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Health and Safety Guide




    A confined space is any space that is large enough for an employee to enter, that has a restricted means of entry or exit, and that is not designed for continuous employee occupancy. All of these criteria must be met for a space to be classified as confined. Examples of confined spaces include tanks, pits, certain tunnels, utility vaults, and boilers. The physical and atmospheric hazards often associated with confined spaces can cause serious injury or death to workers. The major factors that lead to injuries in confined spaces include failure to recognize and control these hazards, and inadequate or incorrect emergency response.

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Scope and Application

    The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements apply to most activities that require entry into a confined space. Examples of specific activities include, but are not limited to, the following:

    • Maintenance and cleaning of boilers
    • Cutting or welding in confined spaces
    • Telecommunications and electrical utility work performed in manholes and unvented vaults
    • Work in excavations or trenches that could develop hazardous atmospheres
    • Work in sewers, manholes, pits, traps, and the like

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Program Description

    Workplace Survey and Evaluation of Confined Spaces

    Departments must conduct a survey of their workplace to determine if any confined spaces exist. As part of the survey, confined spaces must be evaluated to determine if any physical or atmospheric hazards are associated with them. Assistance in confined space identification and evaluation is available through the Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS).

    NOTE: Because of the dynamic nature of the campus, confined space hazards change frequently. Please contact EHS for assistance in re-evaluating a confined space if necessary.

    Written Confined Space Entry Program

    Departments whose workers are expected to enter confined spaces must develop a written program that outlines procedures to be used for safe entry. These procedures are usually incorporated into a written entry permit and may include provisions from other programs, such as lockout/tagout (see Section B3, Lockout/Tagout), electrical safety-related work practices (see Section B2, Electrical Safety-Related Work Practices), or cutting and welding (see Section B10, Cutting and Welding (Hot Work) Operations). Assistance in developing a written confined space entry program is available through EHS.

    Notification of a Confined Space Entry must be made to Public Safety and the Princeton First Aid and Rescue Squad (PFARS). Entry supervisors should complete the online Confined Space Entry Notification Form at least 24 hours before the entry takes place.

    A Confined Space Entry Permit must be completed for all entries into permit-required confined spaces. The permit must be completed at the entry and must be closed out following completion of the entry. Closed permits must be submitted to your departmental confined space representative for annual review.

    Protective Equipment and Material

    Several types of protective equipment and material are usually necessary for safe entry into confined spaces. These may include equipment for atmospheric testing, ventilation, communication, lighting, and rescue. Personal protective equipment appropriate for the hazards of the space must also be provided to workers (see Section B4, Personal Protective Equipment).


    Training is required for all those involved with confined space entry. This requirement is met through the general training offered by EHS and specific training by the department. The type of training varies according to the tasks the workers are expected to perform, but must always meet certain minimum requirements, such as the recognition of confined spaces and their hazards, the provisions of the written program, the provisions of the written entry permit, and the use of any equipment necessary for safe entry.

    Rescue and Emergency Services

    Rescue from confined spaces must be carefully planned. Those responsible for confined space rescue must receive specialized training and be properly equipped. The Department of Public Safety should be contacted in the event of any emergency involving a confined space entry.


    Departments must inform outside contractors of the potential hazards that may be encountered during their work at the University. This includes giving the contractor access to any information available on the confined spaces involved in their project.

    Similarly, the contractor must inform the Department of any changes made to a confined space in the course of their work. Any change, no matter how minor, would require a re-evaluation of the space before entry would again be allowed.

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Roles and Responsibilities


    • Survey workplace to identify any confined spaces.
    • Evaluate confined spaces found during the workplace survey.
    • Develop a written Confined Space Entry Program.
    • Develop written entry procedures for all confined spaces.
    • Evaluate program and procedures at least annually.
    • Provide necessary protective equipment and materials.
    • Provide specific training for confined space entry.
    • Provide contractors with information on any confined spaces that are involved in a project.


    • Recognize confined spaces in the workplace.
    • Identify workers who may be expected to enter confined spaces.
    • Ensure workers receive general and specific training.
    • Ensure workers follow all appropriate procedures during confined space entries.


    • Provide general training.
    • Assist in identification and evaluation of confined spaces and their hazards.
    • Assist Departments in establishing a written confined space entry program
    • Provide periodic audits of the confined space entry program.

    Department of Public Safety

    • Act as liaison between Emergency Services providers and Princeton University.


    • Attend training.
    • Never enter a confined space unless following proper procedures.
    • Report potentially hazardous conditions to supervisors.

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For More Information

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