provide:

  • 1910.146(d)(3)–A safe means of entry
  • 1910.146 (d)(4)(vii)–Equipment, such as ladders, needed for safe ingress and egress by authorized entrants
  • 1910.146(d)(4)(viii)–Rescue and emergency equipment needed to comply with paragraph (d)(9) of this section

OSHA also requires:

  • 1910.146(k)(3)(i) —Use of non-entry rescue, retrieval systems where feasible, including the use of a body harness with a retrieval line attached at the center of the entrant’s back near shoulder level
  • 1910.146(k)(3)(ii)–The other end of the retrieval line shall be attached to a mechanical device or fixed point outside the permit space in such a manner that rescue can begin as soon as the rescuer becomes aware that rescue is necessary. A mechanical device shall be available to retrieve personnel from vertical type permit spaces more than 5 feet (1.52 m) deep.

As we mentioned earlier, this post isn’t designed to be a complete summary of all OSHA’s General Industry Confined Space Requirements,  but we hope it will get you thinking about how to keep your workers safe when working in underground vaults, tanks, storage bins, manholes, pits, silos, underground utility vaults, pipelines, etc.  If you want to see some of the equipment we design and manufacture for these types of applications, check out the brief training video below:

To learn more about how to ensure worker safety and compliance with OSHA’s Confined Space Requirements, contact Diversified Fall Protection for further assistance.

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