- Standard Number:
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.
September 21, 2006
Mr. Fred N. Rubel
Dewling Associates, Inc.
1605 Vauxhall Road
Union, NJ 07083
Dear Mr. Rubel:
Thank you for your March 13 letter to the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Your letter has been referred to OSHA's Directorate of Enforcement Program's Office of General Industry Enforcement for an answer to your questions regarding OSHA's Permit-Required Confined Spaces standard, 29 CFR 1910.146. Your questions have been restated below for clarity.
Question 1: Must specific permit-required confined space entry procedures be developed for each specific permit-required confined space at a facility, including those that have no moving parts or hazardous energy, such as a fuel oil storage tank?
Reply: If employees will enter a permit space, an employer must develop and implement the means, procedures and practices necessary for safe permit space entry operations in accordance with §1910.146(d)(3). Before a specific permit space is entered, the employer must document the completion of the measures required by §1910.146(d)(3) by preparing an entry permit. A specific permit must be completed prior to each entry. However, if there are several similar tanks, with the same conditions and hazards, the same means, procedures and practices could be used for this similar group of tanks.
Question 2: May an employer forgo developing entry procedures for a permit-required confined space, if it forbids employee entry to that space?
Reply: An employer would not be required to develop entry procedures for any particular permit space if the employer decides that its employees will not enter that permit space. However, the employer must still take effective measures, in accordance with §1910.146(c)(3), to prevent its employees from entering such permit spaces. In addition to the other requirements in §1910.146(c)(3), the employer must follow the provisions of §1910.146(c)(8) if another employer (contractor) performs work that involves permit space entry to that space.
Question 3: If an employer forbids employee entry into one of its several permit-required confined spaces, is it sufficient to notify its employees of the identity and location of the entry prohibited space via a safety manual and training, or must the employer still post a danger sign at the entry prohibited permit-required confined space?
Reply: Employers who are providing sufficient training to protect their employees effectively need not post dangers signs at permit-spaces. Regardless of whether signs are used, the standard requires that the employer inform employees exposed to the hazards posed by permit spaces of the existence, location, and danger of those spaces. In enforcing §1910.146(c)(2), OSHA will check to ensure that methods other than warning signs are truly effective in imparting the required information to employees. General training in the permit-required confined space standard, for example, cannot be expected to adequately inform employees of the location of permit spaces in the workplace. The standard places the burdens of identifying the spaces and of controlling the resultant hazards on the employer not on the employees. However, OSHA does not require the posting of any permit space whose only means of access necessitates the use of tools or keys, provided that the employees (if any) who are expected to gain entry into these spaces are trained. Further, paragraph (c)(3) requires employers to take effective measures to prevent their employees from entering permit spaces. It appears in your case that employees will enter some permit spaces but will be prohibited from entering others. Whatever measures you take, employees should be clear on which specific permit spaces they are not allowed to enter.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain the 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. In addition, 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. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of General Industry Enforcement at (202) 693-1850.
Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs