Confined Spaces

A confined space is any space that is large enough for an employee to enter, has a restricted means of entry or exit, and is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.

Examples of confined spaces include tanks, pits, certain tunnels, utility vaults, and boilers. The physical and atmospheric hazards often associated with confined spaces can cause serious injury or death to workers.

A comprehensive confined space entry program is required in order to ensure the safety of employees who must enter and work in confined spaces.

Workplace Survey and Evaluation of Confined Spaces

Departments must conduct a survey of their workplace to determine if any confined spaces exist. As part of the survey, confined spaces must be evaluated to determine if any physical or atmospheric hazards are associated with them. Assistance in confined space identification and evaluation is available through the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS). Spaces may be classified as one of three types:

  1. Non-Permit Spaces: These are confined spaces in which there are no additional hazards present in the space
  2. Alternate Procedure Confined Spaces: These are confined spaces whose only hazards are atmospheric and where the hazard can be abated prior to entry.
  3. Permit-Required Confined Spaces (PRCS): These are spaces where physical or atmospheric hazards are present and cannot be abated prior to entry. Extensive entry procedures are required to enter PRCSs.

NOTE: Because of the dynamic nature of the campus, confined space hazards change frequently. Please contact EHS for assistance in re-evaluating a confined space if necessary.

Written Confined Space Entry Program

Departments whose workers are expected to enter confined spaces must develop a written program that outlines procedures to be used for safe entry. These procedures are usually incorporated into a written entry permit. Assistance in developing a written confined space entry program is available through EHS.

A Confined Space Entry Permit must be completed for all entries into permit-required confined spaces. The permit must be completed at the entry and must be closed out following completion of the entry. Closed permits must be submitted to your departmental confined space representative for annual review.

Advanced Notification

Notification of a Confined Space Entry must be made to Public Safety and the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad (PFARS) at least 24 hours prior to the entry. Entry supervisors should complete the online Confined Space Entry Notification Form as early in the planning process as possible.

Confined Space Equipment

Safe confined space entry requires extensive equipment including equipment for atmospheric testing, ventilation, communication, lighting, and rescue. Workers must also be equipped with personal protective equipment (include link) appropriate for the hazards of the space.

Confined Space Training

Training is required for all those involved with confined space entry. EHS provides confined space entry training.

The type of training varies according to the tasks the workers are expected to perform, but must always cover:

  • How to recognize confined spaces and their hazards
  • The confined space entry written program
  • The written entry permit
  • How to use any equipment necessary for safe entry

Outside Contractors

Departments must inform outside contractors of the potential hazards that may be encountered during their work at the University. This includes giving the contractor access to any information available on the confined spaces involved in their project.

Similarly, the contractor must inform the Department of any changes made to a confined space in the course of their work. Any change, no matter how minor, would require a re-evaluation of the space before entry would again be allowed.

Additional Health & Safety Programs

Besides a confined space entry program, other health and safety programs may apply to work in a confined space. For more information, please see the following information: