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Monday, July 20, 2015

Confined Spaces In Construction Goes Into Effect August 3, 2015

On August 3, 2015 the new Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard Subpart AA confined spaces in construction goes into effect (1926.1200-1213).  This standard is very similar to the confined space standard in general industry (1910.146).  OSHA recently announced that enforcement of the new standard is being postponed until October 2 to allow additional time for the construction industry to train workers and purchase equipment.  OSHA will not issue citations to employers making a good faith effort to comply with the standard.  Factors OSHA will consider if an employer is making a good faith effort to comply are:
  1. If the employer has not trained its employees as required under the new standard, whether the employer has scheduled such training,
  2. 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
  3. Whether the employer has engaged in any additional efforts to educate workers about confined space hazards and protect workers from those hazards.
The standard does not apply to construction work regulated by:
  1. Subpart P Excavations.
  2. Subpart S Underground construction, caisson, cofferdams, & compressed air
  3. Subpart Y Diving
The standard requires the employer to comply with this standard and any other provisions that are required in other standards that apply to confined space hazards (i.e., welding).

Like most standards it begins with definitions (1926.1202).  Most of them are again similar to the general industry standard.  For example the definition of a confined space means a space that:
  1. Is large enough & so configured that an employee can bodily enter it;
  2. Has limited or restricted means for entry and exit; and
  3. Is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.
Confined Space Testing & Monitoring in Brooklyn
However, some of the more interesting changes entail the difference between construction and general industry.  For example the definition for a "Controlling Contractor" is the employer that has overall responsibility for construction at the worksite.  There is a note attached to this definition which indicates if the controlling contractor owns or manages the property, then it is both a controlling employer and a host employer. 

Entry employer means any employer who decides that an employee it directs will enter a permit space. The note on this definition warns that the employer cannot avoid the duties of this standard by refusing to decide.  OSHA will consider the failure to so decide to be an implicit decision to allow employees to enter those spaces if they are working in the proximity of the space.

The standard defines host employer as the employer that owns or manages the property where the construction work is taking place.  This definition also has a note that states if the owner of the property on which construction activity occurs has contracted with an entity for the general management of that property, and has transferred to that entity the information specified in 1203(h)(1), OSHA will treat the contracted management entity as the host employer for as long as that entity manages the property.  Otherwise, OSHA will treat the owner of the property as the host employer.  In no case will there be more than one host employer.

The general requirement of the standard requires each employer (host employer, controlling contractor, & entry employer) must ensure that a competent person identifies all confined spaces…and identifies each space that is a permit space, through consideration and evaluation of the elements of that space, including testing as necessary.  

Two interesting sections of the standard are 1926.1203(h) which dictates Permit Space Entry Communication & Coordination and 1926.1211 which dictates Rescue & Emergency Services.  Permit Space Entry Communication & Coordination (Section 1926.1203(h)) spells out what is expected in the communication and coordination between the host employer, controlling contractor and the entry employer. While the Rescue & Emergency Services (1926.1211) spells out the requirements for an emergency/rescue service entity (1926.1211(a)) or if the entry employer will designate employees to provide permit space rescue and/or emergency services (1926.1211(b)).

According to OSHA this new standard will improve safety and protect nearly 800 construction workers a year from serious injuries and reduce life-threatening hazards.  Training requirements for entrants, attendants, and supervisors are relatively the same as the general industry standard.  Give us a call and we can provide this training, at your location or ours.

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