Construction Confined Space Final Rule Set for 2013

Construction confined space rule set was published in 2013.On January 8, 2013 OSHA published its Semiannual Regulatory Agenda. One of the items on the agenda is the issuance of a final rule on construction confined space safety. There is a general industry standard, 29 CFR 1910.146, on confined space safety, but it did not cover construction because construction sites have different and changing hazards associated with them. OSHA has been working a confined space safety rule for construction for the past decade, and is finally ready to issue the final rule in July 2013.

Construction Confined Space Standard Upcoming

Another final rule set to be issued in March 2013 is an updated construction confined space standard on electrical protective equipment worn during the construction of electric power transmission and distribution lines. In addition, the similar general industry standard will be amended so that requirements for maintenance work on electric power transmission and distribution installations will be the same as for similar work in construction. The final rule will also address fall protection in aerial lift for work on power generation, transmission, and distribution installations.

The agenda also includes plans to issue proposed rule making for occupational exposure to crystalline silica in May 2013 and for occupational exposure to beryllium in July 2013.

A long range item on the agenda is a proposed rule that would protect workers from occupational exposures to food flavorings containing diacetyl and diacetal substitutes. OSHA will base their health effects analysis and quantitative risk assessment for the rulemaking on a criteria document still being developed by NIOSH on these types of exposures.

For more information on the Semiannual Agenda of Regulations visit: 

For information on the existing confined space standards visit: 

Information about OSHA’s requirements for training on confined space entry is available at: 


Confined Space Hazards Lead to Large Fines for Fiberglass Company

Confined space hazards cited in Fiberglass company penalties.Fiberglass Structures, Inc. of Laurel, Montana  was cited by the U.S. OSHA for 12 serious safety violations. The compnay is a subsidiary of Texas-based L.F. Manufacturing, Inc. Among the violations were confined space hazards infractions. The citations were based on an inspection of the facility in August. Proposed penalties are $75,600. The company produces molded composites. They also make Fiberglas-reinforced plastic products.

One confined space hazard citation was for a repeat violation. It involved not containing energized wires with covers in a flammable area. The company was cited for a similar violation at another plant in 2009. The fine for the repeat violation is $12,600. Jeff Funke, the director of OSHA’s Billings, Montana Area Office commented, “Something is seriously wrong when an employer repeatedly disregards specific safety standards required to protect workers from serious injuries or death. Neglecting the safety of workers is simply unacceptable.”

Confined Space Hazards Are Abated by Proper Training

The 11 other serious violations found by inspectors included confined space hazards deficiencies. They also cited a failure to provide adequate training for confined space and personal protection equipment. Other citations were for violations involved various unsafe areas. Spray booths were one area cited. Various electrical hazards were found. Improper storage of chemicals were discovered. The facility had inadequate eyewash facilities. Finaly, there was a citation for failure to use and require personal protective equipment. The total penalty for these violations was $63,000.

The company is questioning the citations regarding the confined space hazards. Bernard Ofczarzak, regulatory compliance manager for L.F. Manufacturing, Inc. at the corporate office in Texas stated, “That’s just ludicrous. That’s not how this company operates, and that’s not how FSI operates. Two of our three Texas plants are within OSHA’s SHARP program, which is where we are actually exempt from OSHA inspection because of the stellar safety records.”

OSHA’s Safety and Health Achievement Recognition Program (SHARP) recognizes small business employers who operate an exemplary injury and illness prevention program. Acceptance into SHARP means that the work site is a model for work site safety and health among a company’s peers. For the period that a SHARP certification is valid, the business is exempt from OSHA programmed inspections.

Ofczarzak said that the management teams of both L.F. Manufacturing, Inc. and Fiberglass Structures, Inc. are committed to providing a safe and healthy work environment for their employees and all who visit their facilities. He said that LFM is proud of its safety record and its working relationships with government regulatory agencies.

Ofczarzak also questions why the alleged violations were found in an inspection in August, but the company was not notified until December. “So we have questions for OSHA ourselves,” Ofczarzak said. “We have a great management team there in Laurel and it’s a great community to have it in.”

Permit-Required Confined Spaces in Wind Energy Green Jobs

Permit required confined spaces are common in wind turbine equipment for maintenance.Wind energy is one of the occupations that is categorized as a green job. Permit-required confined spaces can be encountered in the manufacture of equipment for wind energy. Care must be taken by employers to ensure that safety issues are considered for workers employed in this occupation.

A confined space can be defined as one that is not large enough for an employee to enter fully and perform assigned work, is not designed for continuous occupancy by and employee, and has a limited or restricted means of entry or exit. Additionally, there are areas which are designated as permit-required confined spaces and require additional safety precautions to prevent confined space hazards. These are spaces that may have low oxygen environments, or accumulations of hazardous gases.

Permit-Required Confined Spaces Characteristics

To determine whether a confined workspace can be classified as permit-required confined spaces (PRCS), they have to have one or more of the following characteristics:

• Contain or have the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere
• Contain materials with the potential to engulf someone who enters the space
• Have internal configurations that might cause an entrant to be trapped or asphyxiated by inwardly converging walls or by a floor that slopes downward and tapers to a smaller cross section
• Contain any other recognized serious safety or health hazards

Employers are required to develop a written program of permit-required confined spaces. The program must provide steps to be taken to make the spaces safe for entry. That program must be available for inspection by employees and their authorized representatives.

Permit-Required Confined Spaces In Wind Turbine Maintenance

Wind turbines consist of four main elements: towers, blades, nacelles, and hubs. The nacelle contains the rotor gearbox and the generator for the turbine.  In some maintenance activities inside a nacelle, workers may be exposed to hazards from electrical motors, gears, etc., which may classify them as permit-required confined spaces. Technicians who will be working a nacelle should perform air sampling before the entering to determine if there may be low oxygen levels or hazardous gases. For this reason, technicians should always carry portable gas monitors and make sure they are properly maintained.

More detailed information on the standards regarding working on confined spaces can visit Confined Spaces on the OSHA website.


Identifying Confined Space Hazards in Construction Work

Identifying confined space hazards in construction deals with both induced and inherent hazard knowledge.Identifying confined space hazards is very important for almost all construction sites. The confined space entry standards as defined by OSHA, for General Industry and Construction are actively enforced by OSHA. There’s good reason. Confined space incidents have risen in both industries, but is amplified in Construction.  Proper training, consistent inspection, documentation and preparation of a safety and rescue plan all are required under OSHA 29 CFR 1910.146  and OSHA 29 CFR 1910.146 Subpart AA.


Identifying Confined Space Hazards as Inherent or Induced Hazards

There are two types of hazards encountered in confined work spaces – inherent and induced. Inherent hazards are related to equipment and the interactions of working with them. Identifying inherent confined space hazards is based around the observation of operations and include hazards such as:

  • shock or burn from high voltage electrical equipment
  • exposure to radiation generated by certain equipment
  • defectively designed equipment
  • lack of protective features such as grounding for non-current-carrying conductive parts
  • high or low temperatures
  • high noise levels
  • high-pressure equipment that may rupture.
  • Inherent hazards cannot be eliminated from the equipment without affecting their operation, so these hazards must be used employing hazard control methods.

Induced hazards are those caused by incorrect decisions or actions during the construction process. Identifying confined space entry hazards involvingf induced hazards include:

  • physical arrangements that might cause accidental contact by a worker with electrical energy sources
  • lack of oxygen in areas like the bottom of pits or shafts
  • omission of protective features
  • lack of safe structural strength of the workspace
  • flammable atmospheres such as those where volatile gases may be present.

Identifying confined space hazards may involve both inherent and induced hazards. Examples of such hazardous environments include:

  • Vaults in which the atmosphere may be or become oxygen-deficient.
  • Electrical vaults which may become filled with explosive gases such as from propane, or toxic fumes that can build-up in a limited atmosphere from welding and soldering in a confined space.
  • Electrical shock can occur when working in any confined space with power tools, line cords, and similar equipment, where the contractor has not provided an approved grounding system, ground-fault circuit interrupters, or low-voltage systems.
  • In a workspace where purging agents such as nitrogen or argon are being used in an adjacent area, the fumes may displace the oxygen in a vault to the point where workers could suffer immediate asphyxiation.
  • Condenser pits are a type of confined space encountered during the construction of nuclear power plants which are fairly large, so that the potential for the hazards associated with a confined workspace may be overlooked. Toxic fumes and gases can accumulate in these areas from the use of argon, freon, and other inert gases, creating oxygen-deficient atmospheres for workers. Another hazard in this type of workspace is caused by workers above accidentally dropping equipment, tools, or other materials into the pit.
  • Pipe assemblies are another type of confined space common in construction. Identifying confined space hazards of this type, can involve other types of work spaces, such as oxygen-deficient atmospheres caused by purging with argon or other inert gases. They may contain ungrounded electrical equipment, also. They can also be very restricted spaces where there is little room for workers to move around or find a comfortable position to perform their work. Also, where bends occur in pipes communication can be cut off, and getting a worker out of the area can be extremely difficult. The heat within a pipe may cause workers to suffer heat prostration, as well.
  • The same types of hazards are encountered working within ventilation ducts as within pipes. Identifying confined space hazards in narrow spaces are characterized by many bends restricting movement and communication, They can contain toxic or oxygen-deficient atmospheres. In some cases electrical shock, and extreme heat all can occur within this type of space.
  • Tanks used for storage of water, chemicals, or other materials often require entry for cleaning or repairs. Identifying confined space hazards in these spaces can include heat, oxygen-deficient atmospheres and electrical shock. They may also contain fall hazards from climbing high ladders on the walls of a tank.
  • Manholes are common on construction sites. Manhole covers are sometimes removed and not replaced, or not provided at all, making it a dangerous trap where a worker may fall. Identifying confined space hazards here can many time can be easily fixed.

Other hazardous confined work spaces include sumps, containment cavities, electrical transformers, and heat sinks, all of which carry the risks of the same inherent and induced hazards associated with the spaces described above. Identifying confined space hazards in these potentially hazardous environments is critical

Awareness of the hazards found in these types of confined entry work spaces is an important step in the prevention of injuries and fatalities caused by these hazards.

Working in Confined Space Locations Requires Training And Procedures

Confined space locations are hazardous to workers if they are not trained and there are no stated procedures.Confined space locations are rapidly growing as one of the major causes of occupational injury and death. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), a confined space refers to a space which by design has limited openings for entry and exit and unfavorable natural ventilation which could contain or produce dangerous air contaminants. Confined space locations are not intended for continuous employee occupancy. Examples of confined spaces include manholes, sewers, boilers, tunnels, pipelines, storage tanks, and tank cars.


Confined Space Locations and Permits

Some confined space locations require a permit. The Oklahoma State University Environmental Health and Safety Manual describes a permit confined space as a confined space that is potentially hazardous. The manual also states permit required confined spaces have the following characteristics:

  • Contains or has a potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere
  • Contains a material that has the potential for engulfing an entrant.
  • Contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazard. Examples of serious safety or health hazards might include fall hazards, unguarded machinery, extreme heat or cold, steam pipes or chemical lines, electrical hazards, presence of asbestos, hazardous noise levels.

Most confined space location accidents are caused by workers failing to recognize the hazards associated with the job. During the four year period between 2005-2009, The U.S. Department of Labor reported 481 permit required confined space fatalities. This number does not include related serious injuries or illness. Approximately 61% of the 481 fatalities involved construction workers. During this same 2005-2009 time period, the leading cause of deaths related to confined spaces was physical hazards. According to the University of California Davis’s Safety Services Department, general physical hazards construction workers may encounter include the following:

  • The possibility of drowning or being trapped by flooding water while working in a storm sewer or wet-well.
  • Pipes, valves, and lines carrying harmful substances such as steam, natural gas, and electricity that can rupture while being worked on or activated if not locked out.
  • Loud noises reverberating from the use of hammers or hydraulic equipment.
  • Exposure to temperature extremes during work activities.
  • Slips and falls on wet or damaged walking or climbing surfaces.
  • Exposure to corrosive substances that could irritate unprotected skin.
  • Exposure to rodents, vermin, and other pests living in the area.
  • Accidental activation of hazardous equipment while it is being repaired.
  • Engulfment.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) cited Pandrol USA of Bridgeport, New Jersey with twenty serious violations. Some of these violations were confined space locations hazards including noise exposure and failing to develop and implement a confined space program. Pandrol USA’s proposed penalties total $283,500.

As with most construction job tasks, incidents and fatalities from working in confined space locations can be eliminated with proper training and education. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)  pubhas an abundance of training materials and resources available on its website, In addition, the resources below may be beneficial to construction professionals seeking more information on working in confined spaces.

Oklahoma State University’s Environmental Safety and Health Manual

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)

State of California Department of Industrial Relations

Confined Space Characteristics

Confined Space Characteristics are discussed and analyzed.

In a previous post we discussed a basic overview of confined spaces and the perils they play in industry, especially construction and manufacturing. We examined the tendency for employers to underestimate the danger of these enclosed spaces, and the fact that asphyxiation and mechanical trauma are the two major causes of deaths. In this post we will take a look at confined space characteristics as a foundation to recognition and identification.

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Confined Space Danger Fundamentals

Confined space danger is a leading cause of work place fatalities.Confined space danger in both General Industry and Construction have vaulted into the top tier of attention by OSHA. A confined space is characterized by one that has a hazard to health or life associated with it. Hazards may be the result of atmosphere or materials in the space or the result of the shape of the space. OSHA has provided new standards as well as enhancing existing standards to help in the enforcement.

“We’ve learned enough over the years that there’s no reason that people should be dying in confined spaces,” said Michael Wilson, director of the Labor Occupational Health Program at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health.

Confined Space Danger Centers Around Asphyxiation and Physical Trauma.

Many workplaces are subject to confined space danger.  Confined spaces are designated as such because their configurations hinder the activities of any employees who must enter, work in and then exit them. For instance, areas where employees much squeeze in and out through narrow openings, and perform tasks while cramped or contorted. The major health hazards are asphyxiation and physical trauma.

Asphyxiation is the leading confined space danger. Workers that have died in such accidents found themselves in oxygen deficient atmospheres as a result of exposure to toxic substances. These may include gases or particulates. In several cases, workers were in the confined spaces of water towers or bulk material hoppers and fell into narrow, tapering discharge pipes. This caused died by asphyxiation due to compression of the torso. Many workers each year, working in silos, have been asphyxiated as the result of engulfment in finely divided particulate matter (such as sawdust) that blocks the breathing passages. All of these must be part of a standard safety protocol to educate and protect against these confined space danger situations.

Other documented confined space death incidents include workers that were burned or ground-up by auger type conveyors, or crushed or battered by rotating or moving parts inside mixers. Failure to de-energize equipment inside the space prior to employee entry was a major confined space danger factor in most of those accidents.

The sad fact, is that many employers have under-appreciated the degree to which the conditions of permit space work can compound the risks of exposure to atmospheric or confined space danger scenarios. In addition, the elements of confinement, limited access, and restricted air flow, can result in hazardous conditions which would not arise in an open workplace. For example, vapors which might otherwise be released into the open air can generate a highly toxic or otherwise harmful atmosphere within a confined space. Unfortunately, in many cases, employees have died because employers improvised or followed “traditional methods” rather than following existing OSHA standards, recognized safe industry practice, or common sense.

OSHA has noted that by their very nature and configuration, many permit spaces promote a confined space danger due to hazardous atmosphere situations. Unless adequate precautions are taken, these can be immediately dangerous to life and health. Many confined spaces are poorly ventilated which leads to the creation of an oxygen deficient atmosphere and the accumulation of toxic gases. The failure to take proper precautions for these permit spaces have therefore resulted in fatalities, as opposed to injuries more frequently than would be normally predicted.

  • To emphasize the point, examine the following statistics from OSHA:
  • There were 431 confined space incidents with 530 fatalities in the US due to oxygen deficient and/or toxic atmospheres from 1992-2005
  • From 8/18/2009 – 12/31/2009 there were 36 worker fatalities and 6 worker hospitalizations related to confined spaces
  • In 2010, there were 63 worker fatalities and 28 hospitalizations related to confined space conditions
  • From 1/1/2011 to 8/1/2011, there were 22 worker fatalities and 3 worker hospitalizations related to confined spaces.
  • Repair & Maintenance and cleaning & inspection activities account for almost one quarter of the fatalities.
  • Construction and manufacturing industries experience the most fatalities

In a subsequent post we’ll examine the various causes of death and injury in detail and discuss how each can be mitigated.


Permit required Confined Space Hazards Found At Bosserman Aviation Equipment

Permit required confined space hazards grounded Bosserman Aviation Equipment Permit required confined space hazards were recently uncovered by OSHA at Bosserman Aviation Equipment Inc.  As a result, the company was cited 16 safety and health violations, including allowing workers to clean fuel tanks without implementing permit-required confined-space precautions, such as the use of life lines and two-person teams. Proposed fines total $53,900. OSHA standards for permit required confined spaces are found in 29 CFR 1910.146.

Permit Required Confined Space Hazards Endanger Lives

Out of 12 serious safety violations, seven were cited for permit-required confined-space hazards. These involve failing to provide an attendant outside of fuel tanks to monitor workers performing cleaning and maintenance inside the tanks; exposing workers to conditions that could cause oxygen deprivation; and failing to provide life lines, train workers in confined space hazards and evaluate procedures annually. The remaining serious safety violations involve failing to provide fall protection for workers on top of fuel tanks, provide machine guarding on the mechanical press brake, provide ventilation for workers conducting welding inside fuel tanks, and protect workers from electrical-shock hazards by properly installing electrical boxes and using electrical boxes that are not damaged. A serious violation occurs when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

The company also was cited for one serious and three other-than-serious health violations for failing to provide adequate respiratory protection for workers. An other-than-serious violation is one that has a direct relationship to job safety and health, but probably would not cause death or serious physical harm.

“Employers have a responsibility to ensure workers are trained in the necessary precautions to protect their health and safety while performing assigned tasks,” said Kim Nelson, OSHA’s area director in Toledo. “OSHA is committed to protecting workers, especially when employers fail to do so.”

Bosserman Aviation Equipment manufactures, assembles and repairs airport jet-fuel tanker trucks and pumpers. The company has 15 business days from receipt of its citations and penalties to comply, request an informal conference with OSHA’s area director, or contest the findings before the independent Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission.

Confined Space Training

Confined space training should be part of both General Industry and Construction safety plans.Confined space training is a cornerstone for basic safety programs for both general industry and construction industries. Many workplaces contain spaces that are considered “confined” because their configurations hinder the activities of employees who must enter, work in, and exit them. A confined space has limited or restricted means for entry or exit, and it is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.

Confined Space Training Begins with Identification

Confined spaces include, but are not limited to underground vaults, tanks, storage bins, manholes, pits, silos, process vessels, and pipelines. OSHA uses the term “permit-required confined space” (permit space) to describe a confined space that has one or more of the following characteristics:

  • contains or has the potential to contain a hazardous atmosphere
  • contains a material that has the potential to engulf an entrant
  • ‘has walls that converge inward or floors that slope downward and taper into a smaller area which could trap or asphyxiate an entrant
  • contains any other recognized safety or health hazard, such as unguarded machinery, exposed live wires, or heat stress.

Confined space training for General Industry follows the OSHA standard 29CFR 1910.146.  However, after significant analysis and study by OSHA, a new standard. 29 CFR 1926, Subpart AA was recently adopted for the Construction Industry. Confined space training for the Construction Industry offer new material and ideally fits those particular conditions and circumstances that are specific to the construction workplace.

Twenty-five states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands have OSHA-approved State Plans and have adopted their own standards and enforcement policies. For the most part, these States adopt standards that are identical to Federal OSHA. However, some States have adopted different standards applicable to this topic or may have different enforcement policies. Each of these is usually highlighted in a standard class for confined space training.