Understanding OSHA’s Confined Space Regulations

by | Mar 13, 2023 | Firm News, Industrial Accident

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations for confined spaces are designed to protect workers from the risks associated with working in areas that are not necessarily designed for people but are large enough for workers to enter and perform jobs. These spaces have limited or restricted means for entry or exit and are not designed for continuous occupancy. Understanding OSHA’s confined space regulations is crucial for ensuring the safety and health of workers who enter these high-risk environments.

What is a Confined Space?

According to OSHA, a confined space has the following characteristics: it is large enough for an employee to enter and perform work, has limited or restricted means of entry or exit, and is not designed for continuous occupancy. Examples include tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, hoppers, vaults, and pits.

Permit-Required Confined Spaces (Permit Spaces)

OSHA’s standard for confined spaces (29 CFR 1910.146) distinguishes between general confined spaces and permit-required confined spaces (permit spaces). Permit spaces have one or more of the following characteristics:

  • Contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere.
  • Contains 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 that slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross-section.
  • Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazard.

Employers are required to evaluate their workplaces to determine if spaces are permit-required confined spaces. If so, they must inform employees by posting danger signs or another equally effective means of informing employees of the existence and location of, and the danger posed by, the permit spaces.

Key Requirements of the Standard

The standard requires employers to develop a written permit space program that is available for employee review. Key elements of a permit space program include:

  • Implementing measures to prevent unauthorized entry.
  • Identifying and evaluating the hazards of permit spaces before employees enter.
  • Providing appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) at no cost to employees.
  • Developing and implementing a system for preparing, issuing, using, and canceling entry permits.
  • Providing training for all employees whose work is regulated by the standard.
  • Establishing procedures for summoning rescue and emergency services, and for preventing unauthorized personnel from attempting a rescue.
  • Providing necessary equipment to entrants, including testing and monitoring equipment, respiratory protection, and communications equipment.

Training and Education

OSHA mandates that employers provide training for all employees who are required to enter permit spaces. This training must ensure that employees understand the hazards they may face, the necessary precautions to take before entering the space, and the use of protective and emergency equipment. Training must be provided before the first assigned entry into a permit space, before there is a change in assigned duties, and whenever there is a change in permit space operations that presents a hazard for which an employee has not been trained.


OSHA’s confined space regulations are a critical component of workplace safety, designed to protect workers from the unique and potentially lethal hazards found in confined spaces. Compliance with these regulations requires a comprehensive approach that includes hazard identification, employee training, the development of a permit space program, and the provision of appropriate safety equipment. By adhering to these standards, employers can significantly reduce the risks associated with confined space work, ensuring the safety and health of their employees.

Those touched by an industrial accident should know their legal rights and remedies, and act quickly to preserve them. Our attorneys have extensive experience in cases involving industrial and plant personal injury and wrongful death, including those caused by equipment malfunctioning.  The firm has experience in courts across the country and the skills needed to represent the families of loved ones who have lost their lives or as a result of an explosion, or been seriously injured.

The experienced attorneys at Spagnoletti Law Firm can help you understand your rights if you or a loved one was a victim of an accident at a plant or refinery.  Please contact us online or call 713-804-9306 or to learn more about your legal rights.