Any safety team which has to deal with confined spaces can tell you that they are extremely difficult to monitor, maintain, and keep compliant. These spaces are maintained by OSHA Standard 1910.146, which governs confined spaces and their permit entry systems. These systems are designed to control who does and does not have access to the space, when these people have access, who is monitoring said space, and how records of entrants are maintained.
But before putting plans in place to cover all of this information, a safety team must first determine whether a space qualifies as a confined space and if it needs a permit entry system. A confined space is a space large enough and so configured that it is possible for a person to bodily enter and perform work, has limited or restricted means for entry and exit, and is not designed for continuous employee occupancy. So assuming the space meets those qualifications, the next thing which must be determined is if the permit entry system is required. A permit entry system is required for any spaces which contain or have the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere, contain a material that has the potential for engulfing an entrant, has an internal configuration such that an entrant could be trapped or asphyxiated by inwardly converging walls or by a floor which slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross-section, or contains any other recognized serious safety hazard.
If in reviewing this, you determine your facility has a confined space with a required permit entry system, it is vital that you contact a third party occupational safety and health auditing firm to help you put an appropriate system in place. Not only will this safeguard your employees, it will protect your business from unnecessary fines.
If you have any questions about confined spaces, permit entry systems, or how any of them impact your business, please contact us. If you have anything you would like to add about confined spaces, please leave a comment.