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.

July 17, 2014

Mr. William Verhayden
Precision Industrial Maintenance, Inc.
1710 Erie Boulevard
Schenectady, New York 12308

Dear Mr. Verhayden:

Thank you for your letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for a clarification of OSHA’s Permit-Required Confined Spaces standard, 29 CFR §1910.146 (hereinafter, "the standard"). 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 #1: The definition of an "entry supervisor" at 29 CFR §1910.146(b) states:

"Entry supervisor" means the person (such as the employer, foreman, or crew chief) responsible for determining if acceptable entry conditions are present at a permit space where entry is planned, for authorizing entry and overseeing entry operations, and for terminating entry as required by this section.

NOTE: An entry supervisor also may serve as an attendant or as an authorized entrant, as long as that person is trained and equipped as required by this section for each role he or she fills. Also, the duties of entry supervisor may be passed from one individual to another during the course of an entry operation.

Question #1: Does the special role of an entry supervisor as defined in the standard at §1910.146(b) mean that the entry supervisor and attendant can be the same trained employee with the responsibilities of two roles (attendant and entry supervisor) or does the special note below the definition mean that three authorized and trained employees need to be present during the permit-required confined space (entrant, attendant, and entry supervisor)?

Reply #1: In the preamble to the final rule, OSHA discussed transferring the responsibilities of the entry supervisor from one individual to another:

The Agency anticipates that there will be many entry situations, especially if an employer has only a few employees, where the entry supervisor will serve either as the attendant or as an authorized entrant. The language of the note indicates that this is acceptable as long as the entry supervisor is trained and equipped for each role he or she fills. All pertinent requirements relating to the duties of attendants and authorized entrants would still apply to the entry supervisor who serves as an attendant or an authorized entrant. The Agency notes that the responsibilities of the entry supervisor, as revised, are set out in paragraph (j) of the final rule.

OSHA recognizes that there are circumstances, such as when the entry permit's stated duration exceeds one workshift, under which more than one person may serve as entry supervisor for a particular entry operation. The final rule does not require the employer to repeat the entry authorization process when an entry supervisor is replaced, if there is continuous direct responsibility for the entry, with direct transfer from one entry supervisor to next, and if the successor has the necessary training and performs the required duties.

58 Fed. Reg. 4473 (Jan. 14, 1993)(discussing the definition of “entry supervisor” and its note at §1910.146(b)).

The standard, at 29 CFR §1910.146(i)(10), prohibits the attendant from performing "duties that might interfere with the attendant's primary duty to monitor and protect the authorized entrants." The same individual can serve dual roles as an entry supervisor and attendant as long as the individual’s duties as an entry supervisor do not interfere with his/her primary duty as an attendant.

Question #2: Can the duties of the entry supervisor be passed from one individual to another during permit entry operations?

Reply #2: The reply above explains when the standard allows the duties of the entry supervisor to be passed from one individual to another during the course of an entry operation.

Question #3: Does the standard require three individual employees to participate in permit entry operations into a non-IDLH atmosphere?

Reply #3: Not necessarily. As stated above, for a non-IDLH atmosphere permit-required confined space entry operation, an entry supervisor may have a dual role, either as attendant/supervisor or as entrant/supervisor, provided that the standard's training and equipment requirements have been met. The employer must have a plan in place to summon rescue and emergency services per 29 CFR §1910.146(d)(9). The employer must also select a rescue team or service that has the capability to reach the victim(s) within a time frame that is appropriate for the permit space hazard(s) identified per 29 CFR §1910.146(k)(1)(iii).

The rescue team or service may be onsite or offsite, employed by the employer or another employer, but they must have the capability to reach the victim(s) within the appropriate time frame, and have appropriate training and equipment per 29 CFR §1910.146(k).

If an entry rescue is necessary, the standard allows a third person to relieve the attendant so that the attendant can perform the rescue entry, provided that the employer’s permit entry program allows the attendant to enter for a rescue, and if the attendant has been properly relieved and trained per 29 CFR §1910.146(i)(4) and (k)(1).

Question #4: Can a permit entry be conducted with two employees; one acting as the attendant and entry supervisor, the other acting as the entrant; assuming they are trained and equipped as required by the standard for each role for which they will be responsible?

Reply #4: In the scenario that you describe, a permit entry into a non-IDLH atmosphere can be conducted with one person performing the dual role of the attendant and entry supervisor and the second person as the authorized entrant, as long as the employer has designated a rescue team or rescue service that meets the requirements of the standard at 29 CFR §1910.146(k).

Question #5: Assume that during a non-IDLH atmosphere permit space entry operation, one worker is the entrant and the other is both the attendant and the entry supervisor. Assume that the attendant/entry supervisor is a member of the employer's onsite rescue team, and is trained annually in rescue procedures per 29 CFR §1910.146(k)(2)(iv) and has first aid and CPR training required under 29 CFR §1910.146(k)(2)(iii). Is that enough permit-required confined space training for employees to perform a PRCS entry and still maintain compliance with the entry and rescue procedures set forth in 29 CFR §1910.146?

Note: This scenario requires that the attendant operates a retrieval system that can remove the entrant from the PRCS, without entering the PRCS himself/herself, by using a retrieval system attached to the entrant. It also requires the attendant to be able to notify advance medical support such as local emergency responders prior to commencing retrieval.

Reply #5: Compliance would depend not merely on whether training is appropriate but also on whether the attendant’s assignment to perform a non-entry rescue would interfere with his or her primary duty to monitor and protect the authorized entrants. The attendant has other duties as well, including the ability to summon rescue and other emergency services as soon as the attendant determines that the entrants may need assistance to escape from the permit space hazards.

Scenario/Background #2: The standard at §1910.146(k)(1)(i) states:

Evaluate a prospective rescuer's ability to respond to a rescue summons in a timely manner, considering the hazard(s) identified;

Note to paragraph (k)(l)(i): What will be considered timely will vary according to the specific hazards involved in each entry. For example, §1910.134, Respiratory Protection, requires that employers provide a standby person or persons capable of immediate action to rescue employee(s) wearing respiratory protection while in work areas defined as IDLH atmospheres.

Scenario #2: The permit-required confined space (PRCS) has a potential IDLH atmosphere. The entrant in this permit-required confined space is wearing a pressure demand or other positive pressure self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA), or a pressure demand or other positive pressure supplied-air respirator with auxiliary SCBA. The entrant is attached to a retrieval system (full body harness with their own individual lifeline attached to a tripod and winch) that does not require an entry rescue to retrieve the entrant from the PRCS.

Question #6: How many employees are needed and what are their duties and rescue equipment requirements?

Reply #6: OSHA standard 29 CFR §1910.134(g)(3)(iii) requires at least one employee (or more depending on the circumstances) to be located outside the IDLH atmosphere who are trained and equipped to provide effective emergency rescue. In addition, OSHA standard 29 CFR §1910.134(g)(3)(vi) requires employee(s) located outside the IDLH atmospheres to be equipped with:

1910.134(g)(3)(vi)(A)

Pressure demand or other positive pressure SCBAs, or a pressure demand or other positive pressure supplied-air respirator with auxiliary SCBA; and either

1910.134(g)(3)(vi)(B)

Appropriate retrieval equipment for removing the employee(s) who enter(s) these hazardous atmospheres where retrieval equipment would contribute to the rescue of the employee(s) and would not increase the overall risk resulting from entry; or

1910.134(g)(3)(vi)(C)

Equivalent means for rescue where retrieval equipment is not required under paragraph (g)(3)(vi)(B).

In addition to the entry supervisor and attendant, the employer would need at least one person standing by during the entry who is trained and equipped to provide an effective emergency rescue pursuant to §1910.134(g)(3)(iii).

Question #7: Is an entrant, attendant, entry supervisor, and an outside rescue service required, or can there only be an entrant, attendant, and entry supervisor with either the attendant or the entry supervisor performing the rescue operation? This question assumes that the attendant and entry supervisor are part of the employer’s onsite rescue team and are trained and certified by the employer as required under §1910.146(k)(2)(iii) and (k)(2)(iv).

Reply #7: The duties of an attendant under the permit space standard allow an attendant to enter a permit space only if non-entry rescue is not possible, the attendant has been trained and equipped for rescue operations as required by paragraph (k)(1) and they have been relieved by another attendant as required by (i)(4). Separate rescue and emergency services need to be readily available during any permit-required confined space entry into an IDLH atmosphere. These individuals must be suitably equipped and capable of responding in a timely manner. Under the respirator standard, the outside personnel maintain communication with the entrant and may perform outside rescue, but are required to be trained and suitably equipped to enter the IDLH atmosphere, if needed, to provide emergency rescue.

Scenario/Background #3: The PRCS has the possibility of an IDLH atmosphere. The entrant in the PRCS with a possible IDLH atmosphere is wearing a pressure demand or other positive pressure SCBA, or a pressure demand or positive pressure supplied-air respirator with auxiliary SCBA. Further, the entrant is wearing a full body harness but is not positively hooked to a retrieval system due to entanglement issues. This scenario would require one rescuer to enter the PRCS wearing a pressure demand or other positive pressure SCBA, or a pressure demand or other positive pressure supplied-air respirator with auxiliary SCBA to aid in the rescue of the entrant.

Questions #8 and #9: How many employees are needed and what are their duties and rescue equipment requirements?

Replies #8 and #9: See the answer above. These requirements apply to IDLH atmospheres regardless of whether the rescue is performed as a non-entry rescue or an entry rescue. The non-entry rescue could suddenly turn into an entry rescue due to unforeseen hazards that would not allow a non-entry rescue to be completed.

Question #10: Can the entry supervisor, if properly trained and authorized by the employer, act as the standby onsite rescuer to enter the PRCS in the event of an entry rescue, leaving only the attendant at the PRCS entry point?

Reply #10: Please consider that OSHA has interpreted the standard to require a separate (either in-house or outside) rescue and emergency service when permit space entry operations are performed in an IDLH atmosphere. Even in permit space entry operations involving non-IDLH atmospheres, more than one rescuer may be required in permit space entry operations depending on the hazards present and the number of authorized entrants that may require rescue. The minimum number of people required to perform work that is covered by OSHA standards for permit-required confined space entry, 29 CFR §1910.146, and respiratory protection, §1910.134 will be driven by facts such as the hazards or potential hazards, the number of entrants who may require rescue and the configuration and size of the space.

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 and Agricultural Enforcement at (202) 693-1850.

Sincerely,

Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs