OSHA Field Safety and Health Management System (SHMS) Manual


  1. Purpose

    The objective of the Permit-Required Confined Space chapter is to protect employees from confined space hazards during the performance of inspection activity.

  2. Scope

    This program applies to all OSHA employees who conduct inspections that include determining an employer’s compliance with confined space standards. OSHA prohibits employees from entering into permit spaces without the written approval of the Area Director/Unit Manager.

    Normally, OSHA employees will not be working in such a position so as to necessitate entering permit-required confined spaces and will only do so rarely. If such entries are not absolutely required or OSHA employees are not absolutely certain regarding the safe entry into the space, then those entries are not to be conducted under any circumstance.

  3. Definitions
    1. Authorized entrant. An OSHA employee who has received written authorization to enter a permit confined space from their responsible OSHA Manager(s).

    2. Attendant. An individual stationed outside one or more permit spaces that monitors the authorized entrants and who performs all attendants' duties as described in 29 CFR 1910.146.

    3. Confined Space. A space that:

      1. Is large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work; and

      2. Has limited or restricted means for entry or exit (e.g. tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, hoppers, vaults, and pits are spaces that may have limited means of entry); and

      3. Is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.

    4. Permit-Required Confined Space (permit space). A confined space that has one or more of the following characteristics:

      1. Contains or has a potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere (as defined in 29 CFR 1910.146(b)); or

      2. Contains a material that has the potential for engulfing an entrant; or

      3. Has an internal configuration such that an entrant could be trapped or asphyxiated by inwardly converging walls or by a floor which slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross-section; or

      4. Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazard.

  4. Responsibilities
    1. Responsible OSHA Manager(s) is responsible for:

      1. Ensuring that employees understand the requirements of OSHA’s Permit-Required Confined Space Entry Program and that they have the knowledge and skills required for the safe entry, if necessary, into permit-required confined spaces.

      2. Complying with all requirements of the OSHA's Permit-required Confined Space Entry Program.

    2. Employees are responsible for complying with all requirements of the OSHA's Permit-required Confined Space Entry Program.

  5. Procedures
    1. OSHA prohibits employees from entering into permit spaces without the written approval of the Area Director/Unit Manager. This includes permit spaces that have been reclassified or are being entered by the employer under alternative procedures as specified in 1910.146(c)(5)(ii) and (c)(7). The final determination of whether a confined space is a permit-required confined space shall be made by the OSHA employee who will be the entrant with the concurrence of their responsible OSHA Manager(s). If entry must take place, the guidelines below shall be employed.

    2. Entry policy for OSHA employees. No entry will be permitted unless all the provisions of the 1910.146 standard have been met. Only OSHA employees who are trained in confined space entry and are medically fit to wear the necessary personal protective equipment may enter permit-required confined spaces.

    3. OSHA employees, in coordination with their responsible OSHA Manager(s), will evaluate the hazards identified by the employer which are present in the permit-required confined space. In addition, the space will be independently evaluated by the employee for any other hazards which may be present.

    4. In addition to personal protective equipment typically issued to OSHA employees, an employee who is conducting inspections involving entry into a permit-required confined space will be provided with and use all personal protective equipment necessary for safe entry. A self-contained escape respirator shall be worn where confined spaces have the potential to develop hazardous atmospheres.

    5. A second trained OSHA employee will act as an attendant when the first employee enters the permit space. Both employees will be cross-trained in each other's duties as an entrant and an attendant. The attendant will not enter the confined space under any circumstance. The attendant will monitor the activities in the confined space and order the entrant to evacuate if there are changes that could present a hazard.

    6. A safe means of rescue will be readily available onsite. The OSHA attendant will not perform rescue. The OSHA attendant will confirm that personnel designated to perform rescue have been trained in accordance with 1910.146(k). If lockout is necessary to control hazards within the confined space, the OSHA entrant will follow OSHA’s lockout/tagout procedures (Chapter 13).

    7. The employee who will enter the confined space may use the permit entry procedures established by the employer only if all of the following conditions are met:

      1. The employer has a permit required confined space entry program that complies with 1910.146.

      2. All hazards and potential hazards have been identified. There are no discrepancies or potential discrepancies between the employer's assessment of the hazards and the assessment conducted by OSHA.

      3. The entrant verifies all entries on the permit and assures that all hazards or potential hazards have been eliminated or controlled.

      4. The entrant will not rely on the employer's atmospheric monitoring results. The entrant will also conduct atmospheric monitoring to confirm the space is safe to enter.

    8. A copy of the entry permit or certification will be faxed to the responsible OSHA Manager(s) for signature. Entry will not begin until a signed copy has been returned to the entrant. The permit must also be signed by the employer’s entry supervisor.

    9. The entry permit will be terminated by the responsible OSHA Manager(s) if entry conditions change or when the entry has been completed. A review of the confined space entry program will be conducted after every confined space entry.

    10. Entry permits and certifications will be considered exposure records and will be maintained in accordance with 1910.1020 by the TL in the local office.

  6. Training
    1. Annual training will be conducted on the requirements of this chapter to assure that all employees are aware of the policy and procedures necessary for confined space entry.

    2. Minimum training for employees who will be entering a permit space and the attendant is:

      1. The Confined Space entry course offered by OSHA's Training Institute or equivalent.

      2. Respiratory Protection course offered by OSHA's Training Institute or equivalent.

      3. Training in the use of any personal protective equipment required for confined space entry.

      4. Introduction to Industrial Hygiene for Safety Personnel course offered by OSHA's Training Institute or equivalent training and/or experience.