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Increased Protection for Construction Workers in Confined Spaces

Posted by Eric Kingsley | Jul 16, 2015 | 0 Comments

Effective August 3, 2015, OSHA'S New Rule Increases Protection for Construction Workers in Confined Spaces

Summary

Confined spaces

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recently issued its final rule that provides increased protections to those working in confined spaces on construction projects.  The new regulation covers building construction sites, highways, bridges, tunnels, utility lines, and other types of construction sites. The new rule includes a requirement that multiple employers share vital safety information and continuously monitor hazards while more responsibility is placed on the controlling employer to ensure compliance by subcontractors and visitors to a construction site.

The new rule, which goes into effect on August 3, 2015, applies to manholes, crawl spaces, tanks and other confined spaces not intended for continuous occupancy that are located on construction projects.  OSHA predicts that the new rule will prevent approximately 780 serious injuries and 5 deaths each year.

According to OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels, “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.”

“Confined Spaces” Defined

Confined spaces are defined as those that (1) are large enough for an employee to enter; (2) have limited means of entry or exit; and (3) are not designed for continuous occupancy.  The rule provides construction workers in confined spaces with the same protections already afforded to workers in manufacturing and general industry but differs in several construction-specific respects:

  • The new rule requires a “competent person” to initially evaluate the project site and identify all confined spaces.
  • Employers must then train their employees on the existence, location and dangers posed by each confined space.
  • Workers not authorized to perform entry rescues must also be trained on the dangers of attempting such rescues.
  • Employers are further required to coordinate with emergency services before workers enter certain confined space.  After this pre-entry planning is conducted, employers must continually monitor the confined space for air contaminant and engulfment hazards.

Communication is heavily emphasized in the new rule.  Because multiple contractors are likely present on a project site, each with its own workers needing to enter the confined space, contractors are required to coordinate and share safety information with each other.  The controlling contractor, such as the general contractor, is responsible for ensuring compliance with the new rule by its subcontractors and visitors to the project site.

Additional information and compliance assistance materials are available on OSHA's Confined Spaces website.

Questions About OSHA's Confined Spaces Rule?

California contractors who have employees or subcontractors working in confined spaces should familiarize themselves with the new rule since fines and citations can be issued for each violation of the new rule. If you have questions about OSHA's new rule or other federal or California employment laws, don't hesitate to contact leading California employment lawyers from Kingsley & Kingsley. To discuss your situation call us toll-free at (888) 500-8469 or click here to contact us regarding your case.

About the Author

Eric Kingsley

In practice since 1996, the firm's lawyer and co-founder, Eric B. Kingsley, has litigated complex cases and written numerous appeals in state and federal courts on behalf of the California law firm Kingsley & Kingsley, including More than 150 collective actions. Mr. Kingsley focuses his practice ...

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