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New Confined Spaces Rules

OSHA's New Confined Spaces Rule Affects Residential Contractors
The US Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed a new rule to protect workers in confined spaces, including residential attics and crawl spaces, that will impact the work of many residential and commercial contractors.

For example, routine tasks involving remediating environmental hazards such as mold and asbestos, installing insulation in attics or installing/repairing plumbing in crawlspaces will now require documented safety plans, and in some cases stationing an additional person outside the space to grant access and provide assistance in case of a problem.

The standard  (ASTM D5755)  becomes effective today, August 3, 2015, but full enforcement will not begin until October 2, 2015, giving employers a 60 day temporary enforcement period to achieve compliance with the updated standard. The new rule now specifies crawlspaces and attics as possible permit required confined spaces.  The new rule is partially in response to two recent fatalities. Two workers died while applying primer to floor joists in a crawlspace. They were burned when an incandescent work lamp ignited vapors from the primer. In another incident, a flash fire killed a worker who was spraying foam insulation in an enclosed attic. The fire was caused by poor ventilation.

OSHA estimates the rule will prevent nearly 800 serious injuries per year.

Under the new rule, permits to access specific confined spaces are granted by the general contractor or lead contractor on each job. There are numerous safe entry procedures requiring careful planning and preparation by the contractor ahead of time.

The rule will apply to any space that meets the following three criteria:

  • Is large enough for a worker to enter it;
  • Has limited means of entry or exit; and
  • Is not designed for continuous occupancy.

A space may also be a permit-required confined space if it has a hazardous atmosphere, the potential for suffocation, a layout that might trap a worker through converging walls or a sloped floor, or any other serious safety or health hazard.

Employers will be required to train workers to ensure they know about the existence, location, and dangers posed by each permit-required confined space and maintain related records for possible inspection by OSHA or other interested parties in the case of an accident or complaint investigation.  

Contact GSE to discuss how this new rule affects you and how we can assist your company in complying with this new rule.

Click here for the OSHA Fact Sheet on this new regulation.

Click here for the OSHA Trade News Release.