One of the common questions that OHShub is presented with is, “What does OSHA mean by ‘bodily enter’ when it comes to a confined space?”
Is this even a confined space?
There are a few different questions here: The first is defining what it means to “bodily enter” a space when we are looking to determine if that space even meets the OSHA definition of a confined space. The second is, once we have defined a space as a confined space (or more specifically, a permit required confined space), what constitutes “entering a space.”
Complete body must be able to enter the “confined space”
In the preamble to the Permit Required Confined Space standard, OSHA is clear that for a space to meet the requirement of “large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned works”, you must be able to completely bodily enter it. That is, put your whole body in the space.
While OSHA is concerned that spaces that are too small for complete bodily entry may pose hazards for employees, the Agency did not intend to cover such spaces under the permit space standard. OSHA believes that the NPRM preamble discussion of permit space incidents and of proposed provisions clearly indicates that the proposed rule was intended-to cover only spaces that were large enough for the entire body of an employee to enter.Source: https://www.osha.gov/FedReg_osha_pdf/FED19930114.pdf
Therefore, as we are attempting to define whether a space is a confined space or not, if I can not put my whole body into the space, I do not meet one of the three requirements for defining as a confined space, therefore it is not a confined space and can not ultimately be a permit required confined space.
Be cognizant of other hazards in a space that is not a confined space
Now this does not mean that this space is “safe”, but far from it. There may still be hazards associated with the space that we must mitigate to ensure our employees are safe when performing work within it, however, we don’t have to meet the requirements of the permit required confined space standard.
Take a look at OSHA’s Letter of Interpretation providing further guidance (emphasis added):
Scenario: The access to aircraft fuel cells (tanks) are approximately 12 inches wide but many feet in length. Workers remain outside the tank but have their upper extremities and, on occasion, their head extending into the tank to perform the required tasks. The aircraft fuel tank will be drained of its contents, purged of vapor, and monitored for gases and vapors.Source: https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/standardinterpretations/2008-03-05
Question: Would these tanks be considered confined spaces as defined by OSHA’s Permit-required confined spaces standard, 29 CFR 1910.146.
Reply: If it is possible for the employee to fit his or her entire body within the tanks, then they would be confined spaces under §1910.146. On the other hand, if an employee cannot enter the tanks with his or her entire body due to the size of the tanks’ diameters, then the tanks would not be considered confined spaces. An employee may still be injured or killed as a result of some atmospheric hazard within such a tank; however, the permit-required confined spaces standard is not intended to address all locations that pose atmospheric hazards. Please be advised that the procedures to protect workers from atmospheric hazards within these tanks would be required by other OSHA standards, such as Subpart Z of Part 1910 General Industry Standards.
Break the plane
The second part of understanding “bodily enter” or “bodily entry” is looking at it from the standpoint of a space that has been defined as a confined space, and more specifically, a permit required confined space. If the space is question is a permit required confined space, simply breaking the plane of that space is considered entry, and must be done within the requirements as stated in the standard, to include permitting.
Summary: TLDR: If I can’t put my full body in, it can’t be classified as a confined space, therefore bodily entry doesn’t apply. But, break the plane on a confined space, or permit required confined space, and I have bodily entered.