Thursday, October 1, 2015

Significant (and Overlooked) Facts About OSHA's New Confined Spaces in Construction Standard

When OSHA issued their new “Confined Spaces in Construction” standard (29 CFR 1926, Subpart AA) earlier this year, they announced that there were a “few” key differences in this new rule as compared to their 1910 general industry standard for permit-required confined spaces. And as always when OSHA issues a new standard, I tear it apart and analyze it frontwards and backwards to find the “hidden” things that employers cannot afford to overlook. And there are some doozies hidden within this new confined space in construction regulation! So I thought I’d address one of the most significant (and overlooked) revelations about this new standard . . .

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  1. Curtis, yes, I read the preamble; it required a lot of coffee and toothpicks for my eyelids. What you say in your blog is true. The issue at hand is coordinating all the activities around confined spaces; but worse yet, having knowledge of the foreseeable hazards that may be either introduced or in the area adjacent to the portals of the confined space.

    In my experience with construction work, the pace of the work itself as well as the need for adjustments needed to keep work going may lead to the creation of hazards that are unanticipated in the original entry plan. In your first example, it would not be out of place for the site development contractor to set up a trash pump to control the pooling water, thinking they are doing a favor for the utility contractor with workers working to grout a pre-cast chamber. However, the breeze is blowing exhaust from the gas engine of the pump in to the chamber, not good.

    Question is: Does the controlling contractor even know this is happening on site? - Tom Weisbeck, CSP

    1. Tom, Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts on this subject. You are exactly right. But now I guess they (the GC's) are going to have to know EVERYTHING that is going on at the jobsite. Will be interesting to see how things develop as GC's start getting citations.

  2. Curtis,thanks for the good sharing.
    The DoR for GC(controlling contractor) and Entry Employer must be clearly defined and communicated at earlier stage of a construction related project, briefly GC has 'overall control and coordination' responsibility, while Entry Employer has 'direct control' responsibility over their entry activities, in reality this is easily confused by relevant parties in a construcion site. It must also be clarified that GC's work does not release entry employer's legal responsibility of compliance, they both have a key role to play. Rocky Kai

  3. Curtis:
    Another outstanding blog effort .... and as a construction safety professional with CM,GC, and Sub experience I am elated to see that the new standard leverages host employers and controlling contractors to have skin in the game.
    Also, I found 1926.1213 to be a foreboding harbinger of DOL Secretary's oversight of OSHA activity and willingness to walk it on over to DOJ if fatality trend continues .....

    Mark Wesley Becker (a cohort of a previous poster)

  4. Curtis - thanks for blogging this topic. Where do you see consulting engineers/scientists hired by the owner/county/city and teaming with another contractor on the site to fall within this new scenario. Example - construction site that has as part of the work a tank inspection and rehab. Consulting engineering company is hired to send a construction/paint NACE certified inspector to inspect the structure inside tank - goes to site and meets up with the company (another contractor) who is the company that will actually strip the old coating and install the new, rehab the tank, etc. Together these two companies do the confined space entry - with the rehab company being "the lead."

  5. Since the consulting engineering company has an employee entering the permit space, they are an entry employer - meaning they are ultimately responsible for developing and implementing all aspects of an permit entry program, or coordination with the (other) contractor who will be taking the lead to ensure ALL aspects of the standard are followed. In many cases I have seen in the past, the contractor who "takes the lead" has a program, permit . . ., but the engineer tagging along has not been provided with the mandatory training required by OSHA. 1926.1204(k) - below - is the general standard addressing this scenario:

    [Entry employers shall} (k) Develop and implement procedures to coordinate entry operations, in consultation with the controlling contractor, when employees of more than one employer are working simultaneously in a permit space or elsewhere on the worksite where their activities could, either alone or in conjunction with the activities within a permit space, foreseeably result in a hazard within the confined space, so that employees of one employer do not endanger the employees of any other employer;

  6. Yes, I read the preamble - as I do with all regulatory changes - and have for years found it necessary and helpful to understand how the decisions were made for the changes and the rationale behind all perspectives. Simply, it is the INTENT of the law which matters most should the event result in consensus of 12 of our closest friends and someone in a robe.

    I applaud the required increase in accountability for CM firms and GC firms. Management of the construction progress involves aligning all the interlocking pieces so they fit together for successful outcome. SAFETY & QUALITY both require professional oversight to meet this expectation. It isn't about who is at fault, it is about fixing the problems inherent in the process so as to safely reach quality completion.

    If safety folks are NOT reading the preambles, even the ones from the past, they may not providing prudent professional service. Also, if the CM/GC does not expect/rely on their safety professional to stay current with the regulations, standards, safe practices & safer process alternatives, then one might ponder their motive for having one on staff at all.
    V/R, BBowen

  7. Can't say that I have read the preamble, but I have learned a lot from the post - thanks!


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