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.

December 20, 1994

Mr Jim Matthies, Chief
Hazelwood Fire Department
Fire Station #2
6800 Howdershell Road
Hazelwood, MO 63042

Dear Mr. Matthies:

This is in response to your letter of July 27, sent to Mr. James Foster, requesting answers to specific questions concerning the Permit-Required Confined Spaces (PRCS) standard, 29 CFR 1910.146. Your letter was assigned to the Office of General Industry Compliance Assistance for response. Please accept my apology for the delay in this response.

A copy of the Final Rule published in the Federal Register (January 14, 1993) and the corrections notice published on June 29, 1993, are enclosed. You may already have these publications. The actual regulatory text for the PRCS standard starts on page 4549 of the January 14, 1993 Federal Register.

Your seven questions/statements are answered in the order in which they were submitted. In order to be consistent with the terms used in the standard, we have substituted "permit-required confined space or permit space(s) where you have used "confined space(s)."

1. It is the employer's (facility's) responsibility to identify their permit-required confined spaces.

Yes. The General requirements paragraph 1910.146(c)(1) requires that all employers in General Industry evaluate their workplace to determine if any permit-required confined spaces [permit space(s)] exist. In order to make a permit space determination, all spaces fitting the definition of a confined space must be identified. The standard does not require a listing of confined spaces or permit spaces; however, a prudent employer would memorialize both classes of spaces, because the standard's requirement to identify permit spaces is ongoing.

2. Companies may provide inside rescue teams only.

No. The Rescue and emergency services paragraph 1910.146(k) allows an employer two options: (1) to have their own employees enter permit spaces to perform rescue, or (2) to arrange to have persons other than their own employees enter to perform rescue. Both of these options carry requirements for the training and education of employees who will be performing the rescue. These requirements are specified in paragraphs (k)(1) and (k)(2) of the standard.

3. In the context of the "rule" only and legal responsibilities of fire departments not withstanding, a company may ask for the fire department to become the rescue team for their confined space rescues, but the rule does not state a municipal fire department must perform that service.

True. The PRCS standard [1910.146(k)(1)], places the obligation on the "host" employer to make arrangements for someone else (e.g., personal services contractor, fire department) to perform rescue.

4. If a fire department does provide permit space rescue service, all personnel must be cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) certified and trained to advanced first aid level AND must be trained on the procedures for each specific permitted confined space AND must train in similar type spaces annually.

The first part of your statement is partially true. Paragraph [1910.146(k)(2)(iii)] requires that each member of the rescue service (the personnel designated to rescue employees from permit spaces) must be trained in basic (not advanced) first aid and in CPR. The standard requires that only one member of the rescue service present at the rescue scene need to hold a current certification in both basic first aid and CPR. This requirement could also be met by two rescue service members, one holding a current certificate in first aid and the other holding a current certificate in CPR, and both being at the rescue scene.

The second part of your statement is also partially true. Rescue service personnel may not have to be trained on the rescue procedures for each specific space at the host employer's facility. If there are several identically configured spaces, the spaces can be grouped for rescue training purposes. If the spaces have identical inherent hazards (e.g., physical, atmospheric), the training of rescuers on these hazards can also be combined.

The third part of your statement concerning annual training is accurate. It should be noted however, that an actual rescue operation taking place during the year can be applied to this annual requirement, as long as a post-rescue critique is documented, and there is remedial action with regard to problems encountered.

5. The company is responsible for providing the required training.

No. The PRCS standard's requirement for providing training places the obligation on the employer of the employee who will be entering the permit space. With regard to rescue, if the host employer (site employer) chooses to have their own rescue service, then the host employer is required to provide all the training. When the host employer arranges for rescue services by personnel other than his or her employees, then the obligation for providing the rescue-related training is placed on the employer of the arranged-for rescue service.

Since the host employers possess exclusive knowledge and understanding of their permit space(s), such as inherent and unique hazards of the spaces and work practices associated with the permit space, they are obligated under 1910.146(c)(8) to provide this exclusive knowledge to all contractors entering the permit space, including the arranged-for rescue service. Thus the requirement for authorized entrant training for rescue services responders specified in 1910.146(k)(1)(ii) must be provided by the host employer.

The obvious next question would be: What is the minimal "authorized entrant" training needed for rescue service employees? When the training requirements of an entrant are compared to those of a rescuer, other than the attendant employing non-entry retrieval, the noticeable difference is the exclusive information on the hazards of the permit spaces to be entered, which is reflected in paragraph (h)(l), and any equipment in the permit space which could present a hazard or will be used by the rescuers, as referenced by (h)(2).

6. The company is responsible for providing required rescue equipment.

All host employers are required to provide rescue-related equipment with respect to non-entry retrieval systems required by 1910.146 (k)(3). (A minimal retrieval system is a full body harness with a connected retrieval line worn by all authorized entrants and a mechanical device for vertical type permit spaces.) Also required by paragraph (k)(3), is the requirement to have a mechanical device available to retrieve personnel from vertical type permit spaces more than 5 feet deep.

When a host employer elects to have its own employees provide the rescue service, then all equipment associated with rescue and the rescuer's personal protection must also be provided by the host employer. The standard does not require the host employer to provide rescue-related equipment to employees employed by another employer, such as a service contractor, or the fire department.

7. The governmental body of the jurisdiction continues to have the option of what services it provides.

It is presumed by the phrasing of this statement that the "governmental body" referred to is the municipality. The PRCS standard does not address issues of contractual arrangements between two employers. The response to number 3 above may also be applicable.

If you have further questions on this correspondence, please contact Mr. Don Kallstrom in the Office of General Industry Compliance Assistance at 202 219-8031 ext. 109.

In the future, should you require further assistance on this or other OSHA related subjects, OSHA's regional and local area offices, that are closer to you and may be more attuned to local issues, are also available to respond to your needs.

Ms. Janice Barrier
Assistant Regional Administrator for Technical Support
911 Walnut Street, Room 406
Kansas City, MO 64106
816 426-5861

Mr. Denver Holt, Area Director
St. Louis Area Office
911 Washington Avenue, Room 420
St. Louis, MO 63101
814 425-4249


John B. Miles, Jr., Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs