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Restricted Areas - Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What does restricted area imply?

A.

Restricted area implies that access privileges to a site are reserved for specific individuals only. This is done to prevent exposure to potential hazards as well as to maintain the confidentiality of sensitive information and data.

Q. Why do businesses create restricted areas?

A.

Creating restricted areas is a safety measure that employers take to protect their employees and prevent sensitive information from falling into the wrong hands. These areas often contain processes or systems that require well-trained personnel to operate. There may also be hazards such as falling objects, harmful substances, emissions and radiation, electrical current, etc., that necessitate the use of proper PPE, thereby limiting access to certain workers only who have received adequate safety training. 

Areas like data centers are also marked restricted as these often contain confidential information about employees, customers, the general public, business operations, and finance, and so on. Any misuse of such information could result in a loss of reputation, money, and more for a business, and hence, it is protected by limiting access rights. 

Q. How can employers ensure workers adhere to the restricted area policy?

A.

There are a few steps that employers can take to prevent unauthorized access to restricted areas. Communication and training are perhaps the most crucial elements to ensure workplace policy compliance. Employers should make sure workers are aware of restricted areas and properly trained to identify, understand, and avoid the hazards associated with such areas, as well as the consequences of violating the policy.

It is also important to clearly mark limited access workplace areas with the help of strategically placed restricted area signs. It may also help to install lockable doors secured by manual or digital locking systems that only authorized employees have access to. Employing a guard to monitor the entry and exit points of these areas is another way to minimize violations. 

Q. Are restricted areas the same as confined spaces?

A.

OSHA defines confined spaces as areas that are not designed for continuous occupancy but are large enough for workers to enter and perform certain jobs. These include spaces such as tanks, storage bins, vessels, vaults, manholes, tunnels, pipelines, and more. 

While confined spaces have limited or restricted entry/exit means, these differ from restricted areas that are often larger in size and can be occupied for longer periods. Restricted areas can be operation sites, production floors, testing facilities, data centers, etc. 

Q. Are there any laws related to restricted areas?

A.

Certain federal laws govern restricted areas in sectors such as navigation and navigable waters (chapters I and II), aviation, and so on. Concerning businesses, there are no specific regulations or OSHA standards around restricted areas in the workplace, but these are a preventive measure for worker health and safety and thus, help employers comply with the basic OSHA principle.

However, your jurisdiction may have specific restricted area requirements. Please check with your local authority to ensure compliance and avoid punitive action.

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