OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov.

October 8, 1993

Michael J. Shanshala
Safety Director
United Refining Company
Box 78
Warren, Pennsylvania 16365

Dear Mr. Shanshala:

This is in response to your letter to John Stranahan, Area Director of the Erie Area Office. The letter was forwarded to us for response. In the letter you inquired whether an employee is considered "entrapped", as the word is used in the Permit Required Confined Space (PRCS) standard, if there is not an actual or potential asphyxiation hazard. The basis for the question is the wording in Footnote 7 in the Federal Register (Page 4476) in which the PRCS final rule was published. The Footnote could be read as inferring that "entrapment" occurs only when there is an actual or potential asphyxiation hazard.

OSHA considers "entrapment" to occur in any space that "has an internal configuration such that an entrant could be trapped or asphyxiated by inwardly converging walls or by a floor which slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross section". The key word in the previous sentence is "or". Use of the word "or" makes it clear that the intent of the standard is that "entrapment" can occur with or without an asphyxiation hazard.

Employees "entrapped" in spaces that do not pose an actual or potential asphyxiation hazard are still subject to injury or death. An employee "entrapped" in a permit required confined space could become dehydrated or if they suffered a cut while becoming "entrapped", they could bleed to death.

Standards published as final rules are reviewed much more closely than preambles. Therefore, when there is a conflict between the preamble to a standard and the standard itself the standard normally takes precedence. That is the case in this situation.

If you require any additional information regarding this matter, please contact John McFee of my staff at (215) 596-1201.


Regional Administrator