Confined Spaces in Construction

July 2015

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) has issued a new standard for construction work in confined spaces.  The new standard applies to all construction work in a confined space and is effective August 3, 2015.

OSHA’s definition of a confined space is a space that is large enough and so configured that an employee can bodily enter it; has limited or restricted means for entry and exit; and is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.  Common spaces may include but are not limited to:

Bins                                          Boilers                   Pits                            Manholes                  Tanks

Incinerators                            Scrubbers             Water Mains            Storm Drains             A/C and Heating Ducts

Transformer Vaults                Vessels                 Digesters                  Lift stations               Preformed Manhole Units

OSHA’s requirements depend on the work being performed.  In all cases the employer must identify confined spaces through an evaluation.  If there is no entry into confined spaces they must at a minimum be identified, then the employer must notify employees and prevent entry into any confined space.

For confined space entry the employer must develop a written program that meets OSHA’s 1926.1204 and is implemented. 1926.1204 provides all the written program requirements and should be tailored to the employer’s work activities. It must include safe entry procedures based on the type of confined space and work being performed.

In addition to the entry requirements employers need to make arrangements for confined space entry in the event a non-entry rescue fails.  Listing 911 for rescue without any prior communication does not meet the new standard. 1926.1211 provides the requirements to evaluate and prepare the rescue service for a rescue situation.

The rule makes the controlling contractor, rather than the host employer, the primary point of contact for information about permit spaces at the work site. The host employer must provide information it has about permit spaces at the work site to the controlling contractor, who then passes it on to the employers whose employees will enter the spaces (entry employers).

This is brief introduction to OSHA’s Confined Spaces in Construction; see https://www.osha.gov/confinedspaces/index.html for the entire OSHA standard for confined space entry.