- 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 https://www.osha.gov.
September 8, 2016
The Lovelace Group
5805 State Bridge Road
Duluth, Georgia 30097
Dear Mr. Lovelace:
This is in response to a letter you submitted to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) via email on July 7, 2016, regarding construction work in water storage tanks and OSHA requirements for confined spaces in construction. We thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health, and have provided answers to your questions, below.
Q# 1: If an employer has workers performing construction work inside a water tank that has limited egress and at least one physical hazard, such as trip hazards, poor illumination, slippery floors, inclined surfaces, ladders, suspended scaffolds, and/or atmospheric hazards or potential atmospheric hazards, must that employer establish a permit program and have employees enter the space under a confined space permit, as required by Subpart AA of 29 CFR Part 1926, Confined Spaces in Construction?
Yes, assuming the water tank is large enough for an employee to bodily enter it, is not designed for regular occupancy, and there is some impediment to egress, the water tank meets the definition of a confined space under 29 CFR 1926.1202. Furthermore, permit-required confined spaces include confined spaces that have a physical hazard, atmospheric hazard, potential atmospheric hazard, or any other recognized serious safety or health hazard. To the extent that the physical and atmospheric hazards you describe could prevent a worker from exiting the space under his or her own power (self-rescue), those hazards could trigger "permit required confined spaces" requirements per 29 CFR 1926.1204.
However, if the physical hazards can be eliminated or isolated through engineering controls, and any atmospheric hazards can be controlled through forced-air ventilation and continuous atmospheric monitoring, the space may be entered using the alternate procedures set forth in 29 CFR 1926.1203(e), instead of full permit space entry procedures.
Q# 2: The Confined Spaces in Construction standard specifies three roles for PRCS entry operations: entry supervisor, attendant, and authorized entrant. Does the standard allow the entry supervisor to enter a PRCS as an authorized entrant, or must the entry supervisor remain outside the PRCS during entry operations?
The entry supervisor may enter the space as an authorized entrant and perform tasks as long as the supervisor is also trained and equipped as an entrant, and those tasks do not interfere with his or her duties as entry supervisor. The entry supervisor is not required to remain outside the PRCS during entry operations.
Q# 3: May the attendant also serve as the entry supervisor while other workers perform work inside the space?
Yes. The attendant may also serve as the entry supervisor as long as the attendant is also trained and equipped as an entry supervisor, and the entry supervisor duties do not interfere with the attendant's ability to perform his or her duties as attendant.
Q# 4: Can the requirements for PRCS entry under the confined spaces in construction standard be met if only two employees are participating in entry operations?
Yes. Provided workers are properly trained and equipped to fulfill all of the roles assigned to them, one worker could be an authorized entrant and an entry supervisor and enter the PRCS to perform work while the other worker fulfilled the role of attendant. Alternatively, one worker could enter the PRCS to perform work as an authorized entrant and the other worker could remain outside and fulfill the roles of attendant and entry supervisor. The attendant must always remain outside the PRCS during entry operations, as required by 29 CFR 1926.1209(d). The Note to 29 CFR 1926.1209(d) clarifies that an attendant must remain outside the space during rescue operations until relieved by another attendant:
Once an attendant has been relieved by another attendant, the relieved attendant may enter a permit space to attempt a rescue when the employer's permit space program allows attendant entry for rescue and the attendant has been trained and equipped for rescue operations as required by paragraph §1926.1211(a).
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHA's requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our letters of interpretation do not create new or additional requirements but rather explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. From time to time, letters are affected when the Agency updates a standard, a legal decision impacts a standard, or changes in technology affect the interpretation. To ensure that you are using the correct information and guidance, please consult OSHA's website at http://www.osha.gov. If you have further questions, please feel free to contact the Directorate of Construction at (202) 693-2020.
Dean McKenzie, Director
Directorate of Construction