A confined space is an area with limited or restricted means of entry or exit, is large enough for an employee to enter and perform assigned work, and is not designed for continuous occupancy. Confined spaces are found in many workplaces. Such spaces may include, but are not limited to, underground vaults, tanks, storage bins, pits, dikes, vessels, silos and elevator shafts.

In addition, when a confined space has ANY of the following characteristics, it is considered a permit-required confined space (PRCS):

  • It contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere.
  • It contains a material that has the potential for engulfing an entrant.
  • It has an internal configuration that might cause an entrant to be trapped or asphyxiated by inwardly converging walls or by a floor that slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross section.
  • It contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazards.

Many workplaces contain spaces that are considered to be “confined” because their configurations hinder the activities of any employees who must enter into, work in and exit from them. In many instances, employees who work in confined spaces also face increased risk of exposure to serious physical injury.

Confined Spaces

Tab/Accordion Items

What are the hazards associated with a confined space?

Confinement, limited access and restricted airflow can result in hazardous conditions that would not normally arise in an open workplace. Increased risk of exposure to serious physical injury from entrapment, engulfment and hazardous atmospheric conditions can result.

What can I do to protect myself?

Make sure you know all of the appropriate procedures and precautions to take for entry into and exit from confined spaces. If there are hazardous confined spaces where you work, your employer is required to have a permit-required confined space program, permit system, emergency procedures, appropriate engineering and work practice controls and to provide you with training and appropriate personal protective equipment. 

What resources are available to assist employers?

Safety and Health Programs

These example confined space entry programs (general industry and construction) can be downloaded and customized to fit an individual workplace. Also these example programs may also be applicable for workplaces with confined space hazards: hazard communication program; personal protective equipment hazard assessment; and respiratory protection program. Other example safety and health programs are available for employers to download and adapt to their specific conditions. 

Training and Outreach Services

Presentations on confined spaces are available for workplaces in general industry and construction and can assist employers in training their staff.  The presentations should be modified to address site-specific conditions and hazards. In addition, these presentations on personal protective equipment (general industry and construction), respiratory protection, and hazard communication can be useful in providing training to your employees. Other example presentations are available along with pre-recorded webinars which can be accessed at any time. 

Lastly, the education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request. 

Lastly, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos (including streaming video services) and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC). 

Safety and Health Topics 

Other related resource information can be found on the safety and health topics page for welding and cutting, respiratory protection, hazard communication, competent person, illumination and personal protective equipment

Consultation Services

The consultative services bureau provides free and confidential onsite consultation regarding worksite safety and health hazards.

Which standards apply?

OSH has adopted the following standards which are applicable to confined spaces in North Carolina.  This is not all inclusive.

Note: Please also check the standards information and activity webpage to see if there has been any recent or upcoming regulatory activity on this topic. 

General Industry

Maritime, Shipyard Employment

  • 29 CFR 1915, Subpart B – confined and enclosed spaces and other dangerous atmospheres in shipyard employment

Maritime, Marine Terminals


In addition, in 29 CFR 1910, Subpart R - Special Industries, several of the industry-specific standards also address confined or enclosed spaces:

General Industry

Other standards that may apply include:

General Industry


Other Applicable Standards

The Which OSHA Standards Apply webpage can also help identify other standards that may be applicable to your worksite.

Where can I learn more?

Industry Guides

Fact Sheets

Compliance Documents

Technical Assistance

Inquiries about workplace safety and health requirements can be submitted to Ask OSH through the online form, by email to ask.osh@labor.nc.gov, or by phone at 919-707-7876.