5.3 Entering a Confined Space

Safety, Health, and Environmental Manual

These guidelines establish the requirements and the process for entering a confined space, including preparing the space before entering, safety requirements for entering, and emergency rescue procedures.

5.3.1 Introduction

Confined space means a space that (1) is large enough for entering and working, (2) has limited or restricted means for entry or exit, and (3) is not designed to be occupied continuously by workers. Confined spaces may include tanks, vessels, silos, storage bins, manholes, hoppers, vaults, pits, and pipelines.

Permit-required confined spaces (also referred to as a permit space) are confined spaces that (1) may contain a hazardous or potentially hazardous atmosphere, (2) may contain a material that can engulf an entrant, (3) may contain walls that converge inward or floors that slope downward and taper into a smaller area which could trap or asphyxiate an entrant, or (4) may contain other serious physical hazards, such as unguarded machines or exposed live wires.

The following guidelines satisfy best practices for a written program.

5.3.2 General Requirements

The following are the general requirements for evaluating work areas, issuing entry permits, providing signage, training employees, and keeping records for work in confined spaces.

Workplace Evaluation

Managers and supervisors should evaluate the workplace to identify and make a list of confined spaces and permit-required confined spaces. When the use or configuration of a nonpermit confined space changes and those changes might increase the hazards to those entering the space, reevaluate the space and, if necessary, reclassify it as a permit-required confined space.

Entry Permit

Entry supervisors are responsible to determine if acceptable entry conditions exist, to authorize entry into the confined space, and to oversee entry. They issue a Confined Space Entry Permit (see chapter 7) before an employee is allowed to enter a permit-required confined space. The following requirements apply:

  • All work in a permit-required confined space should be delayed until a proper entry permit is issued and all conditions stated in the permit have been met. Conditions should be determined by the entry supervisor and may include using specific kinds of clothing and safety equipment as well as other protective measures.

  • The entry permit should be valid for only one shift or for a maximum of eight hours. When work in the confined space is extended beyond one shift or is continuous, the entry supervisor should issue a new permit. In this case, steps taken earlier to condition the space need not be repeated, but tests may be performed to reconfirm that the space’s atmosphere is safe.

  • If work in the confined space is interrupted for any length of time during a given shift (such as for lunch break), perform appropriate tests before reentering the space.


Post danger signs at entrances to any permit-required confined space. A sign reading “Danger—Permit Required. Confined Space. Do Not Enter” satisfies the requirement for a sign. During the work, when there is more than one entrance to the permit-required confined space, post signs at each entrance indicating that workers are inside.

danger sign


Train employees who are working in a permit-required confined space or serving as attendants in safe-entry procedures and rescue procedures. Employees should have a thorough knowledge and understanding of their equipment and the potential hazards. Provide employees training in the following circumstances:

  • Before the employee is assigned duties as an entrant (an employee authorized to enter permit space), attendant (an employee stationed outside the permit space who monitors entrants and performs all other assigned duties), or entry supervisor

  • Before there is a change in assigned duties

  • When there is a change in permit-space operations that presents a hazard an employee has not previously been trained for

(Note: Keep employee training records. The records should contain each employee’s name, the signature of the trainers, and the dates of training. See Safety Training Meeting Record [chapter 7].)

Record Keeping

Keep each used permit on file for one year after the current year ends. Review the permits within one year after each entry, and revise permit-issuing practices as necessary to protect employees entering permit-required confined spaces.

5.3.3 Changing a Permit Space to a Nonpermit Space

Follow these guidelines when reclassifying a permit-required confined space as a nonpermit confined space:

  • If the permit space poses no actual or potential atmospheric hazards and if all hazards within the space are eliminated without entering the space, it may be reclassified as a nonpermit confined space.

  • If it is necessary to enter the permit space to eliminate hazards, the entry should be performed following the permit-required confined space requirements.

  • If tests and inspections during that entry show the hazards within the permit space have been eliminated, the permit space may be reclassified as a nonpermit space for as long as the hazards remain eliminated. (Note: control of atmospheric hazards through forced-air ventilation does not constitute elimination of the hazards.)

  • Certify that all hazards in a permit space have been eliminated. They should do so by recording the decision on a document that includes the date, the location of the space, and the signature of the entry supervisor making the determination. The Confined Space Entry Permit (see chapter 7) may be used for making this certification.

  • The certification should be made available to each employee entering the space.

  • If hazards arise within a permit space that has been downgraded to a nonpermit space, each employee must leave the space.

  • If hazards arise within a permit space that has been downgraded to a nonpermit space, reevaluate the space and determine if it must be reclassified as a permit space.

5.3.4 Requirements for Contractors

When the Church hires an outside contractor for work that involves entering a permit-required confined space, both the Church and the contractor have responsibilities for the safety of the people working in the area.

Church Responsibilities

It is the Church’s responsibility to:

  • Inform the contractor that the workplace contains a permit-required confined space and that entry is only allowed through compliance with the permit-required confined space requirements.

  • Inform the contractor about the elements that make the space a permit-required confined space, including the hazards and the Church’s experience with the space.

  • Inform the contractor of any precautions or procedures the Church has implemented for protecting employees in or near the permit spaces where contractor employees will be working.

  • Coordinate entry operations with the contractor when both Church and contractor employees will be working in or near permit spaces.

  • Debrief the contractor at the conclusion of the entry operations regarding the permit-space program followed and any hazards confronted or created in permit spaces during entry operations.

Contractor Responsibilities

Each contractor who performs permit-required confined space entry should:

  • Obtain from the Church any available information regarding hazards and entry requirements for permit-required confined spaces.

  • Coordinate entry operations with the Church supervisor when both Church and contractor employees will be working in or near permit spaces.

  • Inform the Church supervisor of the permit-space program the contractor will follow and of any hazards confronted or created in permit spaces.

5.3.5 Preparing the Permit-Required Confined Space

The entry supervisor should make reasonable efforts to complete the following five steps before entering any permit-required confined space.

1. Condition the Space

Before opening the permit space, pump out or drain all residual material as completely as possible. Then flush the space with water or an appropriate cleaning solution followed by a final water flush.

If flammable or toxic gases are present, purge the space after flushing with water. Steam, air, or inert gas can be used. After the space has been purged, any entrances can be opened.

2. Ventilate the Space

If required by the Confined Space Entry Permit, start mechanical ventilation of the space. Ventilation should eliminate all pockets of dead air that contain toxic, flammable, or inert gas. Do this by introducing fresh air into the space or exhausting air from the space.

When there is only one opening into the space, suspend a large flex hose into the space, with the end of the hose reaching to one or two feet (0.3 or 0.6 m) from the bottom of the space. Attach the other end of the hose to a high-speed blower. This provides the necessary air changes to compensate for any oxygen depletion.

3. Isolate the Space

Begin isolating the permit space while it’s being ventilated. Do this by blocking all pipes necessary to keep toxic or harmful materials from flowing into the space. Do one of the following:

  • Blank off entering lines by using in-line or individual blanks.

  • Disconnect pipes, and seal open ends with pipe caps or plugs.

  • Remove a section of the pipes.

4. Immobilize Powered Equipment

Immobilize any powered equipment by mechanical, hydraulic, or electrical means (see section 4.15, “Hazardous Energy Control (Lockout/Tagout) Program”).

5. Test the Atmosphere

After all other procedures have been completed, a qualified person should test the atmosphere of the permit-required confined space. All test procedures should comply with current testing practices. Before an employee enters, test the space for the following:

  • Oxygen content. Conduct a test for oxygen content in all cases, regardless of previous contents or prior preparation of the space. The oxygen content should be between 19.5 percent and 22 percent in all levels of the space. Continue ventilation if the oxygen content is below these concentrations.

  • Flammability. The atmosphere should be nonexplosive (less than 10 percent of the lower flammable limit).

  • Toxicity. Test the atmosphere in the space to make sure there are no toxic concentrations of vapors. If test levels exceed the established limits for occupational exposure, continue the ventilation procedure. An employee should not enter the space before the level of contaminants is substantially below the established occupational exposure limit.

These conditions should be maintained while an employee is in the permit space. Tests should be conducted during work in the space to determine if the space remains safe. If conditions are found unsafe, the employee should leave the space until a safe atmosphere is established.

5.3.6 Safely Entering the Permit-Required Confined Space

Only one employee at a time should be inside the permit-required confined space unless the entry supervisor has given prior approval. Employees involved in the project should comply with the following safety requirements.

Personal Protective Equipment

Employees entering a permit-required confined space should wear personal protective equipment appropriate for the condition of the space and the work to be done. Personal protective equipment may include the following:

  • Rubber suits (or similar clothing), boots, gloves, face shield, and other items as indicated

  • Respiratory equipment, including a self-contained breathing apparatus or air­line respirator and a source of compressed breathing air

Safety Equipment

The following safety equipment should be assembled before entering a permit-required confined space. It should then be used as appropriate while an employee is working in the space:

  • A retrieval system including a lifeline, body harness, and lifting device or anchor

  • Ventilating equipment needed to obtain acceptable entry conditions

  • A portable air horn to summon help in an emergency

    (Note: if necessary, provide communications equipment for the entrant and the attendant to communicate, such as when the attendant needs to alert the entrant to evacuate the space.)

  • Ladders at all entrances and exits where the drop or climb is more than three feet (1 m)

  • Lighting equipment to see well enough to work safely and to exit the space quickly in an emergency

  • Barriers and shields to protect entrants from external hazards such as pedestrians and vehicles, if necessary

Duties of Authorized Entrants

The duties of authorized entrants are:

  • Know the hazards that they may face during entry, including information on the mode, signs or symptoms, and consequences of exposure to a particular hazard.

  • Use proper equipment for entry.

  • Alert the attendant when the entrants recognize any warning sign or symptom of a dangerous situation.

  • Exit from the space as quickly as possible whenever they recognize any warning sign or symptom of a dangerous situation or the attendant gives an order to evacuate.

Duties of Attendant

An attendant should be present when an entrant enters a permit-required confined space. The attendant should be qualified to administer artificial respiration and first aid. In addition, the attendant should wear appropriate personal protective clothing and keep necessary safety equipment readily available. The duties of the attendant are:

  • Know the hazards that entrants may face during entry, including information on the mode, signs or symptoms, and consequences of exposure to a particular hazard. The also should be aware of possible behavioral effects of hazard exposure.

  • Keep continuous visual and voice contact with entrants inside the space.

    (Note: if the attendant needs to leave his or her post, entrants must come out.)

  • Help with necessary equipment changes.

  • Monitor activities inside and outside the space to determine if it is safe to remain in the space, and order entrants to evacuate the space immediately if (1) behavioral effects are detected in the entrant, (2) a dangerous situation is detected outside the space, or (3) the attendant cannot effectively perform the required duties.

  • Summon rescue and emergency services as soon as the attendant determines that the entrant needs help.

  • Perform no other duties that might interfere with the duty to monitor and protect the entrant.

Duties of Entry Supervisor

The duties of the entry supervisor are:

  • Know the hazards that entrants may face during entry, including information on the mode, signs or symptoms, and consequences of exposure to a particular hazard.

  • Issue the Confined Space Entry Permit and verify that (1) appropriate entries have been made on the permit, (2) all tests specified by the permit have been conducted, and (3) all necessary procedures and equipment are in place before endorsing the permit and allowing entry to begin.

  • Verify that rescue services are available and that the means for summoning them are operable.

  • Prevent unauthorized persons from entering or attempting to enter the space during entry operations.

  • Review entry operations when there is reason to believe that employees entering permit spaces are not protected. Correct deficiencies before other entries are authorized.

  • Terminate the entry and cancel the permit when the entry operations covered by the permit have been completed. The entry supervisor should note any problems encountered during the entry operations and file the permit.

Emergency Rescue Procedures

When an emergency exists, the attendant should attempt rescue without entering the space if possible. Only when it is infeasible to attempt rescue without entering the space should the attendant enter the permit-required confined space to perform rescue services.

(Note: Employees entering a permit-required confined space to perform rescue services should be properly trained. Training should include simulated practice rescues at least once every 12 months.)

The attendant should initiate the following procedures before entering the permit-required confined space:

  1. If applicable, use a portable air horn to summon help.

  2. Call the local emergency number to alert emergency personnel that emergency medical help is needed.

  3. Help the authorized entrant to exit the permit-required confined space by using a retrieval system including a lifeline, body harness, and lifting device or anchor.

  4. Put on and properly adjust the body harness attached to a lifeline and a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA). Additional emergency equipment should be made ready depending on the circumstances.

    (Note: a SCBA is required for emergency rescue unless the authorized entrant has sustained a physical injury and atmospheric testing has determined that the atmosphere remains safe.)

  5. Begin a rescue only if a second attendant has arrived and is wearing the proper safety equipment. Under no circumstances should an attendant enter the permit-required confined space unless another employee is standing by.

  6. Upon reaching the injured employee, quickly assess the cause of the accident. Three situations require special handling:

    1. If the employee is not breathing or if the atmosphere will not sustain life, supply fresh air and begin artificial respiration immediately.

    2. If the injured employee is severely bleeding, start first-aid procedures immediately to stop the bleeding.

    3. If the injured employee has fallen, immobilize the employee in the position found.

      (Note: each of these situations requires knowing first-aid procedures. Although rescue may be initiated by a knowledgeable employee, an employee in these situations should turn over the rescue as quickly as possible to professional emergency personnel for treatment.)

Additional Safety Precaution

All authorized entrants and attendants should have passed a medical evaluation for respirator use and should have attended a training course.