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OSHA Claims New Confined Space Rule Will Prevent Hundreds of Construction Injuries

Posted by Foster Law on July 14, 2014

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has reissued a final rule due out August 3, 2015, to increase protection for construction workers in confined spaces.

According to the Industrial Safety Training Institute (ISTI):

  • "65% of all confined space fatalities are due to hazardous atmosphere
  • In 139 deaths, there were no detectors and no ventilation
  • One-third of all deaths were supervisors
  • 60% were rescuers
  • 25% of spaces were toxic before entry"

Unfortunately, many of these incidents occur because workers and employers do not know what constitutes a confined space and are unaware of the possible dangers that exist. In the event of an emergency, those that are faced with the dangers of entering a confined space are improperly trained and going in without the proper safeguards.

What is a confined space?

A confined space is an enclosed area or partially enclosed space with limited accessibility that:

  • Is not predominantly designed for or meant for human occupancy
  • Has a limited or restricted entrance or exit
  • Can present a risk for the health and safety of anyone who enters, due to one or more of the following factors:
  • its design, construction, location or atmosphere
  • the materials or substances in it
  • work activities being carried out in it
  • the mechanical, process and safety hazards present

Confined spaces can be located anywhere,  above or below ground. Virtually every workplace has some form of confined spaces. A confined space, in spite of its name, does not have to be small.

Types of confined spaces

  • Manholes
  • Crawl spaces
  • Silos, vats and hoppers
  • Utility vaults
  • Tanks
  • Sewers, pipes, wells
  • Access  elevator shafts
  • Trucks
  • Boilers
  • Ditches, trenches or pits if access is limited
  • Storage bins
  • Tunnels or cellars

Confined spaces are dangerous especially during an emergency because of the complications entering and exiting them. People working in confined spaces face life-threatening hazards including asphyxiation, electrocution, toxic elements and explosions.

What are the hazards of confined spaces?

Any hazards that you find in or around a workplace can also be found in a confined space. Unfortunately that is part of the reason they are even more hazardous.

Hazards in confined spaces can include:

  • Poor air quality or low oxygen percentage
  • Chemical exposure
  • Fire hazard
  • Noise
  • Safety hazards
  • Radiation
  • Temperature extremes
  • Flooding
  • Electrical shock
  • Visibility
  • Biological hazards

In the construction industry, entering confined spaces is often necessary, but it doesn't need to result in an injury or a fatality. The first step the new rule will address is the need to emphasize training, continuously evaluate worksites and communication requirements to further protect workers' safety and health.

If you have experienced a debilitating work injury and are not able to work you may need to seek compensation for wages and time lost. The only way to protect yourself and know if you are owed damages is to speak with a law firm that specializes in work injury cases.

Get Help if You Have Suffered a Workplace Injury in Seattle

If you have suffered a work-related injury or illness and are seeking workers' compensation benefits, please contact Foster Law, PC to schedule a free initial consultation. We are attorneys in Seattle, Washington with specific expertise in workers' compensation law and can help ensure that you receive the benefits you deserve. Call 206-682-3436 or fill out our online contact form for more information.

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