Ensure you know of the hazards with entering a confined space.
“confined space” means a fully or partially enclosed space,
- (a) that is not both designed and constructed for continuous human occupancy, and
- (b) in which atmospheric hazards may occur because of its construction, location or contents or because of work that is done in it.
If you have a space that is fully or partially enclosed, the two conditions – (a) and (b) above – must both apply before the space can be considered a “confined space”.
Do I have a confined space in my workplace?
To determine whether a “space” meets the definition of a confined space consider the following 3 questions:
- Is the space fully or partially enclosed?
- Is the space not both designed and constructed for continuous human occupancy?
- Might an atmospheric hazard occur?
The only way to determine if a “space” meets the definition for a “confined space” is to evaluate it. How the evaluation is done is up to the employer.
If you have a fully or partially enclosed space:
|Is it designed and constructed for continuous human occupancy?||Might an atmospheric hazard occur?||Is it a confined space?|
We have determined a specific space not to be a confined space as per the Confined Spaces Regulation, but still prefer to conduct some air sampling prior to entering just to ensure that nothing unforeseen has occurred. Does this mean that we have to implement a confined space program for this space?
No, assuming this space was properly evaluated ahead of time and deemed not to be a confined space as per the definition. However, there is nothing preventing employers from taking any additional precautionary measures for any other spaces outside of this regulation, including air sampling as an example. Even though confined space provisions do not apply, employers would still need to comply with other relevant regulatory requirements, where applicable.
Is there a difference between a “restricted space” and a “confined space”?
Yes. Only the Regulation for Health Care and Residential Facilities (O. Reg. 67/93) speaks of a “restricted space” in section 42. In this regulation a restricted space refers, in part, to a “space from which the egress of a worker is restricted, limited, or impeded”. A “restricted space” may also be a confined space, thus, an evaluation of the space may determine that the area is either a confined space, a restricted space, or both.
Does the Confined Spaces Regulation apply to spaces that cannot be entered due to their size?
The Confined Spaces Regulation is intended to protect a worker who performs work within a fully or partially enclosed space that is not both designed and constructed for continuous human occupancy and in which atmospheric hazards may occur.
A confined space is a space that can be occupied by a person. It is the Ministry’s position that the opening of the confined space would, therefore, need to be of such a size that a person’s body could pass through it into the space. An entry is an action that is considered to have occurred as soon as any part of the entrant’s body breaks the plane of an opening into such a space, regardless of whether the intended work activities may or may not require whole body entry, such as atmospheric testing. Under such a condition, the Confined Spaces Regulation would apply.
If there is a space that has an opening of a size that a person’s body could not pass through it, the Confined Spaces Regulation would not apply even if a body part of a person (e.g. hands) would break the plane of such an opening to perform work activities. However, in these circumstances, the employer must still comply with other requirements under the OHSA, including taking every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of the health and safety of the worker. For example, there may be hazards associated with the space, such as explosive gases, and employers would need to comply with relevant regulatory requirements, where applicable, and take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect workers working on or near these spaces.
To determine if a space is designed and constructed for human occupancy, one must look at the intent and construction of the space – what is the purpose of the space, or in other words, what was it intended for, and to what standards has it been designed and constructed to allow people to occupy it?
Although the regulation does not define human occupancy, the MOL uses the term ‘continuous human occupancy’ to refer to a space that has been designed and constructed in accordance with recognized codes and standards that contain provisions to make the space suitable for humans to occupy, such as provisions for structural adequacy, entry and exit, ventilation and lighting such that a human could continually occupy that space. Examples are the Ontario Building Code, the Ontario Fire Code, and CSA B52 (Mechanical Refrigeration Code).
Workspaces such as offices, arenas, maintenance rooms, control rooms, etc., are obvious places that are designed for humans to occupy for long periods of time (continuously). These spaces are not considered a confined space, regardless of the atmospheric hazards that may occur in them. However, occupational health and safety legislation and regulations apply and must be complied with to protect workers.
Other spaces, such as parts of a tunnelling operation or an underground mine (stopes, drifts, ramps, shafts, raises), are designed and constructed specifically for people to carry out work within them. Specific codes and standards and requirements are intended to make the space adequate for the health and safety of workers. However, parts of a tunnel or mine could be confined spaces. Tunnels and mines could also include confined spaces within them, such as bins, tanks, clean or dirty water sumps, and water storage dams.
Some examples of spaces that would not be considered as “both designed and constructed for continuous human occupancy” are:
- storage tanks, tank cars, process vessels, boilers, pressure vessels, vats, bins, silos, bag-houses and other tank like compartments usually having only a manhole for entry
- open topped spaces such as pump wells, augured caissons, pits or degreasers
- pipes, sewers, ducts and similar structures
- cargo tanks, cellular double bottom tanks, duct keels, ballast and oil tanks and void spaces
- chutes, mill holes, ore bins, inside of a skip hanging in a shaft, crusher jaws
- flues, chimneys, ovens or furnaces.
Structures such as vessels, sewers and tank cars are designed and constructed to play a role in part of a process. Their primary purpose is to contain, transport, move or manipulate materials or equipment and they are not primarily designed for people to occupy them. They may have structures such as ladders or platforms where workers can perform work within the space on occasion. However, these spaces were not designed for continuous human occupancy.
A construction project space that is intended for human occupancy but not yet completed in its construction is not considered a confined space if its stage of construction is suitable for continuous human occupancy. Some construction spaces such as sumps and tanks and projects within these spaces may be confined spaces, but not projects in general.
A chamber or vault may have cooling ventilation for equipment purposes and have a temporary access space, designed to allow workers to access pipes and equipment (perhaps by using ladders or a door). However, this does not mean that it has been designed to meet codes and standards that would allow workers to safely perform their duties on a regular basis within the chamber or vault. Therefore, these spaces are considered NOT to be both designed and constructed for continuous human occupancy.
What are examples of spaces that are both designed and constructed for continuous human occupancy?
Some examples include offices, service rooms (such as mechanical rooms, elevator rooms), shops, walk-in freezers and refrigerators, laboratories, flammable liquid storage and dispensing rooms, and rooms equipped with approved fire suppression systems.
Trenches that are under construction and that are in compliance with the O. Reg. 213/91 (Construction Projects) requirements (which cover access and egress, stability of the trench walls and adequate ventilation in the trench) would have been designed for continuous human occupancy during the construction phase – (by virtue of complying with O. Reg. 213/91).
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