Confined spaces are areas not intended for continuous human occupancy. This makes them dangerous, because they often won’t have safeguards to keep workers safe from falls, dangerous fumes, or temperature extremes. Making matters worse, many confined spaces are extremely difficult for emergency personnel to reach. According to OSHA, confined spaces with “a hazardous atmosphere, engulfment hazard, or other serious hazard, such as exposed wiring, that can interfere with a worker’s ability to leave the space without assistance,” or “permit spaces” for short, are limited to workers with special training.
A written permit space policy is mandatory for any employer with permit spaces. This applies even if your employees don’t need to enter permit spaces at your job site. To work in any permit spaces, the employer must write a permit that details which employees can work there and what safety measures are required. Intelligent risk assessment is a priority!
If you have contractors at your job site, the host employer is responsible for notifying the controlling contractor about permit spaces, who must then notify all subcontractors and workers. A note: the OSHA confined space rules only apply to permit spaces. Confined spaces in the construction industry are stricter than the rules for general industry. See OSHA’s FAQ for details on the special requirements for construction.