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According to the final data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in its Census of Fatal Occupational Injury data for fiscal 2015, of the 4,836 fatal workplace injuries that year, 136 were associated with confined spaces. While it represents less than three percent of the total, that number is significant because in most cases, such fatalities could be prevented.

According to OSHA, a confined space is an area that is large enough and configured such that an employee or person can bodily enter and perform some type of work; has limited or restricted means for entry or exit; and is not designed for continuous occupancy. Some examples of confined spaces include storage tanks, sewers, manholes, tunnels, ship voids, pipelines, silos, wells, pits and trenches. These also require a permit for entry. In the United States, any pit or trench with a depth equal to or greater than four feet is classified as a permit-required confined space.

Confined spaces, as the term suggests, might also act to harbor hazardous gases. For this reason, regulation number CFR 1910.146(c) subsection (d) states that "There may be no hazardous atmosphere within a space whenever an employee is inside the space." This is where atmospheric sampling is an invaluable tool.

According to OSHA, a hazardous atmosphere is an environment that could expose an employee to the risk of death or incapacitation, injury, or acute illness, or could keep the employee from rescuing him- or herself. That includes flammable gas, vapor or mist; airborne combustible dust; atmospheric oxygen above or below specified thresholds, or any other immediately dangerous atmospheric condition.

The practice of atmospheric testing in confined spaces to gauge potential hazards is hardly new – taking along a caged canary into a coal mine is perhaps the best known example from history.

A subcategory of confined spaces requires a permit in order for workers to operate inside them. Such permit-required confined spaces must have one or more specific characteristics: The first is that they contain hazardous gases. Others are that they contain a material that has the potential for engulfing an entrant, have an internal configuration that could lead to entrapment or asphyxiation, or contain any other recognized serious safety or health hazard. Hazardous gases are classified into three categories: toxic, asphyxiating and flammable or explosive. Confined spaces can present any combination of those atmospheric hazards.

Workplace Safety & Health Co. is equipped to review confined spaces in your facility, determine whether each meets the OSHA criteria for confined space, and if so, whether it should be permit-required.

With our experience in assessing thousands of confined spaces in a wide range of industries, Workplace Safety & Health Co. can help your organization reach a “best practice” level of compliance. Give us a call or visit our website today to learn more.

Tagged in: confined space

OSHA announced in July it will not issue citations to employers who make good faith efforts to comply with a new Construction Confined Space Rule until Oct. 2.

"The agency is postponing full enforcement of the new standard to Oct. 2, 2015, in response to requests for additional time to train and acquire the equipment necessary to comply with the new standard," an OSHA announcement stated. "During this 60-day temporary enforcement period, 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 announcement also spells out what factors OSHA will accept as indicating employers are making good-faith efforts to comply, stating that these factors "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."

The final rule – issued May 4 – is similar to the OSHA general industry standard. A major difference is that the construction standard will require employers on multi-employer sites to share vital safety information and to continuously monitor hazards.

Read entire article - https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=NEWS_RELEASES&p_id=28236

Tagged in: confined space OSHA

OSHA recently published a new document in its Fatal Facts series. Titled Asphyxiation in a Sewer Line, the document emphasizes employers’ responsibilities to protect workers from confined space hazards while working in sewer line manholes. The document includes references to the new Confined Spaces in Construction Standard that takes effect on Aug. 3, 2015.

OSHA uses the term “fatal facts” to describe cases that are representative of employers who failed to identify and correct hazardous working conditions leading to fatalities at their worksites. The fact sheets offer ideas on how to correct these hazards and educate workers about safe work practices. The Asphyxiation in a Sewer Line fact document is based on a case in which a construction worker suffocated after entering a manhole. OSHA says the worker died from asphyxiation after entering a manhole with an uncontrolled hazardous atmosphere.
According to OSHA, although the manhole was newly constructed and was not yet connected to an active sewer system at the time of the incident, it contained a hazardous atmosphere that led to asphyxiation. The employer had not ensured that atmospheric hazards were identified and precautions for safe operations implemented before starting work at the site.

Additionally, OSHA says that:
-Workers were not trained to recognize confined space hazards and to take appropriate protective measures.
-The atmosphere in the manhole was not assessed to determine if conditions were acceptable before or during entry.
-Proper ventilation was not used to control atmospheric hazards in the manhole.
-Protective and emergency equipment was not provided at the worksite.
-An attendant was not stationed outside the manhole to monitor the situation and call for emergency services.
To prevent similar occurrences, OSHA advises that employers whose workers who will enter one or more permit-required confined space (PRCS) must implement a PRCS program for safe permit space entry operations (29 CFR 1926.1203(d), 29 CFR 1926.1204). Such programs include the following requirements:
-Provide training to workers at no cost to them in a language and vocabulary they understand, as required in 29 CFR 1926.1207, on how to safely perform permit space duties before their first assignment and as necessary.
-Prohibit entry into permit spaces until hazardous conditions (atmospheric and physical) present are identified, evaluated, and addressed (29 CFR 1926.1204(b)&(c)).
-Eliminate or control atmospheric hazards by ventilating, purging, inerting or flushing the permit space as necessary (29 CFR 1926.1204(c)(4)).
-Perform pre-entry testing for oxygen content, flammable gases and vapors, and potential toxic air contaminants (29 CFR 1926.1204(e)(3).
-Continuously monitor the permit space to verify that atmospheric conditions remain acceptable during entry (29 CFR 1926.1204(e)(1)(ii)).
-Provide essential equipment to workers with training on proper use, including: •Personal protective equipment when necessary (29 CFR 1926.1204(d)(4)).
-Rescue and emergency equipment to authorized workers, or implement procedures for rescue and emergency services (29 CFR 1926.1204(d)(8)&(i), 29 CFR 1926.1211).
-Station at least one trained attendant outside a permit space to perform all attendant’s duties (29 CFR 1926.1204(f); 29 CFR 1926.1209).

The full Fatal Facts document is available (along with other fact sheets on oil and gas, agriculture, construction, and engulfment) at https://www.osha.gov/Publications/fatalfacts.html

Workplace Safety & Health Co. can help you understand the definition of a confined space and a permit-required confined space and how it might apply to your workplace.

Tagged in: OSHA

In early May, OSHA published a long-awaited final rule on construction confined spaces. The agency has been working on the rule for more than two decades and ultimately decided, based on stakeholders' comments, to make it more like OSHA's general industry confined spaces standard than originally planned. Some provisions do address construction-specific hazards, including requirements to ensure that multiple employers share vital safety information and continuously monitor air contaminant and engulfment hazards. That’s something the agency says is possible because of technology developed in the years since the general industry standard took effect.


The rule will take effect on Aug. 3. OSHA has established a new website (https://www.osha.gov/confinedspaces/index.html) that includes compliance resources.

Read entire article - https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=FEDERAL_REGISTER&p_id=25127

Tagged in: OSHA

When we think of accidental falls, we often think of work at-height. But fall accidents can happen anywhere there is a change in level – and that includes confined spaces.

Many industries have tight spaces that are considered by OSHA to be "confined" because they are configured in such a way as to hinder the activities of anyone who is called upon to enter, work in, and exit them.

Obviously, not only do confined spaces vary in size, shape and location, but they can come with their own set of challenging conditions, including limited movement, hazardous air, and risk of engulfment.

OSHA identifies a broad range of confined spaces, including that ubiquitous example: the manhole. As soon as the cover from a manhole is removed, any lack of proper safety equipment puts anyone at an increased risk of falling through an unguarded opening. Once within that particular type of confined space, there exists the risk of falling still deeper. Outdated ladders or stairs, inadequate lighting, and the physical challenges posed by restricted movement are all potential contributing factors to fall injuries within confined spaces. Fumes – a major safety consideration for any kind of confined space – have the potential to overwhelm anyone working near the area, leading to a loss of consciousness and the likelihood of a fall.

Other types of confined spaces defined as such by OSHA include ducts, tanks, vessels, storage bins, vaults, tunnels, and silos, to name a few. What is consistent for all of them is a need to consider the same level of fall protection as for any above-ground work involving changes in level. Even in confined spaces, having an effective fall protection system can significantly reduce the risk of injury. Depending on the situation, safeguards such as barriers, guardrails, and devices such as self-retracting lifelines or lanyards can prevent or halt accidental falls. In determining whether a confined space calls for the use of such equipment, it is necessary to evaluate both the area within the confined space and its access point.

Workplace Safety & Health can help.

Tagged in: confined space OSHA

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