Engineering firms that provide onsite services now have an additional 60 days to ensure compliance with OSHA’s new confined spaces regulations. What does your firm need to do to avoid penalties?
Each year, approximately 800 people incur serious injuries, and 90 more individuals, die as a result of construction site accidents in confined spaces. Most casualties involve asphyxiation from toxic fumes, electrocution, and engulfment. Areas like crawlspaces, underground utility infrastructure, and tanks are particularly dangerous since they typically have one point of ingress/egress, and their design does not account for human occupancy. To improve protections for those who work in confined spaces on construction sites, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) developed new standards, including training, provision of safety equipment, credentialing, and other policy and procedures. While these regulations go into effect on August 3, 2015, OSHA recently announced a 60-day temporary enforcement policy to give employers more time to provide the training mandated by the new standards. OSHA’s full enforcement of the new rules begins October 2, 2015
Special Safety Considerations for Confined Spaces on Construction Sites
Even though OSHA already has confined space regulations for manufacturing and general industry, these standards do not address the challenges faced by those working in confined spaces on construction sites. For example, communication among the different employers on a project is essential to ensure safety in confined spaces since the work site is constantly evolving, which is not the case in other settings. With set standards for training and safety equipment, contractors and subcontractors are less likely to have conflicting policies and procedures.
Avoiding Penalties During the Temporary Enforcement Period
OSHA’s temporary enforcement policy is not an excuse to delay developing and implementing new policies, processes, and practices to comply with the new standards. To avoid sanctions and fines during the temporary enforcement period, engineering firms offering onsite services need to demonstrate they are making a “good faith effort” to meet the new confined space standards. OSHA looks for the following evidence as proof that an employer is working to meet the new standards:
- Scheduling workforce training addressing safety in confined spaces
- Ordering environmental monitoring, communication, and safety equipment
- Implementing policies and practices to reduce the hazards of working in confined spaces.
Tools for Ensuring Compliance with New Regulations
Some of the tools offered by OSHA and others to develop new safety policies and procedures for those who work in confined spaces on construction sites include:
- Facts sheets addressing particular areas of concern for specific types of confined spaces, such as crawl spaces and attics, pits, and sewer systems.
- Case Studies
- Answers to common questions about the new regulations
- A sample of safety policies and procedures for work in confined spaces on construction sites
What safety measures does your engineering firm practice take to protect those who work in confined spaces on contruction sites?