The confined spaces standard applying to general industries regulated by OSHA had long been the standard that also applied to construction. But on August 3, 2015, a new standard specific to construction became effective.
Why was the new standard created? According to Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, “This rule will save lives of construction workers. Unlike most general industry work sites, construction sites are continually evolving, with the number and characteristics of confined spaces changing as work progresses.” In fact, OSHA predicts the new rule will prevent 780 serious injuries and save the lives of five construction workers each year.
What defines a confined space? The new rule applies to any space that meets the following criteria:
Furthermore, the confined space requires a permit if any of the following is true:
How is this rule different from the general industry rule? Naturally, the construction rule has much in common with the general industry rule. But the new rule focuses more closely on hazards that often exist specifically within the construction industry, such as low oxygen or the existence of explosive or toxic gases, vapors, or fumes. Some of the differences contained in the rule are:
The confined spaces standard for construction, in the words of Dr. Michaels, “emphasizes training, continuous work site evaluation, and communication requirements to further protect workers’ safety and health.”
For more information and compliance assistance materials, please see OSHA’s Confined Spaces page at www.osha.gov/confinedspaces/.