The confined spaces on some construction sites throughout Illinois require permits for entry to help keep workers safe. Construction workers sometimes must perform tasks in areas big enough to enter and work in, but with limited entry and exit access and that are not made to work within continuously. Sometimes these confined spaces, such as manholes, silos, pits, pipelines, tanks, and underground vaults, contain hazardous conditions that could cause workers to suffer serious injuries or death. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a total of 166 work-related deaths involving confined spaces occurred in 2017 alone.
When Do Confined Spaces Require Permits?
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires permits for entry to confined spaces when hazards exist that could keep workers from exiting the area without help. The types of conditions that may present hazards requiring permits include:
- The space contains a material that could overwhelm a worker
- The space contains a hazardous or potentially hazardous atmosphere
- The space contains downward pitched floors or inward converging floors
- The space contains live wires, unguarded machines, or other such serious physical hazards
Employers on sites with such spaces have a responsibility to inform workers of their existence and the potential hazards, as well as to provide the necessary training and permits to workers who must enter such areas.
Why Do Some Confined Spaces Need Permits?
Requiring a permit for confined spaces that present serious hazards helps ensure workers who enter such areas have the necessary knowledge of the potential risks and how to stay safe. Danger can exist in all confined spaces, but the hazards in those spaces that require permits may necessitate employers and workers on construction sites to take extra precautions. Having awareness of such hazards and how to work around them may help those who work in such confined spaces take the appropriate safety measures to prevent suffering serious injuries or death due to the physical or atmospheric dangers in their work areas.
Who Can Work in Permit-Required Confined Spaces?
Only trained workers are allowed to perform job duties in permit-required confined spaces. To obtain a permit, employees must complete training regarding the types of hazards present, the protective precautions in place, the skills needed to safely perform work tasks in the environment, and the danger of attempting an entry rescue if not authorized to do so.