The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) is adding a new subsection to protect construction workers in confined spaces from workplace accidents. The comprehensive standard includes a certification course intended to shield construction workers on the job from dangerous and life-threatening exposure to the many hazards associated with construction site confined spaces. The new standard went into effect August 3, 2015.
The new subpart is similar to the general industry confined spaces standard, incorporating requirements that will target the hazards of working in confined spaces at construction sites, while at the same time providing for technology advancements, and improve the enforcement of the requirements to keep construction workers safe from workplace injuries and accidents.
Defining Confined Spaces at Construction Sites
Confined spaces are spaces that are big enough for workers to fit into and complete certain jobs, but not big enough or designed for extended occupancy. They often have limited entrances and exits. Characteristics of confined spaces include a space that:
- holds or has the likelihood to hold dangerous air;
- has a material that can overcome a worker;
- has walls that join inward or floors that slant down and narrow into a trapped area;
- contains any other recognizable hazard, such as unprotected machinery, exposed live wires, or excessive heat.
Examples of Confined Spaces
- silos and storage bins
- equipment housings
- ductwork and pipelines
Construction Worker Fatalities in Confined Spaces are Preventable
Asphyxiation in confined spaces is not uncommon; however, it is it preventable. Two construction workers were fatally injured last year when they were asphyxiated while repairing manhole leaks. According to the Secretary of Labor, Thomas E. Perez, 780 serious construction worker injuries occurring from confined spaces will be prevented by the implementation of the new rule, significantly improving construction worker safety.
The new rule includes protections similar to manufacturing and industrial workers but with adjustments that are designed for the construction industry. Requirements include that vital safety information is shared by various proprietors and that employers continually monitor hazards. Sharing of information and continual monitoring are currently possible due to the advances in technology since the manufacturing and general industry standards were originally drafted.
Employers must Provide Safe and Healthy Workplaces
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 requires employers to provide their employees with workplaces that are safe, healthy and free from hazards. OSHA sets and enforces safety standards and makes training and education available so American workers can ensure safety at work and avoid injuries on the job.
Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, is confident that the new rule stresses training, uninterrupted evaluations of worksites and crucial communication that will save the lives of construction workers. The amount of construction site confined spaces and their traits are constantly changing as the construction industry evolves. The new rule provides for constant evaluation and new safety practices that will keep up with the emerging changes.
Construction workers who perform tasks in confined spaces continually face life-threatening work injuries and hazards including toxic substances, electrocutions, explosions, and asphyxiation. Workers who are prepared before entering confined spaces on the job can prevent physical injuries and injuries caused by hazardous atmospheric exposure. Construction workers who have been injured at work can greatly benefit from seeking counsel from an experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer.
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