Identifying Spaces

There are two basic types of small spaces in schools: confined and limited.  Confined spaces are considered to be small life-threatening spaces, while limited spaces are small spaces where a person could get stuck, but probably would not die unless no one found them for a period of time.  All spaces in and around schools that are small enough, deep enough, or hazardous enough for an employee to get injured, stuck, or sick must be evaluated and personnel protected from harm. Confined spaces require a permit, special training, and specialized equipment and are NOT common around schools.  Examples are underground tanks with manways, deep sump pits, septic tanks with manways, and pellet or woodchip silos.  Limited spaces are spaces where a person could get stuck, are much more common in schools, and are less dangerous than confined spaces.  Examples include crawl spaces, remote attics and basements with limited access, and pipe trenches.  The definitions below better detail each type of space.  

A) Confined Space

    A confined space is any space that has the following characteristics:

        1. It is large enough or so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work.

        2. It has limited or restricted means for entry or exit.

        3. It is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.    

        4. It has one or more of the following:

            a. Contains or has a potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere.

            b. Contains a material that has the potential for engulfing an entrant.

            c. Has an internal configuration such that an entrant could be trapped or asphyxiated by inwardly-converging walls or by a floor that slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross-section; or

            d. Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazard. Examples of serious safety or health hazards might include fall hazards, extreme hot or cold, and electrical hazards.

    To enter a confined space, a permit is required!  Examples of permit-required confined spaces in schools include sewers, electrical vaults, steam tunnels, sump pits, certain mechanical rooms, some excavations, and other types of enclosures. Any space that is accessed by lifting a manhole cover shall be considered a permit-required confined space. 

    Marking Confined Spaces!  Schools are responsible for ensuring the safety of their employees in regards to confined spaces. It's their responsibility to evaluate potentially hazardous spaces within their facilities to ensure that the proper precautions are taken for safety. This includes clearly marking permit-required confined spaces, training employees, and ensuring proper entry procedures are followed. These responsibilities may be delegated to another competent person provided he/she is qualified.

B) Limited Spaces

    Limited spaces aresmall spaces NOT generally considered life-threatening, that employees may access during their duties.  Schools certainly want to have procedures to prevent injuries and accidents for employees entering these types of spaces, but they are not actually confined spaces that require a permit toenter, specialized training, and equipment.  A simple procedure of radio or phone communication may be all that is required to safegaurd employees.  

Confined Space Policy for Schools to Consider.  Since work in confined spaces is hazardous by nature, requires specialized training and equipment, and is not very common in Maine schools, it may be advantageous to develop and implement a policy to hire out all work in confined spaces (schools still must evaluate all spaces to classify them as either confined or limited).  The the school would need only a limited space plan and procedure.  Remember all spaces must be assessed and classified.