Confined Spaces in Construction Standard

Confined spaces, such as manholes, tanks, or sewers, are work areas that are not designed for continuous occupancy and may be difficult to exit in the event of an emergency. On May 4, 2015, OSHA issued a final rule to increase protection for construction workers in confined spaces.

What is a confined space?

As defined by OSHA, a confined space has:

  • Limited means of entry and/or exit
  • Is large enough for a worker to enter it
  • Is not intended for regular/continuous occupancy

What are examples of locations where confined spaces may occur during home construction?

Examples of locations in home building where confined spaces may include, but are not limited to: manholes, sewer systems, stormwater drains, water mains, crawl spaces, attics, heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) ducts, and pits.

What is a permit required confined space?

A permit required confined space is a space that may have a hazardous atmosphere, engulfment hazard, or other serious hazard, such as exposed wiring, that can interfere with a worker's ability to leave the space without assistance. Only workers assigned and trained to work in a permit required confined space may do so. A permit specifying safety measures and names of those permitted in the space must be written before any work can take place. Employers are also required to develop a written confined space program if workers will enter permit required confined spaces.

How does the new final rule differ from the rules that previously applied to construction work performed in confined spaces?

The rule requires employers to determine what kinds of confined spaces their workers are in, what hazards could be there, how those hazards should be made safe, what training workers should receive, and how to rescue those workers if anything goes wrong.

If I am a general contractor and hire a subcontractor to do work in a confined space do I have any responsibilities?

Yes, home builders, or controlling contractors as OSHA labels them, must discuss permit required confined spaces on the site and their hazards with employers who must enter permit required spaces (entry employers), as well as each other before and after entering the space.

The rule makes the controlling contractor the primary point of contact for information about permit spaces at the work site. The controlling contractor, passes information it has about permit confined spaces at the work site on to the employers whose employees will enter the spaces (entry employers). Likewise, entry employers must give the controlling contractor information about their entry program and hazards they encounter in the space, and the controlling contractor passes that information on to other entry employers. The controlling contractor is also responsible for making sure employers outside a space know not to create hazards in the space, and that entry employers working in a space at the same time do not create hazards for one another’s workers.

When does the new rule go into effect?

Aug. 3, 2015

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