Confined Spaces

OSHA defines a Confined Space as an area that is large enough to enter and work, has limited means for entry and exit and is not designed for continuous occupancy. A Confined Space Entry Permit is required for entry into a confined space that has at least one of the following:

  • Potential for hazardous atmosphere
  • Potential for engulfing an entrant
  • Internal configuration capable of trapping or asphyxiating an entrant
  • Other safety or health hazard

Confined spaces sometimes must be entered for repairs, inspection, and maintenance. If you have to enter permit-required confined spaces on campus, you may encounter extremely hazardous atmospheric conditions and/or access difficulties that can result in injury or death. Examples of locations which fall into this category include: sewers, tanks, boilers, crawl spaces, vaults, storm drains, pipelines, bins, ducts, vessels, acid pits and tubs. Each time you go into a confined space, it must be evaluated by your supervisor before you enter. This is necessary to determine the hazards involved and the appropriate safety measures and controls that must be taken for your safety. Death can result if you enter a confined space without using the necessary safety procedures.


It is you, your supervisor's and the attendant's responsibility to follow the proper procedures to keep you safe when entering a confined space. Supervisors must ensure that these entry procedures are followed and that personnel understand and comply with these safety requirements. Always inform your supervisor of any departure from approved procedures.


OCRS assists supervisors in the identification, evaluation and labeling of all confined spaces in facilities controlled by Vanderbilt University. OCRS, Plant Operations and Facilities Management maintain a list of all known confined spaces. Supervisors must report to OCRS the existence of locations in their work space that may be considered a confined space so that they can be evaluated and posted with a sign, if required.

Some confined spaces, such as sewer and storm drains, do not readily allow for the installation of a sign. Locations such as these areas are to be considered permit required confined spaces, whether labeled as such or not. If you are in doubt as to whether or not a certain area is a confined space, consult with your supervisor and OCRS. Your supervisor is required to train you to recognize areas that may be confined spaces and not enter these areas until a determination is made. Do not rely only on the presence of a warning sign to warn you about confined spaces.

OCRS Services related to Confined Spaces:

  • Supervisor Training
  • Recommendations for undesignated spaces
  • Assistance with signage
  • Determination of confined spaces
    • Permit Required
    • Non-permit Required
  • Provide Assistance to supervisors
  • Provide technical training on confined space equipment including air monitoring instruments.

Online Resources:


If you have questions about Confined Spaces,please contact Mark Bogard (