New OSHA rule: What’s required? Confined Space

26-May-2015

OSHA has issued its final rule on confined space work in the construction industry. Here’s what you need to know:

The rule provides construction workers with protections similar to OSHA’s rule for manufacturing and general industry workers which was issued in 1993.

Some differences were specifically tailored for the construction industry, including requirements to:

  • ensure that multiple employers share vital information at work sites, and
  • continuously monitor hazards using newly available technology.

This new rule replaces OSHA’s one training requirement for confined space work in construction with a more comprehensive standard that includes a permit program to protect employees from exposures to atmospheric and physical hazards.

Who is affected by the new rule? Several sectors of the construction industry, including work that involves:

  • buildings
  • highways
  • bridges
  • tunnels
  • utility lines, and
  • specialty construction.

Each year, an average of 6 fatalities and 812 injuries occur among construction employees working in confined spaces. OSHA estimates this rule will reduce the average number of fatalities and injured in construction confined spaces by 96% – a total of 785 injuries per year.

To help businesses navigate through the new rule, OSHA has developed a confined spaces page on its website with resources for employers that include:

  • a copy of the final rule
  • a frequently asked questions section
  • a fact sheet on crawl spaces and attics in construction
  • a fact sheet on sewer systems
  • an OSHA QuickCard on confined spaces in general industry
  • an OSHA bulletin, “Calibrating and Testing Direct-Reading Portable Gas Monitors,” and
  • a case study, “Silent Killer in a Newly Constructed Manhole.”

(Last year, two workers were asphyxiated while repairing leaks in a manhole – the second when he went down to save the first which is not uncommon in these types of cases.)

Employers in the construction industries affected by the new rule have three months to prepare. The Confined Spaces in Construction rule takes effect Aug. 3, 2015.

The construction industry gets more safety attention this month. OSHA says record numbers of construction workers are expected to get the prevention message during 2015’s National Fall Safety Stand-Down which takes place from May 4-15.

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