NAHB Overview of the OSHA Confined Spaces in Construction; Final Rule

Overview of the OSHA Confined Spaces in Construction; Final Rule


On May 4, 2015 the Federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued the Final Rule on Confined Spaces in Construction. Confined spaces, such as manholes, tanks, or sewers, are work areas that are not designed for continuous occupancy and may be difficult to exit in the event of an emergency. OSHA has determined that this new standard (Subpart AA of 29 CFR 1926) will help prevent construction workers from being hurt or killed by eliminating and isolating hazards in confined spaces at construction sites and is expected to prevent 8 fatalities and 812 non-fatal injuries each year.

The requirements of this rule will become effective August 3, 2015.

"This rule will save lives of construction workers. Unlike most general industry worksites, construction sites are continually evolving, with the number and characteristics of confined spaces changing as work progresses. This rule emphasizes training, continuous worksite evaluation and communication requirements to further protect workers’ safety and health."— Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr. David Michaels.

The new rule has a myriad of new requirements and applies to a wide range of employers, including general contractors and it is likely to have an impact on the home building industry because this standard covers people who must work in confined spaces. Although the new confined space in construction standard is similar to the general industry confined space standard, there are some differences between the two. Key provisions of the Confined Spaces in Construction final rule, as it applies to home building, include:

Scope of the Rule - This standard contains the requirements for practices and procedures to protect workers engaged in construction activities at a worksite with one or more confined spaces.

A confined space has;

Limited means of entry and/or exit,

Is large enough for a worker to enter it, and

Is not intended for regular/continuous occupancy.

Examples of locations in home building where confined spaces may include, but are not limited to: manholes, sewer systems, stormwater drains, water mains, crawl spaces, attics, heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) ducts, and pits.

A Permit-required confined space (permit space) has one or more of the following characteristics:

(1)  Contains or has a potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere;

(2)  Contains a material that has the potential for engulfing an entrant;

(3)  Has an internal configuration such that an entrant could be trapped or asphyxiated by inwardly converging walls or by a floor which slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross-section; or

(4)  Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazard.

 NAHB's new Confined Spaces in Construction Toolkit

Confined Spaces Regulation

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