Construction Law

Don’t Get Trapped By Confined Spaces Hazards featured image

Don’t Get Trapped By Confined Spaces Hazards

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, approximately 1,030 construction workers died from occupational injuries involving a confined space from 2011 to 2018. These fatal occupational injuries included engulfment in collapsing material, fall to lower levels, trench collapse, exposure to environmental heat, inhalation of a harmful substance, and more. What these tragedies expose time and time again is that employers must take great precautions to protect their workers from some of the most common hazards associated with entering, working in, and exiting confined spaces.

If your company has been issued a violation for failing to comply with OSHA's confined space standards, it’s absolutely critical that you reach out to a Michigan OSHA defense attorney as soon as possible.

Related: Are You Prepared to Protect Workers in Confined Spaces

Confined Space vs. Permit Space

Generally speaking, there’s two main types of spaces you need to be aware of when it comes to keeping workers safe: confined spaces and permit spaces. Essentially, a permit space is a confined space which contains a serious hazard, such as an engulfment hazard, exposed wiring, or a hazardous atmosphere. To be classified as a confined space (a normal confined space or a permit space), the area must meet the following characteristics:

    • The area is large enough for a worker to enter it
    • The area has limited or restricted means of entry and/or exit
    • The area is not intended for regular or extended periods of continuous occupancy

You can tell if an area has limited or restricted means of entry/exit if it requires the use of a ladder, has a door that’s difficult to open, requires the worker to crawl over pipes, or simply necessitates that the worker travel a long distance to a point of safety. Some common examples of confined spaces on jobsites include manholes, pits, utility pipelines, tanks, stormwater drains, boilers, and crawl spaces.

Confined Space Risk Assessment

A great way to mitigate the risks associated with working in a confined space and perform your due diligence under 29 CFR 1910.146 is to conduct a thorough confined space risk assessment for each confined space your workers are going to be working in. During this assessment, you’ll evaluate the purpose for entry, identify physical or atmospheric hazards, develop and implement an entry program, and eliminate, control, or otherwise protect all workers from hazards identified within the confined space prior to entry. This entails both written and verbally communicated protocols to identify entry and exit barriers, rescue procedures, standby workers, ventilation systems in place, and information regarding required PPE.

Related: OSHA’s New Confined Spaces Rule

Rescue Plan

Once you’ve identified permit-required spaces and hazards, ensured all of your workers are thoroughly trained, acquired the proper equipment, and followed strict procedures for evaluation of the area, it’s time to consider your confined space rescue plan. This means that prior to beginning work on the project, you should develop and implement procedures for summoning emergency or rescue services. This process will include evaluating prospective emergency responders and selecting one that has adequate equipment, ability to respond in a timely manner, and access to enter all permit-required confined spaces. Ideally, the emergency responder you choose should be trained for any of the hazards you have identified in your risk assessment. If you need any further assistance evaluating the hazards associated with work in confined spaces and developing confined space entry procedures, contact a Michigan OSHA defense lawyer.

If you would like to speak with a Michigan OSHA defense lawyer, please contact us today.

Sources:

https://www.bls.gov/iif/oshwc/cfoi/confined-spaces-2011-18.htm#:~:text=From%202011%20to%202018%2C%201%2C030,high%20of%20166%20in%202017.&text=Confined%20spaces%20are%20based%20on,and%20Health%20Administration%20(OSHA).

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3825.pdf

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.