When is a Backflow Pit a Permit-Required Confined Space?
A confined space is a space that is large enough and arranged so that an employee can physically enter, but has limited or restricted means for entry and exit, and is not designed for continuous occupancy. If a confined space contains serious hazards, then OSHA defines it has a permit-required confined space. Permit-required confined spaces must be identified and accessed with additional caution to protect workers lives.
A permit-required confined space has a configuration, or contents, that may present special dangers not found in normal work areas. These spaces may be poorly ventilated and, as a result, contain insufficient oxygen or hazardous levels of toxic gases. They may also present hazards to workers by not allowing them to keep a safe distance from mechanical and electrical hazards present in the space. Fumes from a flammable liquid that is used in a poorly ventilated area, can reach explosive levels in a permit-required confined space. Such hazards endanger both the workers in the space and any others who become exposed to the hazards when they attempt to rescue injured or trapped workers. Rescue workers have been injured or killed in a confined space because they did not have the proper training or equipment necessary to conduct a rescue safely.
In addition to the two workers (entrant and attendant), who are required for any confined space entry, to enter a permit-required confined space the workers also need additional equipment for safety. This includes any equipment that may be required for a worker rescue in the event a worker is stranded within the confined space. Required equipment includes atmospheric monitors, fall protection and extraction equipment, tripod, harness, and self-contained breathing apparatus.
To determine if your Backflow Pit is a permit-required confined space, you must evaluate the Backflow Pit to determine whether hazards exist or whether the work to be done in the space can create hazards. If the Backflow Pit contains an actual or potential hazard that can cause death, injury or acute illness, incapacitation, entrapment, or otherwise interfere with a worker’s ability to leave the space in an emergency, then it is a permit-required confined space.
Confined space entry and precautions for working in them is overseen by OSHA. OSHA defines a permit-required confined space as a space that has one or more of the following characteristics: contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere; contains 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.
Once you have determined if your Backflow Pit is a permit-required confined space, adequate precautions must be taken to prevent loss of life or injury for the workers who enter the space.
Posted on: June 1, 2017