In 2015, OSHA implemented a new confined space rule for construction. This rule defines what employers are required to do to keep their employees safe from confined space hazards on the job. Understanding this rule will help you determine whether you need a confined space rescue team for your construction site.
OSHA Construction Confined Space Rule
If you’re doing construction work – such as building a new structure or upgrading an existing one – you must follow OSHA’s new construction confined space rule. It applies to all construction employers whose workers may be exposed to confined space hazards on the job. In a nutshell, employers are required to determine what kinds of spaces their employees are working in, what hazards they could be exposed to, how the hazards can be made safe, and how to rescue the employees should anything go wrong. We’ll dive into some of the details below.
Identification of Confined Spaces and Permit Spaces
One of the requirements of this new construction confined space rule is that before any work begins, a competent person must identify all confined spaces on a worksite and evaluate whether each space is a Permit Required Confined Space (Permit Space for short). If there are any Permit Spaces on the worksite that a worker will be asked to enter, the employer must provide the worker with appropriate training, implement a written Permit Space Program, and possibly employ the services of a Confined Space Rescue Team.
How Do You Determine a Permit Space?
OSHA defines a confined space as having three traits – the space is large enough for workers to enter and perform assigned jobs, there are limited or restricted means for entry and exit, and the space is not designed for continuous occupancy. A confined space becomes a Permit Space when it meets any one of the following criteria:
- It has actual or potential for a hazardous atmosphere
- It contains a material that has the potential for engulfing an entrant
- It has an internal configuration that could trap an entrant
- It contains any other recognized serious safety or health hazard
Some examples of possible Permit Spaces on a construction site include (but are not limited to):
- Pits (elevator, escalator, pump, valve, other equipment)
- Manholes (sewer, storm drain, electrical, communication)
- Tanks (fuel, chemical, water, liquid, solid, gas)
Do I need a Confined Space Rescue Team for a Permit Space?
If you’ve identified a Permit Space on your new construction worksite and you intend to authorize one or more employees to enter it, OSHA may require you to have a Confined Space Rescue Team. How do you know whether you’re required to have one? As we mentioned in our blog post on the topic, the simplest way to know whether you need one is by asking yourself this question: “If the person inside the space were to become unconscious, could I remove them safely without entering the space?” If the answer is no, you’re required to have a Confined Space Rescue Team either on-site or on standby.
What are Confined Space Rescue Teams?
Confined Space Rescue Teams provide the necessary equipment, training, and experience to rescue your employee from a Permit Space, should something go wrong. Some local fire departments are able to perform confined space rescues, but that’s not always the case. Before assuming you can rely on your local fire department for these services, you should contact them to assess their training, equipment, and availability. If they are unable to service all your needs, a Confined Space Rescue Team must be hired.
Looking for a Confined Space Rescue for hire? HazMat Solutions offers Confined Space Standby Rescue services. Contact us for a quote!