OSHA Seeks Comments on Confined Space Rule

OSHA, in the Nov. 28 Federal Register, published a proposed rule that would provide construction workers with more protections when working in confined spaces.

“The existing construction standard for confined spaces would be updated and comprehensively revised to better protect construction employees from atmospheric and physical hazards,” said OSHA Administrator Edwin Foulke Jr. of the proposed rule, which has been in the works for the past 14 years. “This rule will reduce the number of construction injuries and fatalities and greatly improve safety and health in the workplace.”

The proposed rule addresses construction-specific issues and uses a comprehensive, step-by-step approach to confined space safety by setting out how to assess the hazards, classify the space, and implement effective procedures to protect employees. The proposed rule would require controlling contractors to coordinate confined space operations among a site’s multiple employers.

The rule lists four classifications of confined space for construction workers:

  • A Continuous System-Permit-Required Confined Space (CS-PRCS) is a confined space that is a part of, and contiguous with, a larger confined space (such as sewers) that the employer cannot isolate from the larger confined space. It is also subject to a potential hazard release from the larger confined space that would overwhelm personal protective equipment and/or hazard controls, resulting in a hazard that is immediately dangerous to life and health.
  • A Permit-Required Confined Space (PRCS) is a confined space that has any one of the following: a hazardous atmosphere that ventilation will not reduce to and maintain at a safe level; inwardly-converging, sloping or tapering surfaces that could trap or asphyxiate an employee; or an engulfment hazard or other physical hazard.
  • A Controlled-Atmosphere Confined Space (CACS) is a confined space where ventilation alone will control its atmospheric hazards at safe levels.
  • An Isolated-Hazard Confined Space (IHCS) is a confined space in which the employer has isolated all physical and atmospheric hazards. "Isolated" means the elimination or removal of a physical or atmospheric hazard by preventing its release into a confined space.

OSHA will accept public comments on the proposed standard until Jan. 28, 2008.

OSHA: Rule was Needed

According to OSHA, a new rule was needed because the general industry confined space rule issued in 1993 did not address unique characteristics inherent to the construction industry such as high employee turnover rates and continuously evolving worksites, with the number and characteristics of confined spaces changing as work progresses.

In addition, multiple contractors and controlling contractors are found more often at construction worksites than at general industry worksites. And unlike in general industry, OSHA said it “believes that many contractors who perform construction work in sewer systems are unfamiliar with the hazards associated with these worksites.”

Comments may be submitted electronically at http://www.regulations.gov, the Federal eRulemaking Portal. Send three copies to:

OSHA Docket Office
Room N-2625
U.S. Department of Labor
200 Constitution Ave., N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20210
phone: 202-693-2350
fax: 202-693-1648

Comments must include the agency name and the docket number of this rulemaking, Docket No. OSHA-2007-0026. See the Federal Register notice for more information on submitting comments.

TAGS: Archive OSHA
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