Respiratory Protection in Confined Space

  • Confined spaces often present unseen challenges. Confined spaces are areas that meet all of the following criteria:

    • Large enough for workers to enter and perform certain jobs
    • Limited or restricted means for entry or exit
    • Not designed for continuous occupancy
Industrial worker wearing breathing aperatus descending into a storage tank.
Get in easily. Get out safely.

The know-how to navigate job sites with confined spaces.


Confined spaces. Unique challenges.

Download Confined Spaces Catalog (PDF, 10.4 MB)

No two confined spaces are exactly alike. Type, size and hazards vary greatly, along with different standards, regulations and company policies that can apply to each working environment.

  • Man in a confined space wearing 3M Respiratory protection

    Common types of confined spaces

    Safely handling entries and exits starts with identifying your work spaces:

    • Storage tanks
    • Culverts
    • Tunnels
    • Elevator shafts
    • Ductwork
    • Trench box
    • Utility vaults

    Where they are found

    Working safely in confined spaces is universal, but different industries present their own challenges:

    • Pharmaceutical manufacturing
    • Chemical manufacturing
    • Food and beverage manufacturing
    • Oil and gas
    • Waste water treatment

Developing a Confined Space Plan

Be ready before getting to work, so your team can safely handle all entries and exits.

  • Four panels showing illustrations of workers preparing for and entering a confined space.

    Infographic: Four steps of a plan

    Before working in a confined space, always start with:

    • A site evaluation
    • Identification of proper safety equipment and other required tools
    • A trained rescue team that has developed a pre-planning program
    • Certified training that involves practice and hands-on experience for all parties who will work in and around a confined space

    Plan, Access, Work Inside, and Rescue & Retrieval: Learn what they mean and how to address each step.

  •  Image of confined space safety training

    Additional Planning Resources

    View the video to learn more about the basic elements that make up confined space entry, retrieval and rescue.

    Evaluate - Permit Required Confined Space Checklist (PDF, 158.06 KB)

    OSHA Regulation Summary (PDF, 1.21 MB)

Respiratory products for confined spaces

Confined spaces present some of the most challenging environments. When you're in a toxic atmosphere exposed to respiratory hazards like combustible dusts, hazardous chemicals, or experience oxygen deficiency, you need respiratory protection that will support you.

  • Person wearing 3M Supplied Air System, looking down into a confined space
    Supplied air systems
    Clean, breathable air can be delivered to hoods, helmets, full facepieces, half facepieces and loose-fitting facepieces. 3M supplied air respirators require a source of clean Grade D breathing air, such as plant air systems or bottled air.
  • Closeup of person wearing 3M Industrial SCBA
    Self-contained breathing apparatus

    When hazards are so concentrated or so toxic they can't be brought to acceptable levels with other types of respiratory protection or if you've been unable to definitely record the level of hazard in the workplace, you may need a self-contained breathing apparatus.

  • Man wearing 3M Respirator

    If you know the hazard in the workplace and the protection factor you need to meet, a negative-pressure respirator may be an option.

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Got questions? Get in touch with our respiratory protection specialists.


Other PPE considerations for confined space