Injuries and Illness

Three Clarifications in OSHA’s New Confined Space Rule for Construction

OSHA first proposed a confined spaces rule for the construction industry in 1980—but only finalized its confined spaces in construction rule on May 1, 2015. In the interim, OSHA issued a rule covering confined space entry in general industry (1993) and the shipyard industry (1994). But the new confined space in construction rule does not just import the existing general industry rule into the construction standards. This rule clarifies some requirements that have long been part of the general industry standard.

In addition to the changes discussed below, OSHA has added several terms to the definitions for the construction rule, such as “entry employer” to describe the employer that directs workers to enter a space, and “entry rescue” has been added to clarify the differences in the types of rescue employers can use.

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Three Clarifications

OSHA has added provisions to the new rule that clarify existing requirements in the general industry standard. These affect:

  1. Alternate entry procedures. In order to use the alternate entry procedures (that allow workers to enter a space without complying with the full permit requirements), OSHA specifies that employers must address and prevent workers’ exposure to physical hazards through elimination of the hazard or isolation methods such as lockout/tagout.

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  1. Emergency rescue services. Many employers rely on the local environmental management system (EMS) as their confined space rescue service. The new standard requires that employers that rely 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 (because they are responding to another emergency, attending department-wide training, etc.).
  2. Training. Under the new standard, employers are expressly required to provide training in a language and vocabulary that the worker understands.

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