Changes to Canada Occupational Health & Safety Reg Confined Spaces

Changes to the Canada Occupational Health & Safety Regulations – Part XI: Confined Spaces

Written by Marcus Anthes, M.Sc.(A), CRSP, Senior Occupational Hygiene and Safety Consultant for the Occupational Health & Safety Group, at Pinchin Ltd.

Amendments to the health and safety Regulations for federal workplaces, specifically Part 11 of the Canada Occupational Health & Safety Regulations (COHSR) – Confined Spaces, come into force on October 1, 2021

What are the main changes?

How confined spaces are defined and thus identified is the primary change to the Regulation. Specifically, the current definition of a confined space has changed, and a new definition of a “hazardous confined space” has been added. The revised and new definitions are as follows:

Confined Space
means a space that
(a) is enclosed or partially enclosed;
(b) is not designed or intended for continuous human occupancy; and
(c) has a limited or restricted means of entry or exit or an internal configuration that could complicate provision of first aid, evacuation, rescue or other emergency response.

Hazardous Confined Space
means a confined space that, when entered, occupied or exited by persons, presents hazards likely to cause injury, illness or other adverse health effects to persons entering, exiting or occupying it because of
(a) its design, construction, location or atmosphere;
(b) the materials or substances in it; or
(c) any other conditions relating to it.

There will now be two levels of confined spaces: a confined space, that is similar to what some other jurisdictions consider a “restricted space”, and meaning the space has limited access/egress and is not intended for human occupancy (i.e., a matter of the physical characteristics of the space); and a hazardous confined space will be a higher risk confined space where hazards could be immediately dangerous or fatal, such as a hazardous atmosphere created by an oxygen deficient source, or other hazards that could cause serious injury as caused by mechanical or electrical energy, etc.

What does this mean for employers of federally regulated workplaces?

Federally regulated workplaces will be required to review their current confined space inventory and:

  1. (Re)identify each (or “class of”) confined space. The objective of the “confined space” definition change, is to simplify the identification of a confined space, as it is based on the physical characteristics of the space and can therefore be done by any competent person in the workplace (e.g., a work place committee member); and
  2. Determine whether a confined space is a “hazardous confined space”. This may require external expertise, as a “qualified person”, defined as a person who, because of their knowledge, training and experience, is qualified to perform that duty safely and properly, must be appointed to this task.

Once confined spaces and hazardous confined spaces are identified, there are varying requirements based on the type of confined space it is. Although these provisions are similar to the pre-amended Regulations, a summary of the requirements as they relate to confined and hazardous confined spaces are as follows:

RequirementConfined SpaceHazardous Confined Space
Hazard AssessmentNoYes
Entry/Exit ProceduresYesYes
Entry PermitNoYes
Instruction and TrainingYesYes
Two-Way CommunicationYesYes
Air TestingNoYes
Isolation of Hazardous EnergyNoYes
Emergency Response MeasuresYesYes
Immediate Emergency Procedures – (if acceptable atmospheric hazards or hazardous energy cannot be complied with at all times)NoYes

For more information visit the Government of Canada Justice Laws Website or the Canada Gazette Publication

What can Pinchin do to help?

Pinchin’s Occupational Health & Safety group can assist with the management of your Confined Space Program in the following areas:

  • Identify your confined spaces and hazardous confined spaces
  • Assess your hazardous confined spaces
  • Review and/or develop appropriate safe work procedures for your hazardous confined spaces
  • Review and revise your current Confined Space Program to ensure compliance with the revised Regulation.

If you have any questions about these amendments and how Pinchin can assist, please feel free to reach out to me or your local Pinchin office and speak to one of our Occupational Health and Safety experts, we’d be happy to help.