OSHA releases a new rule about confined spaces in construction areas.
A U.S. Department of Labor news release announced on May 1, 2015, that the organization has released a final rule creating new safety standards for construction workers in confined spaces. The announcement notes that confined spaces such as manholes, tanks and crawl spaces present life-threatening hazards. Asphyxiation is one common threat in such environments, and often cause not only a danger to the person working in a confined space, but also co-workers who are first to respond. These fatalities can be avoided by conducting thorough hazard assessments, providing appropriate personal protective equipment and following the updated rule regarding confined spaces.
Mitigating the danger of confined spaces
Asphyxiation isn't the only hazard presented by confined spaces. Workers also face risk of exposure to toxic chemicals, open electricity and low visibility. The final rule is similar to a more general rule that protects workers in other industries, but includes several advisories specific to construction sites due to the significant hazards confined spaces present in the industry.
"In the construction industry, entering confined spaces is often necessary, but fatalities like these don't have to happen," Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said in a statement. "This new rule will significantly improve the safety of construction workers who enter confined spaces. In fact, we estimate that it will prevent about 780 serious injuries every year."
"This rule will save lives of construction workers," added Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "Unlike most general industry work sites, 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."
"The final rule takes affect Aug. 3, 2015."
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration notes many contractors and managers have already followed the general industry standard for years, making the transition to this new mandate seamless. Confined spaces are particularly dangerous because they are not designed for long-term occupation and may have limited means of entrance and exit, making it possible for workers to get trapped. The general industry rule was originally implemented by OSHA in 1993, but in the following years the organization created a rule specific to the construction industry with the help of stakeholders and other work agencies.
The final rule directly applies to construction workers servicing highways, buildings, tunnels and other projects, as well as possibly general or specialty contractors working in residential spaces. The rule takes affect 90 days after being announced - Aug. 3, 2015. While the general industry rule has been in place for more than two decades, the final construction rule emphasizes modern technology that was not available when the industry standard was written. Present-day technology can be used among construction workers to share safety information and continuously monitor hazards, according to the Department of Labor release. However, no matter the technology available, workers should always assess safety hazards before undertaking a job and wear proper PPE at all times.