How to Create a Confined Spaces Entry Permit System

Date First Published on SafetySmart Compliance: February 21st, 2012
Topics: Confined Spaces |

If you’re ever unfortunate enough to have a serious or fatal accident at your workplace, it’s a pretty good bet that it will happen inside a confined space. That’s because confined spaces are one of if not the most dangerous part of any workplace. They’re also a perennial source of OSHA citations and liability.

Let’s zero in on one of the most crucial aspects of controlling the dangers posed by confined space entry: The use of entry permits to limit who can get into a confined space.


When Are Entry Permits Required

Confined spaces come in different varieties. The ones that don’t contain atmospheric hazards or potential atmospheric hazards that threaten death or serious physical harm are called “non-permit confined spaces.” And, like the name implies, these spaces can be entered without a permit.

“Permit-required confined spaces,” (typically referred to informally as “permit spaces” or “permit confined spaces”) do contain actual or potential hazards.


You can deal with permit spaces in 1 of 2 ways: Seal them off so that nobody can enter them, or allow entry and establish a confined spaces entry program to ensure entry is carried out safely. Entry permits are a key element of the entry program.

Exception: There’s one situation where you can allow entry into a permit space without an entry program and permit system:

  • The confined space is only hazardous because it has a hazardous or potentially hazardous atmosphere;
  • You use a forced air ventilation system to control that atmospheric hazard; and
  • You implement other safety measures.

Issuance of Entry Permits

As noted above, the confined space entry program must include a method for issuing entry permits to ensure that only authorized workers are allowed inside the space and that nobody gets in until all the pre-entry safety measures have been verified.

The OSHA standard requires the so called “entry supervisor,” or supervisor responsible for safety of the entry, to bring together all of the employees who will be participating in the entry for a safety briefing and ensure that all entrants understand the hazards of the space, the methods to control the hazards and the rescue plan. Once the entry supervisor is certain that everyone participating understands what to do and all acceptable entry conditions specified on the Entry Permit are met, he/she signs the entry permit and the entry can begin.

A copy of the entry permit (or original) must be available and posted at the site of the entry at all times when employees are inside the space. Permits can only last a certain period.

Cancelled permits must be kept for one year and used to complete the annual review of the written program.

What the Entry Permit Must List

The entry permit must list the following information.

  • The space to be entered;
  • The location of the space;
  • The purpose of the entry;
  • The date and authorized duration of the permit;
  • The names or identification numbers of those workers are permitted to act as attendants during the entry;
  • The names or identification numbers of authorized entrants, i.e., workers permitted to enter the space;
  • The name of the Entry Supervisor and space for that person to sign his/her name verifying the entry conditionsare acceptable and that entry can begin;
  • The hazards of the space;
  • The measures used to isolate the permit space and to eliminate or control permit space hazards before entry;
  • The acceptable entry conditions;
  • The results of initial and periodic atmospheric tests performed along with the names or initials of the testers and by an indication of when the tests were performed;
  • The rescue and emergency services available and the means (such as the equipment to use and the numbers to call) for summoning those services;
  • The communication procedures used by authorized entrants and attendants to maintain contact during the entry;
  • The PPE, testing equipment, communications equipment, alarm systems and rescue equipment, to be provided;
  • Any other information necessary under the circumstances to include to ensure employee safety; and
  • Any additional permits, such as for hot work, that have been issued to authorize work in the permit space.


If you want to see a Model Entry Permit issued by OSHA that you can adapt for use at your own workplace, click here.