Confined space entry


A confined space is an area with a limited or restricted means for entry or exit, and it is not designed for continuous employee occupancy. Examples of confined spaces include, but are not limited to, underground vaults, tanks, storage bins, manholes, pits, silos, process vessels, and pipelines. This safety program focuses on spaces with immediate health and safety risk, denoting them as "permit-required confined space" (permit space). Permit spaces have one or more of the following characteristics:

  • contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere;  
  • contains a material that has the potential to engulf an entrant;  
  • has walls that converge inward or floors that slope downward and taper into a smaller area which could trap or asphyxiate an entrant; or  
  • contains any other recognized safety or health hazard, such as unguarded machinery, exposed live wires, or heat stress.  

Confined space regulations include provisions for identification of confined and permit required confined spaces, adoption of a written program, implementation of a permit system for entry into the space, designation of personnel roles, training, and other items.

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Areas and personnel affected

Anyone entering a permit required confined space must be trained and follow the requirements of the campus confined space program. The types of employees most likely to be involved in confined space entry activity on your campus include:

  • Personnel involved in facility and building maintenance, including athletic, residence, and student union facilities.
  • Researchers and research staff.
  • Agricultural research/ farm staff.

The following spaces should be evaluated for confined space/ permit required confined space determination and added to the campus confined space program and inventory.


Potential confined spaces
Pits, wells and vaults
  • Elevator pits
  • Electrical vaults
  • Grease pits
  • Livestock/manure pits
  • Manholes
  • Signal pits
  • Steam pits
  • Sump pits
  • Ventilation wells (or vaults)
  • Water meter pits
Tanks or Vessels
  • Acid neutralization tanks
  • Water tanks
  • Swimming pool surge tanks
  • Air tanks
  • Brine tanks
  • Fuel tanks
  • Condensate receiving tanks, etc.
Air handling units and ductwork
  • Hazardous chemical exhaust from a chemistry or biology lab
  • AHU and exhaust ducts from rifle range
Silos and hoppers
  • Agricultural silos and hoppers
  • Heating/steam plants – sifting hoppers

Combustion/heating processes

  • Boilers
  • Incinerators
  • Ovens


  • Swimming pools (empty, for cleaning and maintenance)
  • Cooling towers
Tunnels and crawl spaces
  • Steam tunnels
  • Building crawl spaces
  • Utility chases

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signThe OSHA permit-required confined spaces standard is performance-based; therefore, the campus training program needs to give all employees working in permit-required confined spaces the understanding, knowledge, and skills necessary for the safe performance of their job in that space.

Initial training must be successfully completed prior to any job assignment within a permit-required confined space.

Refresher training must be successfully completed when:

  • New or revised program procedures are implemented.
  • An employee's confined space entry duties change.
  • Changes in an employee’s job present hazards for which he/she has not yet been trained.
  • Deviations from program procedures or inadequacies in the employee's knowledge of the program are identified.

The training is required to establish employee proficiency in the program duties. The campus must certify successful completion of the training. The certification must include the employee's name, the signature or initials of the trainer, and the dates of training. The certification shall be available for inspection by employees and their authorized representatives.

Training program examples

Here are some examples of material to help you create or enhance your campus training material.

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee  

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Reference material, files, and websites

General reference websites:

Confined Space Manure Storage. Ventilation Systems Penn State Extension, Fact Sheet E53, September 2011. 


Material from the higher education sector:

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee — Program information including equipment and space inventory, training, and program Q&A.

California State University, Fresno — Written confined space program

Duke University

Northern Arizona University — Written confined space program

Robert Morris University — Confined space safety entry policy. Contains a good example of a confined space inventory, with photos, specific hazards and required entry equipment.

Tufts University — Confined space program.

University of Maryland — Page with links to their program and permit.

Washington State University

Western Kentucky University — Includes links to permits and confined space inventory

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Related safety program areas

Last updated: May 9, 2013


This publication was prepared for environmental, health and safety staff at University of Wisconsin System campuses, to assist in finding resources and information for regulatory compliance. It is not intended to render legal advice.
(Read full legal disclaimer.)