Confined spaces are defined as spaces that ere:
- Big enough to enter.
- Not designed for continuous occupancy.
- Have limited egress (entrance and exit ways).
Examples of confined spaces can include steam pits, boilers, manure pits, silos, lift stations, storage tanks, and utility vaults. Why such spaces are a concern is that history seems to all too often tragically repeat itself when people are overcome and die in confined spaces. Part of the repetitiveness of these tragic stories entails would be rescuers who are also killed attempting to rescue earlier entrants. Four people were killed in Superior, WI in 2007 in such an incident. A worker had entered a landfill leachate lift station and was overcome. Several attempted rescue and were also overcome.
The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulates confined space entry in the workplace. OSHA recognizes two types of confined spaces, permit and non-permit required. Permit required confined spaces are those confined spaces which have an intrinsic hazard such as poor air quality, engulfment or hazardous energy. Entry into these types of spaces requireS written supervisor approval in the form of an entry permit. This permit is critically important in that it documents who is authorized to enter, the space location, PPE and other entry requirements, air quality monitoring and rescue procedures. In order to comply with the standard, campus departments that enter confined spaces need to have a written program, identify and label spaces (both permit and non-permit), train staff who will enter and serve as outside attendants and develop and practice rescue procedures. In Wisconsin, the WI Dept. of Commerce regulates confined space entry for public agencies such as the University. One of the additions to the OSHA standard is that all entrants and attendants must be first aid trained.
In general, the following activities will be needed to develop a confined space program:
- Identify and label confined spaces
- Determine which are permit required
- Establish a permit-entry system
- Establish a rescue program
- Training, including First Aid training for attendants
- Purchase and training to use ventilation, air monitoring, respiratory protection and rescue equipment
- Write the program which should include a companion lockout/tagout program
Contact the EH&S Department at 265-5000 if you have questions about confined space entry.