Confined Spaces Rule Gets a Facelift

manhole coverI won’t say I’m terribly claustrophobic but I am not about crawling into tiny spaces for extended periods of time, though I am glad there are people that do. Most of the people that have this task work in construction, and now there is a finalized rule from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration that can go a long way in protecting construction workers who are down in the trenches.

Confined spaces have limited entry and exit points and are not really designed for a person to stay in them for a long time. Working in them is part of the job though, as things like manholes, pits and sewers are commonplace in construction work. Workers face suffocation dangers, electrocutions, explosions and other hazards in these spaces.

The confined space regulation construction workers were operating under was issued over 35 years ago and construction employees only needed one training on precautions and emergency equipment to work in confined spaces. Now, following an updated rule for the general industries, there is a new standard specifically for construction because of its unique circumstances like high employee turnover, changing worksites and a multi-employer business model that is common in worksites. The new rule includes recognizing certain spaces as “permit spaces” that employees will need training in order to be able to enter, and employers will have to identify what safety measures should be used in the event of a hazard.  It also requires coordinated activities if there are different employers at the worksite (so one company does not inadvertently do something that could cause a problem in a confined space they are not working on but another company is), atmospheric monitoring and monitoring for engulfment dangers.

OSHA thinks that this new rule will significantly reduce fatalities and injuries in confined spaces; they estimate it will result in 5.2 fewer deaths and 780 fewer injuries a year. OSHA looked at the cost of compliance along with expected revenue and profits and says that the cost of compliance would be negligible, and would not cause firms to have to raise their prices.

I think this is a great update and it seems like a win-win for the construction industry. They can look forward to safer worksites at a low cost. It will become effective this August.

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