- Safety and Health Topics
- Confined Spaces
Visit the Confined Spaces - Final Rule Page for information on the final rule.
What are confined spaces?
Many workplaces contain areas that are considered "confined spaces" because while they are not necessarily designed for people, they are large enough for workers to enter and perform certain jobs. A confined space also has limited or restricted means for entry or exit and is not designed for continuous occupancy. Confined spaces include, but are not limited to, tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, hoppers, vaults, pits, manholes, tunnels, equipment housings, ductwork, pipelines, etc.
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 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.
Standards and Enforcement
Confined spaces are addressed in specific OSHA standards for General Industry, Shipyard Employment and Construction.
Hazards and Solutions
Provides references that may aid in recognizing and evaluating hazards and possible solutions related to confined spaces.
Provides construction information related to confined spaces.
Provides links and references to additional resources related to confined spaces.
- Calibrating and Testing Direct-Reading Portable Gas Monitors. OSHA Safety and Health Information Bulletin (SHIB), (September 30, 2013). Provides workers and employers guidance on calibrating and testing direct-reading portable gas monitors (hereafter, "DRPGMs" or "instruments").
- Loss of Start-Up Oxygen in CSE SR-100 Self-Contained Self-Rescuers. OSHA Alert, (April 2012). Alerts employers and workers using the CSE Corporation's SR-100 Self-Contained Self-Rescuer (SCSR) to potential failure problems with these respirators.
- Permit-Required Confined Spaces in General Industry. OSHA QuickCard™. Explains what workers should do before entering a confined space, such as an underground vaults, tanks, storage bins, silos or manholes.
- Shipyard Employment. OSHA eTool. Confined and enclosed space operations have a greater likelihood of causing fatalities, severe injuries, and illnesses than any other type of shipyard work.
- Confined or Enclosed Spaces and Other Dangerous Atmospheres. Helps workers identify and control the hazards that cause the most serious confined space-related injuries.
How do I find out about employer responsibilities and workers' rights?
Workers have a right to a safe workplace. The law requires employers to provide their employees with safe and healthful workplaces. The OSHA law also prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights under the law (including the right to raise a health and safety concern or report an injury). For more information see www.whistleblowers.gov or Workers' rights under the OSH Act.
OSHA can help answer questions or concerns from employers and workers. To reach your regional or area OSHA office, go to the OSHA Offices by State webpage or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742).
Small business employers may contact OSHA's free and confidential On-Site Consultation program to help determine whether there are hazards at their worksites and work with OSHA on correcting any identified hazards. Consultants in this program from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards, provide advice on compliance with OSHA standards, and assist in establishing injury and illness prevention programs. On-Site Consultation services are separate from enforcement activities and do not result in penalties or citations. To contact OSHA's free consultation service, go to OSHA's On-Site Consultation web page or call 1-800-321-OSHA (6742) and press number 4.
Workers may file a complaint to have OSHA inspect their workplace if they believe that their employer is not following OSHA standards or that there are serious hazards. Workers can file a complaint with OSHA by calling 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), online via eComplaint Form, or by printing the complaint form and mailing or faxing it to the local OSHA area office. Complaints that are signed by a worker are more likely to result in an inspection.
If you think your job is unsafe or if you have questions, contact OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742). Your contact will be kept confidential. We can help. For other valuable worker protection information, such as Workers' Rights, Employer Responsibilities, and other services OSHA offers, visit OSHA's Workers' page.