OSHA’s New Construction Subpart for Confined Spaces

OSHA has issued a new standard for construction work in confined spaces, which will be effective August 3, 2015*.  The new standard, Subpart AA of 29 CFR 1926, will help prevent construction workers from being hurt or killed by eliminating and isolating hazards in confined spaces at construction sites similar to the way workers in other industries are already protected.

How does the new rule differ from the rules that previously applied to construction work in confined spaces?

The rule requires employers to classify spaces their workers are in, identify potential hazards of the space, and how those hazards should be eliminated, what training workers should receive, and how to rescue those workers if anything goes wrong.

What is different between the General Industry Rule and the new Construction Rule?

There are 5 key differences from the existing General Industry rule:

  1. Detailed provisions requiring coordinated activities on multiple employer worksites to ensure hazards are not introduced into a confined space by workers performing tasks outside the space.
  2. A competent person must evaluate the work site and identify confined spaces, including permit spaces.
  3. Continuous atmospheric monitoring whenever possible.
  4. Continuous monitoring of engulfment hazards.
  5. Suspension of a permit, instead of cancellation, in the event of changes from the entry conditions listed 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.

Additional provisions to clarify existing requirements in the General Industry standard include:

  1. Employers who direct workers to enter a space without using a complete permit system must prevent workers’ exposure to physical hazards through elimination or isolation methods, such as lockout/tagout.
  2. If using local emergency services for responders, they need to notify the employer in advance 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. 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.

Where can I find more information?
Visit OSHA’s Confined Spaces webpage at: https://www.osha.gov/confinedspaces/index.html for additional information.

* OSHA has announced a 60 day delay in enforcement to ease employers into full compliance. This delay comes in response to requests for additional time to train and acquire the equipment necessary to comply with the new standard. Between August 3rd and October 2nd, construction employers will not be cited for violating the new standard if they are making a “good faith” effort to comply and are in compliance with training requirements under the new or old standard. According to OSHA, good faith efforts include scheduling training for employees, ordering necessary equipment to comply with the new standard, and taking alternative measures to protect employees from confined spaces.

Please contact the J.W. Terrill Loss Control Department at losscontrol@jwterrill.com with any questions.

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