Tuesday, September 15, 2015

OSHA Enforcement of New Confined Spaces Rule Begins This October

OSHA training will keep your employees up to date
The new regulations define attics as confined spaces.

OSHA Changes Classification of Confined Spaces

Contractors across the country are preparing to change the way they work: in just a couple of weeks, a new OSHA regulation will become enforceable. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration often reviews and updates existing laws, and on October 2nd will enforce new regulations for contractors working in confined spaces. The ruling, which expands the definition of confined spaces to include attics and crawlspaces, will ask that employers carefully document their awareness of safety hazards in order to protect workers. By requiring them to write permits every time they enter a closed space, the rule will ensure that everyone on a job site understands what is going on and is prepared to work safely and efficiently.

Under this new rule, employees must be trained on confined spaces before working in a qualifying space - and as with all OSHA regulations, violators will face steep fines. While the training is not arduous, it can mean the difference between life and death for workers who will enter attics, tunnels, or other small workplaces. Recent worker deaths in attics highlighted the unusually prominent risks of electrocutions, explosions, inhalation of toxic substances, asphyxiation, and fire in these spaces.

"This rule will save lives of construction workers,” explained Dr. David Michaels, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. “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.” According to OSHA estimates, enforcing the regulation will prevent nearly 800 serious injuries per year - a significant number for a rule with relatively few requirements.

In order to prevent those injuries, employers must now fulfill pre-entry requirements. After a competent person inspects the space contractors will identify safety needs, test the air, remove hazards, implement controls and protections, and determine rescue procedures before putting anyone at risk. Tom Skaggs, chairman of the health committee at the Mechanical Contractors Association of America, explains that this new regulation “changes the way mechanical construction contractors approach confined space safety” - in order to protect workers, it’ll be important to think carefully and thoroughly about how to work.

Make sure you are in compliance with the new OSHA standards! 

Avoid fines and protect your employees with the OSHA Confined Space Awareness training. Worksites will also need at least one person who has taken the Competent Person training to inspect the workspace. Confined Space Permit Entry training may also be required if the confined space contains a serious health or safety hazard.