The voluntary consensus standard, which was approved on July 27, 2009, with an effective date of November 2, 2009, establishes minimum safety requirements to follow while entering, exiting and working in confined spaces at normal atmospheric pressure. It does not pertain to underground mining, tunneling, caisson work, intentionally inert confined spaces or other similar tasks that have established national consensus standards.
During committee revision meetings regarding the 2003 version of the standard, the Z117 Accredited Standards Committee (ASC) reviewed current available data and information addressing confined space incidents, and noted that evidence suggests that the cause of death associated with confined space entry has not changed appreciably during recent years.
According to the Z117 ASC, a review of 200 confined space fatality cases from the OSHA database occurring between 1993 and 2004 confirmed that the distribution of causes had not changed to any significant degree. The committee also noted that approximately 65 percent of incidents with fatalities involved atmospheric contamination and engulfment accounted for less than 10 percent of the identified causes. However, the fatality cases in this sampling do not represent all U.S. confined space incidents resulting in fatalities.
The aim of the newly revised Z117 standard is to provide for the minimum performance requirements necessary in developing and implementing a comprehensive confined space program for the protection of workers.
ASSE will offer a webcast to discuss the revisions on September 30, 2009.