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OSHA Memorandum on Confined Spaces in Construction

Sunday, September 13, 2015

This memorandum provides guidance on the enforcement of the Confined Spaces in Construction standard published on May 4, 2015. The new standard goes into effect on August 3, 2015. Requests for an extension of the effective date have indicated a need for additional time for training and the acquisition of equipment necessary to comply with the new standard. OSHA will not delay the effective date, but instead will postpone full enforcement of the new standard for 60 days from the effective date of August 3, 2015 to October 2, 2015.

During this 60-day period, OSHA will not issue citations to an employer making good faith efforts to comply with the new standard, as long as the employer is in compliance with either the training requirements of the new standard, found at 29 CFR 1926.1207, or the training requirements found at former 29 CFR 1926.21(b)(6)(i), which is provided:

All employees required to enter into confined or enclosed spaces shall be instructed as to the nature of the hazards involved, the necessary precautions to be taken, and in the use of protective and emergency equipment required. The employer shall comply with any specific regulations that apply to work in dangerous or potentially dangerous areas.

Employers who fail to train their employees consistent with either 29 CFR 1926.1207 or 1926.21(b)(6)(i) would properly be cited for violation of 1926.1207(a). Factors OSHA will consider when evaluating whether an employer is engaged in good faith efforts to comply with the new standard include:

  • If the employer has not trained its employees as required under the new standard, whether the employer has scheduled such training,
  • If the employer does not have the equipment required for compliance with the new standard, including personal protective equipment, whether the employer has ordered or otherwise arranged to obtain such equipment required for compliance and is taking alternative measures to protect employees from confined space hazards, and
  • Whether the employer has engaged in any additional efforts to educate workers about confined space hazards and protect workers from those hazards.

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Six Egregious Violations filed by OSHA for Houston Trench Incident

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

One minute a worker was working in the 8-foot trench below ground. The next, he was being buried in it. His co-workers came to his rescue, digging him out with their bare hands. Moments after they pulled the injured man to safety, the unprotected trench collapsed again. His injuries were serious and led to his hospitalization.

What’s more, the man's Houston-area employer knew the Richmond, Texas, excavation site was dangerous, but failed to protect its workers.

OSHA has since cited the company for 16 safety violations, including six egregious willful violations for failing to protect workers inside an excavation from a cave-in. The company faces penalties totaling $423,900.

"For more than 2,500 years, man has known how to prevent deadly trench collapses. It is absolutely unacceptable that employers continue to endanger the lives of workers in trenches," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. In addition to the willful violations, the company was cited for nine serious violations, including failing to remove debris from the edge of the excavation. The company also did not provide a safe means to get in and out of the excavation for workers or conduct atmospheric testing inside excavations after a sewer leak.

"Trench cave-ins are preventable," said John Hermanson, OSHA's regional administrator in Dallas. "There are long-established, basic precautions. They're not new, and they're not secret. This company knew its trenches weren't safe, but still put its workers in harm's way."

OSHA has also placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. The program concentrates resources on inspecting employers who have demonstrated indifference towards creating a safe and healthy workplace by committing willful or repeated violations, and/or failing to abate known hazards. It also mandates follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law.

(Excerpts, photos and videos from a story by Safety News Alert)
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It's Final-Confined Spaces in Construction-Effective 8/3/15!

Monday, May 04, 2015

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration today issued a final rule to increase protections for construction workers in confined spaces. 

Confined spaces rule (29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA) could protect nearly 800 construction workers a year from serious injuries and reduce life-threatening hazards…Construction protections now match those in manufacturing and general industry. 

Manholes, crawl spaces, tanks and other confined spaces are not intended for continuous occupancy. They are also difficult to exit in an emergency. People working in confined spaces face life-threatening hazards including toxic substances, electrocutions, explosions and asphyxiation.

Last year, two workers were asphyxiated while repairing leaks in a manhole, the second when he went down to save the first – which is not uncommon in cases of asphyxiation in confined spaces.

“In the construction industry, entering confined spaces is often necessary, but fatalities like these don’t have to happen,” said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “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.”

The rule will provide construction workers with protections similar to those manufacturing and general industry workers have had for more than two decades, with some differences tailored to the construction industry. These include requirements to ensure that multiple employers share vital safety information and to continuously monitor hazards – a safety option made possible by technological advances after the manufacturing and general industry standards were created.

“This rule will save lives of construction workers,” said 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 work site evaluation and communication requirements to further protect workers’ safety and health.”

On OSHA's website, it also states than an employer whose workers are engaged in both construction and general industry work in confined spaces will meet OSHA requirements [for 1910.146] if that employer meets the requirements of 29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA - Confined Spaces in Construction.

Five (5) key differences in the construction rule, and several areas where OSHA has clarified existing requirements:

  1. More detailed provisions requiring coordinated activities when there are multiple employers at the work site. This will ensure hazards are not introduced into a confined space by workers performing tasks outside the space. An example would be a generator running near the entrance of a confined space causing a buildup of carbon monoxide within the space.
  2. Requiring a competent person to evaluate the work site and identify confined spaces, including permit spaces.
  3. Requiring continuous atmospheric monitoring whenever possible.
  4. Requiring continuous monitoring of engulfment hazards. For example, when workers are performing work in a storm sewer, a storm upstream from the workers could cause flash flooding. An electronic sensor or observer posted upstream from the work site could alert workers in the space at the first sign of the hazard, giving the workers time to evacuate the space safely.
  5. Allowing for the suspension of a permit, instead of cancellation, in the event of changes from the entry conditions list on the permit or an unexpected event requiring evacuation of the space. The space must be returned to the entry conditions listed on the permit before re-entry.

OSHA has added provisions to the new rule that clarifies existing requirements in the General Industry standard. These include:

  1. Requiring that employers who direct workers to enter a space without using a complete permit system prevent workers’ exposure to physical hazards through elimination of the hazard or isolation methods such as lockout/tag out.
  2. Requiring that employers who are relying on local emergency services for emergency services arrange for responders to give the employer advance notice if they will be unable to respond for a period of time (because they are responding to another emergency, attending department-wide training, etc.).
  3. Requiring employers to provide training in a language and vocabulary that the worker understands.

Finally, several terms have been added to the definitions for the construction rule, such as "entry employer" to describe the employer who directs workers to enter a space, and "entry rescue", added to clarify the differences in the types of rescue employers can use.

Host Employers, Controlling Contractors, and Entry Supervisors

The rule makes the controlling contractor, rather than the host employer, the primary point of contact for information about permit spaces at the work site. The host employer must provide information it has about permit spaces at the work site to the controlling contractor, who then passes it on to the employers whose employees will enter the spaces (entry employers). Likewise, entry employers must give the controlling contractor information about their entry program and hazards they encounter in the space, and the controlling contractor passes that information on to other entry employers and back to the host. As mentioned above, the controlling contractor is also responsible for making sure employers outside a space know not to create hazards in the space, and that entry employers working in a space at the same time do not create hazards for one another’s workers.

Click for an update on this ruling

Download 29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA Confined Space in Construction Ruling

Source: www.osha.gov

Frequently Asked Questions: https://www.osha.gov/confinedspaces/faq.html

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NFPA 350 Update - Guide for Safe Confined Space Entry and Work

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Just a couple of weeks ago at a meeting in Florida, the final public comment revisions were made to NFPA’s new Confined Space Guide (NFPA 350). The document now goes before the NFPA Board for final approval. If all goes well, the new standard may be available next year.

Back in August 2013, we first made you aware of the proposed NFPA 350 document regarding working in and around confined spaces. (Read original post here) Designed as a “best practices guide,” it goes further in explaining what needs to be done to protect workers who make entry or work around confined spaces. We also made the draft document available on our website and encouraged your input, which many of you did. 

NFPA 350 will be an excellent resource for larger companies and municipalities with well-established permit systems, as well as smaller organizations that may not totally understand what is needed to safely work in and around confined spaces. Hopefully, this guide will fill-in some of the gaps or questions that arise when deciphering OSHA 1910.146 (Permit-Required Confined Spaces) as well as provide a better understanding of identifying hazards, ventilation, control measures, atmospheric monitoring, rescue requirements and rescue team qualifications, just to mention a few.

So, to all of you who participated by providing public comments, our hats off to you for taking an active role in providing a best practices guide to help protect others that do a dangerous job!

NOTE: Once finalized, we will update you on some of the unique perspectives of the document. Topics such as the practice of considering every space as hazardous; then, either clearing it, or writing the required permits to allow entry. Stand-by for future updates!
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WH Completes Review of OSHA's Confined Spaces in Construction

Friday, April 10, 2015

Washington – On April 3, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) completed its review of OSHA's Confined Spaces in Construction Standard, paving the way for the final rule to move forward. The rule (29 CFR 1926.36) has been in the works for more than a decade. An OIRA review is one of the last steps a federal agency must take before it can publish a final rule. According to OSHA's timetable, the confined spaces final rule was originally scheduled for publication in March.

In 1993, OSHA issued a general industry rule to protect employees who enter confined spaces while engaged in general industry work (29 CFR 1910.146). This standard has not been extended to cover employees entering confined spaces while engaged in construction work because of unique characteristics of construction work sites. Pursuant to discussions with the United Steel Workers of America that led to a settlement agreement regarding the general industry standard, OSHA agreed to issue a proposed rule to protect construction workers in confined spaces.

Source: Membership News Alert from National Safety Council

UPDATE: Roco is hearing that a final ruling will be released within the next 6 weeks. As soon as the information is provided, we will be sure to post for you!

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