A Separate Standard for Confined Spaces in Construction
On January 14, 1993 the First Rule for Permit-Required Confined Spaces was published in the Federal Register. It went into effect on April 15, 1993, and applies to all general industry places of employment, including Manufacturing, Utilities and Transportation, Agricultural services, Food Stores Wholesale Trade, Lodging, Museums, Health Services, and Zoos amongst others.
OSHA published a separate standard for confined spaces in construction on May 4th 2015 due to the specialized conditions many construction workplaces face. In construction environments a workspace may qualify as “confined” due to the way in which it’s configuration may impede the way employees’ must enter, work in and/or exit them. This ruling by OSHA is now recognizing that these areas are confined spaces as well.
These regulations are as important to someone who works in a process vessel and generally must squeeze in and out through constricted openings and perform their duties while restricted or contorted as it is to those who are at greater risk of exposure to serious hazards. Dangers can range from entrapment to asphyxiating atmospheres, to close proximity to moving machinery.
The leading cause of death in confined spaces is asphyxiation and generally resulted from exposure to toxic atmospheres or oxygen deficiency. Many confined spaces are not well ventilated, increasing the creation of toxic and/or oxygen-deficient atmospheres.
What defines a permit-required confined space?
- May contain a hazardous or potentially hazardous atmosphere.
- May contain a material which can engulf an entrant.
- May contain walls that converge inward or floors that slope downward and taper into a smaller area which could trap or asphyxiate an entrant.
- May contain other serious physical hazards such as unguarded machines or exposed live wires.
- Must be identified by the employer who must inform exposed employees of the existence and location of such spaces and their hazards.
This permit requirement may not be permanent. The workspace can be reclassified if the hazards affecting the space are permanently eliminated.
What is required of the employer?
Generally speaking, the Permit-Required Confined Spaces Standard for construction requires that the employer performs an evaluation of the workplace, determining if there are any permit-required confined spaces. If those spaces exist and the employees are authorized to enter them, than a comprehensive permit spaces program must be developed and implemented. This would act as an overall plan/policy that limits entry into permit spaces and protects workers from the hazards in the permit spaces.
Sourced from Industrial Safety & Hygiene News (ISHN). Learn more about enforcement statistics, the procedures for atmospheric testing, and where to find compliance assistance in ISHN’s article “OSHA Permit-required confined space 1910.146”.