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Confined Space Regulations for the Construction Industry - Not Just for Excavation Anymore!

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Do you have employees that work in small spaces that are hard to get into and out of?  If so, you could be subject to new OSHA regulations effective in August 2015.

On May 4, 2015, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) released new regulations regarding confined spaces in the construction industry.  Effective on August 3, 2015, they impose significant new requirements on many construction sites, including work involving buildings, highways, bridges, tunnels, utility lines, and other types of projects.  Also potentially affected are general contractors, as well as specialty-trade construction contractors and employers engaged in some types of residential construction work.  Click HERE to see the new regulations.

The new standard replaces a single 1979 training provision with a broad array of obligations.  These include identification and assessment of confined spaces, hazard analysis, protocols for entering, working in and exiting from confined spaces, rescue procedures and more detailed training requirements.  Employers encountering confined spaces also have new documentation requirements and the need for a written permit program consistent with OSHA guidelines.

Although OSHA asserts that the regulations will result in a net cost savings because of fewer injuries, it has acknowledged that compliance will be expensive.  Primary drivers of these costs include new training, evaluating and exchanging information about confined spaces, atmospheric monitoring, establishing rescue capability, preparing written programs and permits, and providing ventilation and hazard isolation.

While certain aspects of construction, such as underground construction, diving, and excavations, have been subject to confined space regulation for some time, these new regulations represent a dramatic increase in regulatory scrutiny for the rest of the industry.  Businesses providing these services should carefully review and evaluate these regulations in light of their own operations and potential exposures.

Steptoe & Johnson has dedicated Construction and Workplace Safety Teams ready to help guide you through these new regulations.

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