Tuesday, May 12, 2015

OSHA Issues Construction Confined Spaces Rule

OSHA has issued a final rule to improve safety for construction workers in confined spaces. According to the agency, the rule will offer construction workers protections similar to those that manufacturing and general industry workers have had for 20 years. The rule has some differences tailored to the construction industry, including requirements to ensure that multiple employers share vital safety information and to continuously monitor hazards.

"Unlike most general industry worksites, construction sites are continually evolving, with the number and characteristics of confined spaces changing as work progresses," says Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSH David Michaels. "This rule emphasizes training, continuous worksite evaluation and communication requirements to further protect workers' safety and health."

In a May 6, 2015, post, John Martin and Shontell Powell of Ogletree Deakins note the following five differences between OSHA's general industry standard and the newly issued rule for construction:
  1. A competent person must now evaluate the work site and identify confined spaces, including permit spaces.
  2. Employers must continuously monitor confined space atmospheres, whenever possible. 
  3. Multiemployer construction sites must coordinate their activities in “more detailed provisions,” to avoid introducing hazards into a confined space by workers performing tasks outside the space. 
  4. Lookouts or equipment must continually monitor engulfment hazards, such as flash flooding when workers are performing work in a storm sewer. OSHA suggests posting “[a]n electronic sensor or observer posted upstream from the work site” to alert workers and give them time to evacuate the space safely.
  5. Employers may now suspend, instead of cancel, a permit, if, for example, entry conditions change or an unexpected event requiring a temporary evacuation of a space occurs. The space must be returned to the entry conditions listed on the permit before re-entry.