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A Guide to Safety in Confined Spaces


July 1987
DHHS (NIOSH) Publication Number 87-113

Because air may not move in and out of confined spaces freely due to the design, the atmosphere inside a confined space can be very different from the atmosphere outside. Deadly gases may be trapped inside, particularly if the space is used to store or process chemicals or organic substances which may decompose. There may not be enough oxygen inside the confined space to support life, or the air could be so oxygen-rich that it is likely to increase the chance of fire or explosion if a source of ignition is present.

Most confined spaces are not designed for workers to enter and work in them on a routine basis. They are designed to store a product, enclose materials and processes, or transport products or substances. Therefore, occasional worker entry for inspection, maintenance, repair, cleanup, or similar tasks is often difficult and dangerous due to chemical or physical hazards within the space.