OSHA Postpones Full Enforcement of Confined Spaces Rule

By Roy Maurer Jul 15, 2015

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced that it is postponing full enforcement of the new confined spaces in construction standard to Oct. 2, 2015, in response to industry requests for additional time to train and acquire the equipment necessary for compliance. The standard becomes effective Aug. 3, 2015.

During the 60-day “soft” enforcement period between Aug. 3 and Oct. 2, OSHA will not issue citations to employers who make good-faith efforts to comply with the new standard.

“Employers must be in compliance with either the training requirements of the new standard or the previous standard. Employers who fail to train their employees consistent with either of these two standards will be cited,” the agency said.

Good-faith efforts include scheduling training for employees as required by the new standard, ordering the equipment necessary to comply with the new standard and taking alternative measures to educate and protect employees from confined space hazards.

OSHA issued the final rule on May 4, 2015. It provides construction workers with protections similar to those that have been in place for general industry workers since 1993, with some modifications tailored to the construction industry.

These include requirements to ensure that employers share vital safety information on multiemployer worksites, continuously monitor for atmospheric and engulfment hazards, and evaluate the worksite to determine what kinds of 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.

The rule clarified that the controlling contractor, rather than the host employer, is the primary point of contact for information about permit spaces at the worksite. At sites where both OSHA’s general industry and its construction industry confined spaces regulations apply, employers must adhere to the construction industry regulations.

Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health David Michaels said that the emphasis in the rule is on training, continuous worksite evaluation and communication. The agency estimates that the rule will prevent 780 serious injuries and save the lives of five construction workers each year.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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