OSHA releases final rule on confined spaces in construction


Photo: alex Pitt/iStockphoto

UPDATE: This article was updated at 2:00 p.m. Eastern to include information on the OSHA press conference.

Washington – More than 20 years after OSHA issued a standard to regulate confined spaces in general industry, the agency has issued a similar rule specific to the construction industry.

Under the Confined Spaces in Construction Standard, released May 1, employers must design a confined-space permit program that protects workers from both atmospheric and physical hazards at construction sites, and must continuously monitor those hazards.

The agency has been pursuing the construction industry rule since 1994, when it agreed to publish a proposed rule as part of a settlement agreement with the United Steelworkers of America. Workers in confined spaces are exposed to a number of life-threatening hazards, and OSHA expects the rule to prevent five deaths and 780 injuries every year.

“Unlike most general-industry worksites, construction sites are continually evolving, with the number and characteristics of confined spaces changing as work progresses,” OSHA administrator David Michaels said in a press release. “This rule emphasizes training, continuous worksite evaluation and communication requirements to further protect workers’ safety and health.”

The rule is scheduled to go into effect Aug. 3.

OSHA conducted a press conference at 1:30 p.m. Eastern on the final rule. Here are some highlights: