1. Are only those employers engaged in manufacturing operations covered by the PRCS standard?
No. The standard applies to all general industry places of employment. Among them are Agricultural services, Manufacturing, Transportation and Utilities, Wholesale Trade, Food Stores, Hotels and Other Lodging, Health Services, Museums, Botanical Gardens and Zoos but to name a few.
2. What Agricultural Standard Industrial Classification codes (SIC) fall under the scope exemption of the standard?
SIC Codes in Major Groups 01 and 02 which are directly related to crop and livestock production are exempt. All other major groups within agriculture will have to be determined on a case-by-case basis.
3. When is work in the Telecommunication Industry covered by the generic 1910.146 standard?
Telecommunications employers do have obligations under PRCS standard. Like all other General Industry employers, 1910.146(c)(1) requires them to evaluate the workplace to determine if there are any permit spaces. It is expected that these spaces have been known for years and there is most likely a history of any manholes that present hazards not already addressed by 1910.268. Those manholes which are suspected of posing "other" hazards must be evaluated under 1910.146(d)(2). The detailed evaluation does not have to be completed prior to the effective date of the standard, but does have to be completed prior to entry.
Many hazards encountered in telecommunications work in manholes and unvented vaults are addressed by 1910.268(o). The telecommunications standard will continue to be applied to those hazards, and the provisions of 1910.146 would not apply where the provisions of 1910.268(o) already apply. However, the agency can envision manholes and work situations that will be covered by 1910.146. For example, although it is rare, manholes can become overwhelmingly contaminated with toxins or other hazardous chemicals. If the work area cannot be made safe before entry, through compliance with 1910.268(o)(2)(i)(B), any entry would be performed under the provisions of 1910.146.
Confined space hazards in General Industry that are not addressed by an industry-specific standard will be covered by 1910.146.
OSHA also considers entry operations or activities which produce toxins or create other hazards, which are not controlled through compliance with 1910.268(o), to be covered by 1910.146.
4. How will OSHA enforce the PRCS standard in Electrical Power facilities?
Basically the alternate entry procedures of 29 CFR 1910.269 for "enclosed spaces" and "underground installations" apply to "qualified employees" performing maintenance or operations work. 29 CFR 1910.146 will continue to apply in all other PRCS situations.
5. How will OSHA address confined space hazards confronted by shipyard employees?
Confined spaces in shipyard employment are not subject to the 1910.146 standard. The revised 29 CFR 1915 (F.R./ Vol. 59, No. 141 dated July 25, 1994) addresses Confined and Enclosed Spaces and Other Dangerous Atmospheres in Shipyard Employment. However, if there are hazards present that the 1915 standard does not address, 1910.5 provides for the application of the general standard, in this case 1910.146.
6. How will the 1910.146 standard apply to Marine Terminals and Longshoring?
The 1910.146 standard does not apply to Marine Terminals (29 CFR 1917) or to Longshoring (29 CFR 1918).
7. Must an employer covered by an industry-specific standard perform the initial workplace evaluation required by 1910.146(c)(1)?
Yes. Employers with spaces covered by a specific industry standard must still determine if they have spaces which would qualify as a permit space not covered by the industry specific standard. Therefore, all employers must do an initial evaluation under 1910.146(c)(1).
8. A facility, falling within the scope of the General Industry standards, is undertaking physical changes involving work in permit spaces. These changes will also employ construction practices either by in-house or contractual employees. Which standard, 1910.146 or 1926.21(b)(6), will be nforced for the work involved in the permit-required confined spaces?
Generally speaking, refurbishing of existing equipment and space is maintenance; reconfiguration of space or installation of substantially new equipment (as for a process change) is usually construction. Those spaces identified under 1910.146(c)(1) as permit spaces that are undergoing maintenance or modifications, which do not involve construction, would be subject to the General Industry standards.
A confined space created during or as a result of construction activity or entered to perform construction activity would usually fall within the scope of the 29 CFR 1926 standards and the general duty clause until the space is turned over for General Industry operations.
9. Can a utility, other than telecommunication or electrical distribution, apply the 1910.268(o) or the 1910.269 rules for their street manhole entries?
No, the procedures for manhole entry with regard to telecommunication and electrical distribution were developed specifically to address certain anticipated hazards for those industries.
The rulemaking process for the General Industry standard for confined spaces specifically reviewed, addressed, and incorporated into the final rule the hazards of manholes used in conjunction with the distribution of other utility services, and thus 1910.146 is the appropriate standard to be followed.
1. Under what circumstances will stairs or ladders constitute a limited or restricted means of egress under the standard?
Ladders, and temporary, movable, spiral, or articulated stairs will usually be considered a limited or restricted means of egress. Fixed industrial stairs that meet OSHA standards will be considered a limited or restricted means of egress when the conditions or physical characteristics of the space, in light of the hazards present in it, would interfere with the entrant's ability to exit or be rescued in a hazardous situation.
2. Does the fact that a space has a door mean that the space does not have limited or restricted means of entry or exit and, therefore, is not a "confined space"?
A space has limited or restricted means of entry or exit if an entrant's ability to escape in an emergency would be hindered. The dimensions of a door and its location are factors in determining whether an entrant can easily escape; however, the presence of a door does not in and of itself mean that the space is not a confined space. For example, a space such as a bag house or crawl space that has a door leading into it, but also has pipes, conduits, ducts, or equipment or materials that an employee would be required to crawl over or under or squeeze around in order to escape, has limited or restricted means of exit. A piece of equipment with an access door, such as a conveyor feed, a drying oven, or a paint spray enclosure, will also be considered to have restricted means of entry or exit if an employee has to crawl to gain access to his or her intended work location. Similarly, an access door or portal which is too small to allow an employee to walk upright and unimpeded through it will be considered to restrict an employee's ability to escape. OSHA published a technical amendment to the preamble in Federal Register / Vol. 59, No. 213 / Friday, November 4, 1994, page 55208.
3. Can the distance an employee must travel in a space such as a tunnel, to reach a point of safety be a determinant for classifying a space as a confined space?
Yes. The determination would most likely be a function of the time of travel to the point of safety.
4. How will OSHA assess a space which is entirely open on one plane, such as a pit, in determining whether a space has limited or restricted means for entry or exit?
In determining whether a space has limited or restricted means for entry or exit, OSHA will evaluate its overall characteristics to determine if an entrant's ability to escape in an emergency would be hindered. Thus, a pit, shaft or tank that is entirely open on one plane can be considered a confined space if the means for entering the space (stairway, ladderway, etc.) are narrow or twisted, or otherwise configured in such a way as to hinder an entrant's ability to quickly escape (See question No. 1 of this section). Similarly, the pit, shaft, or tank itself may be confining because of the presence of pipes, ducts, baffles, equipment or other factors which would hinder an entrant's ability to escape.
5. How will compliance officers interpret a "condition in which the dust obscures vision" with reference to the definition of a hazardous atmosphere?
The phrase appears in a note and is meant to be an informational aid to employers and employees in approximating the lower flammable limits. It should be noted that combustible dusts have differing lower flammable limits which are dependent on the composition of the dusts, the particle size, distribution and other factors. Since the airborne concentration may vary considerably within the space, and the settled dust may also pose hazards, it is important that the employer recognize the potential hazards when entering confined spaces containing such dust and that the employer take appropriate precautions for protection of entrants.
Regarding flammable dusts in confined space, it will be OSHA policy to sample and to analyze such dusts for combustibility, prior to issuing citations, whenever there is doubt as to the nature and extent of the dust hazard. Note that existing permissible exposure limits for nuisance dusts and other standards continue to apply.
6. How will OSHA address a space that does not satisfy the criteria for a confined space but that potentially contains a hazardous atmosphere?
Employers must comply with the permissible exposure limits and other requirements contained in standards addressing specific toxic substances and air contaminants, to the extent applicable, in all spaces in which employees may be present. In addition, the respiratory protection standard, 29 C.F.R. 1910.134, applies where an employee must enter a space in which a hazardous atmosphere may be present and no other specific standard applies. The respiratory protection standard contains special precautions for working in atmospheres that are oxygen deficient or immediately dangerous to life or health.
7. Are the hazards posed by a confined space to be considered in determining whether a space meets the definition of a confined space?
The determination whether a space has "limited or restricted means for entry or exit" within the meaning of the standard's definition of "confined space" should include consideration of whether, in light of the hazards posed by the particular space at issue, the configuration or other characteristics of the space would interfere with an entrant's ability to escape or be rescued in an emergency situation.
8. Can a space that is initially designed for continuous human occupancy become a "confined space" because of changes in its use?
If the changes alter the character of the space or if new or more serious hazards are introduced, those changes require reevaluation of whether the space is fit for continuous employee occupancy. If the space is not fit for continuous employee occupancy and the other criteria of the confined space definition are met, the space should be reclassified as a confined space.
9. Does the characteristic "contains or has a potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere" in the definition of "permit-required confined space" refer only to those atmospheres which pose an acute hazard?
Where employees are exposed to atmospheric or toxic hazards which do not present an immediate danger of death or disability that would render the employee unable to escape from the confined space e.g., air contaminants such as arsenic or asbestos) OSHA's health standards for those hazards apply rather than 1910.146, and employees must be appropriately protected in accordance with those health standards. The PRCS standard is intended to protect entrants against short-term, acute hazards (not exposures at or below the permissible exposure limits); other standards address a broader range of health and safety concerns.
As noted in the definition of "hazardous atmosphere" relating to atmospheric concentration of any substance for which a dose or permissible exposure limit is published in Subparts "G" and "Z", any substance that is not capable of causing death, incapacitation, impairment of ability to self-rescue, injury, or acute illness due to health effects is not covered by the PRCS standard.
10. The definition of permit-required confined space contains the phrase "any other recognized serious safety and health hazard" as one of its hazard characteristics which would result in a confined space being classified as a permit space. The "Types of Hazards" listing in the Confined Space Hazards section of OSHA's Confined Space Entry Course No. 226 identifies hazards. Does the mere presence of a non-specified hazards such as physical hazards (e.g. grinding, agitators, steam, mulching, falling/tripping, other moving parts); corrosive chemical hazards; biological hazards; and other hazards (i.e. electrical, rodents, snakes, spiders, poor visibility, wind, weather, or insecure footing), which do not pose an immediate danger to life or health or impairment of an employee's ability to escape from the space constitute a hazard which would invoke this characteristic?
When a hazard in a confined space is immediately dangerous to life or health, the "permit space" classification is triggered. The list referenced above is only illustrative of the general range of confined space hazards which could, but not necessarily always, constitute a hazard which would present an immediate danger to life or health, such that "permit space" protection would be required. The determination of whether the resulting exposure to a hazard in a confined space will impair the employee's ability to perform self-rescue is the aspect that must be addressed by the employer.
In order for "serious safety and health hazard" to be recognized as being an impairment to escape, its severity potential for resulting physical harm to an employee must be considered.
11. Does the mere presence of water in a confined space such as a manhole trigger the application of the PRCS standard in order to work in that space?
12. If the presence of water alone is not considered a hazard characteristic which would trigger the classification of a PRCS, what would?
As previously stated, the mere presence of water alone would not be a basis for applying the PRCS standard; there must be a quantity sufficient either to endanger the life of the entrant or to interfere with escape from the space. Water in combination with other hazards conditions could trigger the application of the permit space provisions of the PRCS standard. For example, a small quantity of water (perhaps as much as 2 to 3 inches deep) in the confined space may not trigger the PRCS classification; however, if the water conceals trip and fall hazards such as abandoned machine pads or floor holes and openings, the combination of these conditions may very well cause the confined space to be classified as a permit space.
1. Are employers covered by the PRCS standard in violation of paragraph (c)(1) of the standard if they have not evaluated their workplace to determine if any permit-required confined spaces?
Yes. As of the effective date of the standard (April 15, 1993), employers were required to evaluate their workplace to determine if any spaces were permit-required confined spaces. Employers who have not performed the evaluation would be in violation of paragraph (c)(1) unless the workplace does not and could not contain any confined spaces.
2. Can OSHA cite an employer for not documenting the initial evaluation of the workplace required by paragraph 1910.146(c)(1)?
The evaluation need not be documented. The employer, however, must be able to explain how the evaluation was conducted and describe the results. Thus, OSHA's citation will be for failure to evaluate as required by the standard, rather than for failure to create a record of the evaluation.
3. Does the initial survey for determining if a confined space is a permit space, required by paragraph (c)(1), mandate a specific physical survey of each space?
Not necessarily; the survey requirement may be met through existing records and knowledge of the space, provided this information is adequate to make the determination required by the standard. For example, a telecommunications company may have records which show that the hazards of all manholes in one section of the region can be addressed by the 1910.268(o) procedures and that the manholes in another section of the region may contain toxins due to ground water contamination. Only manholes in the latter section would need to be surveyed. This same approach can be used for any industry which has a number of identical spaces and records to support its determination(s).
4. How will OSHA interpret the language in paragraph 1910.146(c)(2) requiring employers to inform employees of permit spaces by posting signs or "by any other equally effective means?"
Ordinarily, information about permit spaces is most effectively and economically communicated through the use of signs. Consequently, signs would be the principal method of warning under the standard. Alternative methods, such as additional training, may be used where they are truly effective in warning all employees who could reasonably be expected to enter the space. It is the employer's obligation to assure that an alternative method is at least as effective as a sign. In some cases, employers may have to provide training in addition to signs, to protect employees who do not speak English or who would have difficulty understanding or interpreting signs. (One method by which OSHA can gauge an employer's effectiveness is through random interviews of affected employees.)
If a space has locked entry cover or panel, or an access door that can only be opened with special tools, the use of signs may be unnecessary if the employer ensures that all affected employees are informed about such spaces and know that they are not to be opened without taking proper precautions, including temporary signs, to restrict unexpected or unknowing entry.
5. Upon deciding that no employee will enter a permit space, 1910.146(c)(3) requires that ".... the employer shall take effective measures to prevent its employees from entering the permit spaces ..." What does OSHA consider "effective measures"?
These measures could include permanently closing the space and physical barriers, as well as bolting and locking the space, supplemented by training employees and posting danger signs. The steps taken by the employer must be capable of preventing employees from entering permit spaces.
6. How will an employer determine a "safe for entry" level for contaminants under the provisions of paragraph (c)(5)?
OSHA is willing to accept as the minimal "safe for entry" level, that which is 50% of the flammable or toxic substance that would constitute a hazardous atmosphere. The two examples footnoted on page 4488 of the preamble to the final rule are:
(1) The LFL for methane is a concentration of 5 percent by volume. Ten percent of this value is 0.5 percent, a concentration which would be considered hazardous by definition. Under the guideline the measured concentration of methane cannot exceed 0.25 percent after ventilation in order for the procedures specified in paragraph (c)(5)(ii) of the final rule to be acceptable.
(2) The 8-hour time weighted average PEL for chlorine, under Table Z-1, is 1.0 parts per million. This concentration of chlorine would be considered hazardous by the definition of "hazardous atmosphere". Under the guideline, the measured concentration of chlorine cannot exceed 0.5 parts per million after ventilation in order for the procedures specified in paragraph (c)(5)(ii) of the final rule to be acceptable.
Entry under (c)(5) would not be acceptable if hazards in the space quickly increased if the ventilation were to stop. Sufficient time must be available for an entrant to safely exit the space if the ventilation stops.
7. What type of documentation will OSHA look for if an employer uses the alternate procedure of paragraph (c)(5)?
The data must demonstrate that there are no non-atmospheric hazards and that the ventilation will keep the air inside the permit space safe for entry. This should include initial data in the form of:
8. What is meant by the phrase "immediate area where an employee is or will be present within the space" as used in paragraph (c)(5)(ii)(E)(2)?
The forced clean air ventilation must be directed to where the employee is working or will be working. If the space is so configured or so large that directed air cannot be delivered by local ventilation (such as fans and blowers), ducting the "clean" air is required.
NOTE: The exhaust discharge of contaminants from the permit space to areas adjacent to the permit space must not endanger the employees of the other work areas. Also, the supplied air ventilation for the permit space must not cause ventilation imbalances which would create hazards in the work area from which it is taken.
9. How much periodic testing is required?
The frequency of testing depends on the nature of the permit space and the results of the initial testing performed under paragraph (c)(5)(ii)(c).
The requirement in paragraph (c)(5)(ii)(F) for periodic testing as necessary to ensure the space is maintained within the limits of the acceptable entry conditions is critical. OSHA believes that all permit space atmospheres are dynamic due to variables such as temperature, pressure, physical characteristics of the material posing the atmospheric hazard, variable efficiency of ventilation equipment and air delivery system, etc.
The employer will have to determine and document on an individual permit space basis what the frequency of testing will be and under what conditions the verification testing will be done.
10. What are the minimal credentials for the person authorized to certify the space safe for entry referred to in paragraph (c)(5)(ii)(H).
OSHA would consider as acceptable any employer representative who possesses a level of knowledge, training, and understanding of the specific permit space equal to that of an Entry Supervisor.
11. What does OSHA consider to be examples of changes in "use and configuration" which might increase the hazard to entrants and require reevaluation and reclassifying non-permit confined spaces under paragraph 1910.146(c)(6)?
Changes in "configuration" address physical changes in the space such as shape (adding or removal of inwardly converging floor), volume, equipment or components (addition or removal of a blender), means of access or egress.
Changes in "use" include changes in the function of the space, the contents or atmosphere created within it, the temperature and humidity, and the work practices being performed or anticipated in the space.
12. What does the phrase "made available" mean in paragraphs (c)(5)(ii)(H) and (c)(7)(iii)?
The certificate must be made available to employees entering the space [or to those employees' authorized representative(s)] so they can have the means to evaluate the measures taken for their protection. This requirement can be satisfied either by providing each affected employee with a copy of the certificate or by posting the certificate so that each affected employee is able to inspect it. In addition, the individual who prepared the certificate must be available to explain the measures taken to eliminate the hazards if any of the affected employees are reading-impaired or cannot understand the language in which the permit is written.
13. What are the employer's responsibilities in multi-employer permit space entries?
Coordination between employers who have employees entering a particular permit space is required by 1910.146(c)(8)(iv), (c)(9)(ii) and (d)(11). The host employer who arranges for a permit space entry by contractor employees has a duty to instruct the contractor on the hazards or potential hazards and other factors that make the space a permit space. The contractor who will have employees enter the permit space is responsible for obtaining that information prior to entry. All employers who will have employees in the permit space are responsible for developing and implementing procedures to coordinate entry operations (for example, determining operational control over the space, affected employee training, rescue, emergency services, and all other aspects of the standard requiring coordination). Any one of the employers having employees enter the permit space could have operational control over the permit space during dual entry. All parties (host employer and contractors) retain responsibility for the protection of their own employees even though all the employers have agreed to a specific permit space controlling employer. There should be absolutely no doubt, by any permit space entrant, attendant, and entry supervisor regarding who the controlling employer is and whose policy and permit space practices are to be followed.
14. Does an employer who has permit spaces at his work site and had initially met its obligation under paragraph (c)(3), have to take additional measures when a contractor begins to alter a permit space?
Yes, the host employer has a continuing obligation under the standard to prevent affected employees from entering permit spaces. Paragraphs (c)(8) and (c)(9) require coordination when both the host and contractor employees are in or near a permit space during entry operations. Only affected employees (those working in or who routinely pass through the work area) are required to be informed.
15. What information about the present or previous contents of the permit space must be provided to the contractor before its employees enter?
At a minimum, the applicable Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) or hazard information on the contents, coatings or liners, potential hazardous atmospheres, sampling data base, and residue(s) found or anticipated in the permit space. All information generated in the original evaluation of the permit space must also be provided.
16. Are simple alarm devices considered to be the "direct reading instruments" referenced in paragraph (c)(5)?
No, simple "alarm only" devices which do not provide readings, are not considered acceptable direct reading instruments, for either initial (pre-entry) or periodic (assurance) testing of a "(c)(5)" space since they do not provide enough information relative to the established acceptable entry conditions which is essential to the entrants knowledge. Combination units which have a meter or display which reflect the actual concentrations and a preset alarm feature would be acceptable and possibly desirable because they provide "real time" information on actual concentrations as well as the benefit of automatic (unattended) alarming at a predetermined value.
17. What does OSHA accept as a "calibrated" direct reading instrument required by paragraph (c)(5)(ii)(C) for entrants to test the atmosphere for permit space entry?
A testing instrument calibrated in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations meets this requirement. The best way for an employer to verify calibration is through documentation.
18. Are the examples explaining physical hazards and their relationship to paragraph (c)(7) in the preamble at 58 Fed. Reg. 4490-4491 and note 15 of instances in which hazards will be deemed eliminated from permit-required confined spaces by compliance with 29 CFR 1910.147 and 1910.303 exclusive?
No. The principle embodied in the preamble that hazards will be deemed removed from permit-required confined spaces by compliance with existing standards, applies to any standard that eliminates the hazard.
19. How long can a space reclassified using the procedures of paragraph (c)(7) remain a non-permit confined space?
Once a space has been reclassified as a non-PRCS, it remains reclassified as long as all hazards remain eliminated. The basis for determining that all the hazards have been eliminated and thus can be reclassified must be documented. The documentation required must be kept until entry operations have been completed.
1. Continuous monitoring is required by 1910.146(d)(5)(i) in the areas where the authorized entrants will be working when the employer allows entry without pre-entry determination of acceptable entry conditions for spaces and where isolation is infeasible because the space is large or part of a continuous system such as a sewer system. Does each entrant have to be monitored individually or can an area monitor be used?
An area monitor could be used where small groups (two or three employees) work together in close proximity as long as the monitor can measure hazards encountered by the employees. However, all the entrants must remain together as a group for the entire entry procedure.
2. What does testing or monitoring "as necessary" mean as required by 1910.146(d)(5)(ii) to decide if the acceptable entry conditions are being maintained?
The standard does not have specific frequency rates because of the performance oriented nature of the standard and the unique hazards of each permit space. However, there will always be, to some degree, testing or monitoring during entry operations which is reflective of the atmospheric hazard. The employer must determine the degree and the frequency of testing or monitoring. Some of the factors that affect frequency are:
Knowledge and recorded data gained from successive entries (such as ventilation required to maintain acceptable entry conditions) may be used to document changes in the frequency of monitoring.
3. Are the results of the air sampling and exposure monitoring required by this standard considered exposure records for purposed of 29 C.F.R. 1910.1020 (c)(5) OSHA's Record Access rule?
Those results which show the composition of an atmosphere to which an employee is actually exposed (even if the employee is using a respirator) are exposure records under 29 C.F.R. 1910.1020(c)(5). Conversely, if the employer determines as the result of initial air sampling not to allow entry into a confined space until additional ventilation and purging of the atmosphere has occurred, the sample would not be considered as exposure record because no employee would ever have been exposed to the atmosphere sampled. Once the employer takes corrective action so that an employee can enter, however, the results of subsequent air sampling that show the atmosphere the employee actually entered would be considered exposure records.
1. Can an employee be both an Entry Supervisor and Authorized Entrant for an entry?
The standard allows an employee to be both an entry supervisor and entrant as long as the employee has had the appropriate training and the duties of one activity do not conflict with the duties of the other.
1. When a single attendant is monitoring more than one permit space, is there a limit on how far the attendant can be from any of the spaces monitored?
The bench mark for monitoring multiple permit spaces by a single attendant is his/her ability to perform all their (attendant) duties without compromising the safety of any entrants in all the permit spaces being monitored by the attendant. There is no minimum proximity requirement.
1. Does an employer have to verify the availability of the off-site rescue service each time a permit space entry is scheduled or attempted?
Yes, the employer has overall responsibility for employee safety. If the off-site rescue service indicates, for any reason, that it would be unable to respond to a rescue summons, entry shall not be authorized unless an adequate alternative rescue service is arranged.
1. Does an off-site rescue service have to have a permit space program?
No, a complete program is not necessary; however, rescue plans and procedures are necessary. Rescue services (on-site and off-site) are required by paragraph (k) to have members who are trained, equipped, and practiced for safe entry into the particular permit spaces from which they will be expected to rescue entrants.
2. What is OSHA policy on "horizontal" non-entry rescue?
When practical, non-entry rescue is required by paragraph (k)(3) of the standard and is the preferred method of rescue, even for horizontal entries. OSHA recognizes that the danger of entanglement due to lifelines or lanyards snagging or obstructions within a permit space may be greater for horizontal permit spaces than for vertical spaces.
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