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Confined Spaces

Confined Space

Confined Spaces

Hazard Overview

Hazard Overview

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.

What is a confined space?

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.

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.

Solutions

Solutions

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?

This example confined space entry program can be downloaded and customized to fit an individual workplace. The program is based on information found in the general industry standards, 29 CFR 1910.146. Also these example programs may be applicable for workplaces with confined space hazards: hazard communication program; personal protective equipment hazard asessement; and respiratory protection program.

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, respiratory protection, and hazard communication can be useful in providing training to your employees.

Other related resource information can be found on the A-Z topics page for welding and cutting, respiratory protection, hazard communication, and personal protective equipment.

In addition, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC). 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.

Regulations

Regulations

Which standards apply?

OSH has adopted the following standards for confined spaces in North Carolina:

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

Other standards that may apply include:

Learn More

Learn More

Where can I learn more?

If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to ask.osh@labor.nc.gov or by calling 919-707-7876.