New OSHA Construction Standards
In response to concerns over a growing number of fatalities and serious injuries resulting from construction work in confined spaces, OSHA construction standards have been updated with new rules. These rules are predicted to eliminate some of the 780 serious injuries and 92 fatalities that occur every year on average as a result of workers entering confined spaces under unsafe conditions.
As a construction business owner or a site manager, it is your job to become familiar with these new rules and adopt them. Doing so not only helps you avoid fines and legal actions stemming from non-compliance, it could help save your workers’ lives.
The Danger of Confined Spaces
An unfortunate reality of construction is that many project managers or job-site managers are simply unaware of the threat that confined spaces pose. Individuals who would naturally use caution when working near other risky elements like heavy machinery, live electricity or unsafe heights would send a worker into a confined space without a second thought.
What happens next is that the worker can become trapped or asphyxiated in a matter of seconds. These incidents often have the tragic consequence of fearless, selfless rescue workers moving in to retrieve their comrade only to succumb to the same conditions.
OSHA outlines some of the dangers by saying that “Confined spaces — such as manholes, crawl spaces, and tanks — are not designed for continuous occupancy and are difficult to exit in the event of an emergency. People working in confined spaces face life-threatening hazards including toxic substances, electrocutions, explosions, and asphyxiation.”
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) elaborates by saying that confined spaces have “limited openings for entry and exit,” and also “unfavorable natural ventilation which could contain or produce dangerous air contaminants.”
New Rules for OSHA Construction Standards Compliance
As a result of the new rules posed by OSHA regulations, all construction companies are required to retrieve special permits for working in any space that:
- Is large enough for a person to insert their entire body
- Poses restrictions for mobility, especially when entering and exiting
- Was not designed to be occupied for more than a few moments at a time
Any site area that fulfills these criteria will necessitate the following actions:
- Posting of clear, visible warning signs near the confined space to indicate dangers and potential hazards
- Training regarding the safety protocol for entering or working in confined spaces
- Permits for safe entry operations, including atmospheric test results
- Approval from a professional engineer regarding the “provisions and limitations” of utilizing personnel hoisting systems and other confined space devices
- Safety data sheets or records for all workers who have entered the confined space
As you can see, one of the main elements of these new rules is that contractors and construction personnel are expected to attend training sessions before permits will be issued. This mandate includes any rescue workers who may potentially be entering confined spaces to retrieve fallen employees.
Take these regulations and guidelines seriously as you approach your job site and outlay duties. Only by acknowledging these rules and following them can you avoid serious consequences that include the loss of your workers’ lives and criminal charges.