Confined Spaces in Construction: The "Whole" Story (Part I)
OSHA’s New Confined Space Regulations (Part I of III)
For years, many of us in the Construction field have heard the same old excuses from contractors working unsafely in confined spaces. Statements like “We don’t have a confined space standard in Construction”, have been heard countless times by safety consultants and Compliance Officers alike.
In reality, OSHA has had confined space rules for many years that have been all but overlooked because it consisted of just two sentences. 29 CFR 1926.21 (b)(i) requires that “All employees required to enter confined or enclosed spaces shall be instructed as to the nature of the hazards involved, the necessary precautions to be taken, and in the use of protective and emergency equipment required. The employer shall comply with any specific regulations that apply to work in dangerous or potentially dangerous areas.”
While underwhelming in details, the regulation does require construction employers to determine what hazards might be lurking in a confined space and instruct their employees on how to recognize and avoid these hazards. Because of this lack of detail many contractors chose to adopt the General Industry standard for confined spaces (29CFR1910.146) as this has been considered “best practices” for entering these spaces.
On May 1, 2015 OSHA announced the Final Rule for Confined Spaces in Construction (29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA).1 In a prepared statement Dr. David Michaels (Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational safety and Health) stated that it is expected that nearly 800 serious injuries a year will be prevented in confined spaces by the new rule and the standard will be effective on August 3, 2015.2
In the next two installments we will look at some of the new definitions associated with confined spaces and some of the new rules that contractors will be required to follow.