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OSHA Issues Final Rule on Confined Spaces in Construction

By Steve Parascandola and Megan Black

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has issued its long-awaited final rule on construction work in confined spaces. Beginning August 3, 2015, the new confined spaces in construction standard will replace OSHA’s sole provision requiring basic training with a more comprehensive standard providing construction workers with protections similar to workers in manufacturing and general industry.  

The new construction standard contains a number of requirements applicable to employers and workers engaged in construction activities at worksites with one or more confined spaces (such as manholes, bins, boilers, HVAC ducts, crawl spaces, tanks and pits). While similar to the general industry confined spaces standard, the new construction standard includes some differences tailored to the construction industry, such as detailed requirements to ensure that multiple employers at a worksite coordinate activities and share vital safety information. Specifically, the new rules require coordination among property owners and managers ("host employers”), general contractors (“controlling contractors”) and subcontractors (“entry employers”).  

The new construction standard also requires employers to, among other things: 

  • assess work sites to identify and evaluate confined spaces;
  • train workers on the location and hazards of permit-required confined spaces;
  • maintain a written confined space program, if workers will enter permit-required confined spaces; 
  • eliminate or control hazards in confined spaces;
  • continually monitor confined spaces for hazards, including atmospheric and engulfment hazards; and
  • ensure that unauthorized workers do not enter permit-required confined spaces.  

With the August 3 effective date quickly approaching, property owners and managers, general contractors, subcontractors and others involved in construction would be well-advised to familiarize themselves with the new standard. The confined spaces in construction standard and additional information can be found on OSHA’s Confined Spaces in Construction website. 

Read other recent OSHA related articles, Strategies for Avoiding Multi-Employer Liability or OSHA Expands Reporting and Recordkeeping Requirements.

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