New Standards Issued for|Confined Space Hazards

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Exposed live wires, unguarded machinery or other hazards could greet a construction worker entering a confined space. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration will have specific standards for addressing them, as of Aug. 13, OSHA said in a Friday statement.     
     OSHA has settled on rules similar to confined space rules for other industries, but with construction activities in mind, such as the combination of tools causing sparks near fumes where a worker could not easily escape.
     People working in confined spaces face life-threatening hazards including toxic substances, electrocutions, explosions and asphyxiation, OSHA said in the statement.
     Previously, OSHA had a single requirement to train the construction worker in the nature of the hazards involved, the necessary precautions to be taken, and in the use of protective emergency equipment required, according to the new regulation.
     OSHA’s new regulation addition is a “comprehensive standard that includes a permit program designed to protect employees from exposure to many hazards associated with work in confined spaces, including atmospheric and physical hazards,” according to the action.
     It is similar to the general industry confined spaces standard, but incorporates several provisions from OSHA’s 2007 proposed rule to address construction-specific hazards, account for advancements in technology, and improve enforceability of the requirements, the regulation states.
     “This rule will save lives of construction workers,” Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels was quoted as saying in a press release. “Unlike most general industry worksites, construction sites are continually evolving, with the number and characteristics of confined spaces changing as work progresses. This rule emphasizes training, continuous worksite evaluation and communication requirements to further protect workers’ safety and health.”
     After the general industry requirements were issued in 1993, OSHA agreed to propose a standard for confined spaces in construction as part of a settlement of a United Steelworkers of America legal challenge, according to the regulation.
     The proposal, published Nov. 28, 2007, addressed issues unique to the construction industry, such as higher employee turnover rates, worksites that change frequently, and the multi-employer business model that is common on construction worksites, the regulation continues.
     OSHA has determined that providing a higher level of guidance and safety information to construction industry employers will reduce the average number of fatalities and injuries in confined spaces covered by this standard by 96 percent, according to the regulation.
     The new standard adds provisions for: Identifying confined spaces and hazards they may contain; allowing employers to organize the work to avoid entry into a potentially hazardous space; removing hazards prior to entry to avoid employee exposure; restricting entry through a permit system when employers cannot remove the hazard; providing appropriate testing and equipment when entry is required; and arranging for rescue services to remove entrants from a confined space when necessary.
     OSHA estimates that the new standards will save approximately 5.2 lives and prevent 780 injuries annually.

%d bloggers like this: