Entries tagged with “confined spaces”.

There is a lot of confusion over confined spaces in construction. OSHA is enforcing these rules since Aug 3, 2015, but has given a 60 day postponement (effective Oct 2, 2015). Right now you need to make “good faith efforts” to comply. For those in construction, you need to get up to speed, and even more importantly, get confident. Unfortunately, this information isn’t going to get you 100% there.

The reason confined spaces (and the rules) are so complicated is because every space is different. It’s not a minimum height guard rail, or fall arrest system. There are just too many factors, including: death by honey

  • the size (or smallness)
  • the ventilation (or lack of)
  • access (or lack of)
  • the work activity (what you introduce)
  • the hazards (before you enter, and what you introduce)
  • the people inside (people are different, and work different)

To begin getting educated, here are my suggestions:

  • Know the definition of (and when it’s) a confined space (hint: 3 things)
  • Know the location(s) of your confined spaces (AND mark them as such)
  • Train your employees and yourself
  • Buy a multi-gas meter
    • And, know how to use it, bump it, and calibrate it
    • And, train others
  • Know: host employer, controlling contractor, sub contractor, mobile worker. It may not be obvious.
  • Know: ventilation. When you can use it,  what changes, and how much you need
  • Understand “rescue”.  And, the answer is not calling 911.

When an accident happens in a confined space, there’s a high likelihood it’s a fatality.

If you have confidence in the rules, and, more importantly, in the hazards & controls, confined spaces can be safe.

If you weren’t aware, OSHA is in the process  of establishing a ‘new’ rule (could be years) for confined spaces in construction (here).

In the meantime, if you plan on entering a space that is confined, below is my “standard” answer: Get help!

What I mean by this is; obtain some assistance as early as you can. Ideally this might even be before you bid the job. I often suggest to  send a superintendent or project manager to a 1/2 day training. Do not rely on the owner, or your general contractor to “safely approve” your employees entering this space. It is your job!

Although confined spaces are simple by definition (restricted opening, large enough to be in, and not meant to be occupied) , they can get  complicated easily. The first thing to consider is what is/was in the space. Secondly, what are you bringing into it? If those two questions are answered completely, the dangers are usually identified.

When reviewing, consider: electrical, oxygen, engulfment, entrapment, access (ingress & egress), coatings, noise, slips, temperature and emergency response (this is NOT an exhaustive list).

There are many other items and steps to have a well-run confined space program. Take a class, know the space, and train your employees. There are many resources at Federal OSHA and at your state OSHA, like Washington here, or like this one from Oregon.