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New Final Rule for Confined Spaces in Construction

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In May 2015, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced a new final rule for confined spaces in construction (the upcoming 29 CFR 1926, Subpart AA standard). This final rule brings standards for working in confined spaces in construction into alignment with permit-required confined spaces in manufacturing and general industry.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 33 fatalities related to confined spaces in 2013, with six of those fatalities occurring in Texas.

The new rule went into effect on August 3, 2015, and requires employers to determine the following:

  • What kinds of spaces their employees work in;
  • What hazards exist for those spaces;
  • How those hazards should be made safe;
  • What training employees should receive; and
  • How to rescue those employees if anything goes wrong.

There are five key differences between the general industry rule and the new construction rule, as well as several areas where OSHA has clarified existing requirements in the general industry standard.

The five new requirements for the construction rule include the following:

  • More detailed provisions requiring coordinated activities when there are multiple employers at the worksite;
  • Requiring a competent person to evaluate the worksite and identify confined spaces, including permit spaces;
  • Requiring continuous atmospheric monitoring whenever possible;
  • Requiring continuous monitoring of engulfment hazards; and
  • 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.

In addition, OSHA has added provisions to the new rule that clarifies existing requirements in the general industry standard. These include:

  • Requiring that employers who direct employees to enter a space without using a complete permit system prevent employees’ exposure to physical hazards through elimination of the hazard or isolation methods such as lockout/tagout;
  • Requiring that employers who are relying on local emergency services arrange for responders to give the employer advance notice if they will be unable to respond for a period of time; and
  • Requiring employers to provide training in a language and vocabulary that the employee understands.

Several terms have also been added to the definitions for the construction rule, such as “entry employer” to describe the employer who directs employees to enter a space, and “entry rescue,” added to clarify the differences in the types of rescue employers can use.

OSHA Issues Temporary Enforcement Policy for Confined Spaces in Construction

OSHA - Confined Spaces

OSHA - Confined Spaces / New Final Rule

Other Resources

National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) - Confined Spaces

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Last updated: 7/14/2017