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OSHA CONFINED SPACE PERMIT rules and regulations

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Many workplaces contain spaces that are considered “confined” because their configurations hinder the activities of employees who must enter, work in, and exit them. A confined space has limited or restricted means for entry or exit, and it is not designed for continuous employee occupancy. Confined spaces include, but are not limited to underground vaults, tanks, storage bins, manholes, pits, silos, process vessels, and pipelines. OSHA uses the term “permit-required confined space” (permit space) to describe a confined space that has one or more of the following characteristics: contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere; contains a material that has the potential to engulf an entrant; has walls that converge inward or floors that slope downward and taper into a smaller area which could trap or asphyxiate an entrant; or contains any other recognized safety or health hazard, such as unguarded machinery, exposed live wires, or heat stress.

Confined space hazards are addressed in specific standards for the general industry and shipyard employment. This page highlights OSHA standards, directives (instructions for compliance officers), standard interpretations (official letters of interpretation of the standards), and national consensus standards related to confined spaces.


Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act, often referred to as the General Duty Clause, requires employers to “furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees”. Section 5(a)(2) requires employers to “comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act”.

Note: Twenty-four states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have OSHA-approved State Plans and have adopted their own standards and enforcement policies. For the most part, these States adopt standards that are identical to Federal OSHA. However, some States have adopted different standards applicable to this topic or may have different enforcement policies.

Highlighted Standards

General Industry (29 CFR 1910)

Shipyard Employment (29 CFR 1915)

  • 1915 Subpart B, Confined and enclosed spaces and other dangerous atmospheres in shipyard employment
    • 1915.11, Scope, application, and definitions applicable to this subpart
    • 1915.12, Precautions and the order of testing before entering confined and enclosed spaces and other dangerous atmospheres
    • 1915.13, Cleaning and other cold work
    • 1915.14, Hot work
    • 1915.15, Maintenance of safe conditions
    • 1915.16, Warning signs and labels
    • Appendix A, Compliance assistance guidelines for confined and enclosed spaces and other dangerous atmospheres
    • Appendix B, Reprint of US coast guard regulations referenced in Subpart B, for determination of Coast Guard authorized persons


Standard Interpretations

National Consensus

Note: These are NOT OSHA regulations. However, they do provide guidance from their originating organizations related to worker protection.

American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE)

  • Z117.1 – 2003, Safety Requirements for Confined Spaces
• Part Number: 1910
• Part Title: Occupational Safety and Health Standards
• Subpart: J
• Subpart Title: General Environmental Controls
• Standard Number: 1910.146 App D
• Title: Confined Space Pre-Entry Check List

Appendix D to §1910.146 — Sample Permits

Appendix D-1

Confined Space Entry Permit
Date and Time Issued: _______________ Date and Time Expires: ________
Job site/Space I.D.: ________________ Job Supervisor:________________
Equipment to be worked on: __________ Work to be performed: _________

Stand-by personnel: __________________ ________________ _____________

1. Atmospheric Checks:  Time      ________
                        Oxygen    ________%
                        Explosive ________% L.F.L.
                        Toxic     ________PPM

2. Tester's signature: _____________________________

3. Source isolation (No Entry):  N/A   Yes   No
     Pumps or lines blinded,     ( )   ( )   ( )
     disconnected, or blocked    ( )   ( )   ( )

4. Ventilation Modification:     N/A   Yes   No
     Mechanical                  ( )   ( )   ( )
     Natural Ventilation only    ( )   ( )   ( )

5. Atmospheric check after
   isolation and Ventilation:
   Oxygen __________%           >    19.5   %
   Explosive _______% L.F.L     <    10     %
   Toxic ___________PPM         <    10     PPM H(2)S
   Time ____________
   Testers signature: _____________________________

6. Communication procedures: ________________________________________

7. Rescue procedures: _______________________________________________

8. Entry, standby, and back up persons:              Yes       No
   Successfully completed required
   Is it current?                                    ( )       ( )

9. Equipment:                              N/A       Yes       No
   Direct reading gas monitor -
     tested                                ( )       ( )       ( )
   Safety harnesses and lifelines
     for entry and standby persons         ( )       ( )       ( )
   Hoisting equipment                      ( )       ( )       ( )
   Powered communications                  ( )       ( )       ( )
   SCBA's for entry and standby
     persons                               ( )       ( )       ( )
   Protective Clothing                     ( )       ( )       ( )
   All electric equipment listed
     Class I, Division I, Group D
     and Non-sparking tools                ( )       ( )       ( )

10. Periodic atmospheric tests:
    Oxygen     ____%    Time ____  Oxygen     ____%    Time ____
    Oxygen     ____%    Time ____  Oxygen     ____%    Time ____
    Explosive  ____%    Time ____  Explosive  ____%    Time ____
    Explosive  ____%    Time ____  Explosive  ____%    Time ____
    Toxic      ____%    Time ____  Toxic      ____%    Time ____
    Toxic      ____%    Time ____  Toxic      ____%    Time ____

We have reviewed the work authorized by this permit and the
information contained here-in. Written instructions and safety
procedures have been received and are understood. Entry cannot be
approved if any squares are marked in the "No" column. This permit is
not valid unless all appropriate items are completed.

Permit Prepared By: (Supervisor)________________________________________
Approved By: (Unit Supervisor)__________________________________________
Reviewed By (Cs Operations Personnel) :
_________________________________   ____________________________________
      (printed name)                             (signature)

This permit to be kept at job site. Return job site copy to Safety
Office following job completion.

Copies:   White Original (Safety Office)
          Yellow (Unit Supervisor)
          Hard(Job site)

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