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.

November 21, 2011

Mr. Jim Kovach
4302 Root Road
North Olmsted, Ohio 44070

Dear Mr. Kovach:

Thank you for your December 8, 2010, letter, to William J. Donovan, Region V, Assistant Regional Administrator for Enforcement Programs, which was forwarded to the Office of General Industry Enforcement for an interpretation of OSHA's Permit-Required Confined Spaces standard, 29 CFR 1910.146. In addition, you emailed a member of my staff additional questions pertaining to OSHA's Permit-Required Confined Spaces standard, which were addressed over the telephone. This constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any question not delineated within your original correspondence.

Your scenario and questions are paraphrased and our responses follow.

Scenario/Background: On December 7, 2010, I attended a meeting of the Technical Advisory Committee for the Ohio Emergency Management Agency. The committee is tasked with developing curriculum for a confined space rescue course that would be approved by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). As a result of having the course approved by DHS, it would allow other organizational search and rescue teams throughout the United States to attend the course under a grant from DHS. During the committee meeting, a question came up concerning the use of retrieval lines for rescuers entering a confined space. I have included three pages from the draft instructor's manual describing a procedure, referred to as a "belay line," that would allow rescuers to enter a confined space to locate and extract an entrant. The "belay line" would allow multiple rescuers with a chest or full-body harness to be on the same retrieval or life line.

Question: Does each rescuer that enters into a permit-required confined space to rescue an entrant have to have their own retrieval line to facilitate non-entry rescue?

Reply: No. The employer who designates rescue and emergency services pursuant to 29 CFR 1910.146(d)(9) shall comply with 29 CFR 1910.146(k)(1)(ii), which states:

Evaluate a prospective rescue service's ability, in terms of proficiency with rescue-related tasks and equipment, to function appropriately while rescuing entrants from the particular permit space or types of permit spaces identified.

In addition, the employer is required to select a rescue service from those evaluated per OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.146(k)(1)(iii)(B) that "is equipped for and proficient in performing the needed rescue services."

Further, please consider OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.146(k)(2)(i), which states:

Provide affected employees with the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to conduct permit space rescues safely and train affected employees so they are proficient in the use of that PPE, at no cost to those employees.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. Please be aware that OSHA's enforcement guidance is subject to periodic review and clarification, amplification, or correction. Such guidance could also be affected by subsequent rulemaking. In the future, should you wish to verify that the guidance provided herein remains current, you may consult OSHA's website at www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of General Industry Enforcement at (202) 693-1850.


Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs