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Are You Prepared to Protect Workers in Confined Spaces? Part 1

Construction sites are continually evolving, which is why employers must continually emphasize the importance of training, worksite evaluation, and communication to ensure workers are both safe and healthy while performing construction work. An area of particular concern for construction employers is confined spaces. Because of their inherent danger, employers must abide by OSHA confined space regulations.

If your jobsite requires workers to enter confined spaces, our Fort Lauderdale construction attorneys urge employers to keep the information in this two-part series top of mind in addition to staying abreast of the most current regulation changes that affect the construction industry. This first section will focus on what a confined space is and the difference between a confined space and a permit-required confined space. Please read part two where we focus on keeping workers safe and rescue plans.

Determining a Confined Space

A confined space is one that hinders a worker’s activities as they enter, work in, and exit the space. Three elements determine a confined space: limited entry and exits point, large enough for a worker to enter, and not designed for extended occupancy. Examples of confined spaces at construction sites include but are not limited to:

  • Vaults
  • Manholes
  • Pits
  • Underground utility pipelines
  • Tanks
  • Boilers
  • Stormwater drains

Working in confined spaces exposes workers to dangerous hazards including a lack of oxygen or too much oxygen, a toxic atmosphere, excessive heat, and a flammable or explosive atmosphere. According to the Department of Labor, asphyxiation is the leading cause of confined space deaths. Employers are responsible for not only identifying confined spaces but also identifying those requiring a permit and the applicable entry rules for that particular space.

Permit-Required: The Second Type of Confined Space

A permit-required confined space has the same elements as described above for confined spaces; however, it will contain one or more of additional elements. The first element is a hazardous atmosphere, the second element is an asphyxiating risk to the entrant, the third element is either inwardly converging walls or a downward sloping floor that tapers into a small cross-section. The last element is any other hazard that threatens the health and safety of an entrant (e.g., exposed wires, unguarded machinery).

If you would like to speak with a Fort Lauderdale construction attorney, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.