We are talking about the safety issues that come with working in a confined space. In August, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration released a final rule addressing confined spaces. The agency has also issued a guide to help employers implement the new regulation. As we said in our last post, employees whose jobs involve a confined space should review the guide as well.
A confined space is inherently dangerous, but the risk increases when toxic or explosive gases build up. Rescue from a confined space can be difficult and may put both the victim and the rescuer at risk. OSHA’s goal is to teach employers how to prevent injuries, how to minimize the dangers of a confined space and how to handle an emergency.
The first step, of course, is to evaluate the confined spaces that employees work in and to identify any existing or potential hazards they could face. What they are looking for is a real risk of injury, death, acute illness, entrapment or incapacitation, or the chance that a worker could have difficulty leaving the space in an emergency. In any of those circumstances, OSHA considers the space a “permit-required confined space,” or a permit space.
Once space has been identified as a permit space, the employer must determine what precautions must be taken during all phases of work in the permit space — that is, safeguards that the workers must take before starting the job, during the job and when the task is completed. It’s important to remember that an employee must be able to protect both himself and others.
To ensure that workers take all of these steps and understand the hazards they, their coworkers or their rescuers may be facing, the employer must also provide training. Finally, the employer must have a rescue plan, must know how to rescue an injured worker quickly and safely.
We’ll wrap this up in our next post.
Source: Occupational Health and Safety Administration Protecting Construction Workers in Confined Spaces: Small Entity Compliance Guide, Protecting Construction Workers in Confined Spaces: Small Entity Compliance Guide, September 2015