Confined Spaces in Construction: Comprehensive Guide


Confined spaces in construction, such as manholes, crawl spaces, and tanks are not made for people to stay in for a long period of time.  Additionally, they are hard to exit if an emergency arises. 


Working in a confined space can be dangerous. Entrants may face hazards such as toxic substances, asphyxiation, explosions, or electrocutions, for example.



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Definition of a Confined Space


The OSHA confined space definition is identified in the most recent standard (29 CFR 1926.203 Subpart AA) and defines a confined space as:

  • A space with limited ability for entry and exit
  • The space is large enough for a person to enter and work in it
  • The space is not made for a person to stay in it for a long period of time


Prevention is key in addressing safety in these spaces. To begin, proper pre-entry planning should be done before workers enter the space to begin their work. Completing a job hazard analysis (JHA) is the first step in identifying hazards. Workers in these spaces could potentially come into contact with hazards such as electrical, airborne contaminants, or physical type hazards



What Are Examples of Confined Spaces in Construction?


Confined spaces include: a variety of pits, vaults, manholes, sewers, water mains, crawl spaces, HVAC ducts, tanks, boilers, bins, incinerators, and storm drains, for example.

Some spaces in construction may not start out as confined spaces but may become one as construction progresses on a project or build. Continual inspections of the work areas are a key to identifying confined spaces.




How Does Confined Space for Construction Differ from General Industry per the OSHA standards? 

  • There are more specific communication requirements at projects when there are several contractors at a worksite. The goal is to keep hazards from entering a confined space by workers that are outside of the space. 


  • A competent person must be on-site to assess and designate confined spaces and permit-required confined spaces.


  • Continuous atmospheric monitoring must take place.


  • Continuous monitoring of engulfment hazards must take place to stay on watch for possible hazards and to inform workers to exit quickly if needed.  


  • It allows suspension of a permit rather than cancellation if entry conditions change from what is listed on the permit. It also allows for unexpected hazards to inform entrants to quickly exit a confined space. 




Difference Between Confined Spaces and Permit-Required Confined Spaces


There are two specific categories: Permit-required and non-permit-required confined spaces.


Non-Permit Confined Space

A Non-Permit Confined Space is a confined space that does not contain or have the potential to contain any hazard capable of causing death or serious physical harm.

Permit-Required Confined Space

A Permit-Required Confined Space is also known as a “permit space.” It’s a type of space that includes one or more of the following:

  • Contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere
  • Contains a material that has the potential for engulfing an entrant
  • Has an internal configuration such that an entrant could be trapped or suffocated by inwardly converging walls or by a floor that slopes downward
  • Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazard




Safe Entry Requirements


The most recent OSHA standard outlines safe entry requirements for all workers. 

Pre-entry planning must take place before any worker enters a confined space.


  •  A competent person must assess the site for any confined spaces or permit-required confined spaces.
  • If a space is a permit-required confined space, the point of entry and exit must be recognized with correct ventilation in place. Any potential hazards must be removed or controlled. 
  • The air inside of the confined space must be tested for oxygen levels, flammable and toxic substances, and stratified atmospheres at different levels.
  • If a permit is required, rescue procedures and crucial equipment must be determined prior to entry. Additionally, any potential hazards must be removed or controlled. 
  • If the air in the confined space is determined to not be safe, ventilating or using proper controls or PPE must be put in place prior to entry


Proper monitoring must continue after these requirements are in place. Attendants must stay on watch. Also, clear communication is critical. 

Check out one of OSHA’s Confined Spaces fact sheets here




Confined Spaces Training


Workers that come into contact with confined spaces in construction are required to be properly trained and certified. Contractors, construction workers, safety managers, foremen, and entry supervisors should all take the proper certifications to protect themselves and their fellow co-workers on every job.

The OSHA Confined Space Training courses from will provide the information you and your workers need when working in confined spaces in construction.

All courses meet the Construction Industry Standard OSHA 29 CFR 1926.1203 requirements.

The different levels of training provided consist of:




Confined Spaces in construction




Confined Spaces in Construction Wrap-Up

Trust us with your Confined Spaces in Construction Training for optimal safety in mind. Our content was written and designed by a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) with over 30 years of real-world experience. Additionally, our developers teach on-site courses as well. Utilizing a hands-on approach, we have provided training for numerous Fortune 500 companies around the country.

Confined Spaces in Construction: Comprehensive Guide

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