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 http://www.osha.gov.

April 24, 1998

Mr. Gregory W. Faeth
P.O. Box 1718
Fairfield, Iowa 52556

Dear Mr. Faeth:

Thank you for your letter of September 15, 1997, in which you asked for an interpretation of the Permit-Required Confined Spaces (PRCS) standard 29 CFR 1910.146, arising from a classroom scenario which occurred during a training session. Please accept our apology for not responding sooner.

Specifically your question is, "Is a freezer (chest type with the lid on top) a permit-required confined space?" You further stated that the freezer in question meets the definition of a confined space (large enough to bodily enter and perform assigned work, would have restricted entry, and is not designed for continuous employee occupancy). The hazard characteristics would be freezing temperatures and suffocation if the lid were shut.

Generally speaking, the chest type freezers (10 to 22 cubic feet) found in the home or in the work place should not be considered as meeting the PRCS standard's definition of a confined space.

The second element of the confined space definition is that it "... has limited or restricted means for entry or exit (for example, tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, hoppers, vaults, and pits are spaces that may have limited means of entry)." From a practical point of view, these freezers are shallow (approximately 29 inches to 30 inches deep without anything inside), and as such, they do not present a restriction to entry or exit.

In evaluating this second element, the following "Rule of Thumb" question can be applied to assist in making a determination. Is an entrant's ability to escape in an emergency hindered? In this case, a person could simply stand up and literally be outside the space.

Your student's other question, "What if the employee fell in by reaching into the lower section of the freezer?," becomes moot from a PRCS perspective because the standard is not applicable.

The answer to this and other questions concerning the Permit-Required Confined Spaces (PRCS) standard can be found in OSHA instruction CPL 2.100 found on the Internet at [http://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/Directive-data].

Relevant letters of interpretation can also be found on the Internet at [http://www.osha.gov]. If you have further questions on this letter, please contact Mr. Don Kallstrom (202) 219-8031 x113.


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