OSHA Increases Protections for Construction Workers in Confined Spaces

Construction workers face numerous inherent dangers in their employment. From working several stories up along the steel I-beams of a new building to operating heavy earth-moving machinery/vehicles to exposure to high voltage and toxic chemicals, the potential for injury and death is significant for those in the construction industry. In the process of their duties, construction workers may be expected to enter confined spaces, such as trenches, pits, manholes, crawl spaces, and vaults where they face risks of asphyxiation, exposure to toxic substances, electrocution, fires, and even explosions.

Until recently, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) only had one safety provision for construction work in confined spaces that has since been deemed inadequate.

The previously existing guideline referenced required limited general training by employers on the nature of the hazards involved, as well as the use of protective equipment and other necessary precautions.

In an effort to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities that occur in confined spaces, OSHA has issued revised guidelines including the following:

  • Coordination  of activities at a worksite to ensure that the hazards outside of a confined space are not introduced to the confined area (e.g., running a generator near the entrance of a confined space, allowing carbon monoxide to build up in the space).
  • A qualified person must evaluate the work site and identify confined spaces.
  • Continuous atmospheric monitoring.
  • Continuous monitoring of engulfment hazards.

According to Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez, “this new rule will significantly improve the safety of construction workers who enter confined spaces.  In fact, we estimate that it will prevent about 780 serious injuries every year.”

If you have been injured or lost a loved one in a New Jersey construction accident, the experienced workers’ compensation and construction accident attorneys at Blume Forte Fried Zerres & Molinari can help you understand and protect your legal options. Call 973-845-4421 for a case evaluation at no cost to you.

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