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Environmental Health and Safety

Confined Space

photo of confined space









A Confined Space Program has been developed to establish a safe operating procedure for all employees and contractors entering confined spaces on university property. 

Is it a confined space?

Confined spaces meet all of the following criteria:

  • The space has limited or restricted means of entry or egress
  • The space is large enough for an employee to enter and perform work assignments
  • The space is not designed for continuous human occupancy

Is a permit required?

Permit-required confined spaces pose serious risks to entrants, such as physical injury from hazards of engulfment, entrapment, and hazardous atmospheric conditions (i.e. being overcome by toxic gases and/or oxygen deficient atmospheres).

If any one of the following conditions exist, the confined space is permit-required:

  • The space contains, or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere
  • The space contains a material that may engulf the entrant
  • The space has an internal configuration such that the entrant could become trapped of asphyxiated
  • The space contains other recognized serious safety or health hazards

Confined spaces on campus

Permit-required confined spaces at American University include:

  • Manholes
  • Air handling units
  • Elevator pits
  • Cooling towers
  • Smoke stacks and chimneys
  • Boilers
  • Sump pits
  • Steam pits and tunnels
  • Transformer vaults
  • Tanks
  • Trash compactors
  • Crawl spaces
  • Access areas above fixed ceilings

For a detailed list of known confined spaces at American University, please refer to the Confined Space Program.