OSHA recently developed a standard for confined spaces in the construction industry (29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA). These spaces can present conditions that are immediately dangerous to your workers’ lives or health if not properly identified, evaluated, tested and controlled. As a result, preparing to respond to an accident in a confined space is just as important as training workers to enter them.
One provision of the standard requires employers to develop and implement procedures for summoning rescue and emergency services in permit-required confined spaces. Any employer who relies on local emergency services for assistance is required to meet the applicable requirements of the OSHA standard.
However, not all rescue services or emergency responders are trained or equipped to conduct rescues in confined spaces. When you identify an off-site rescue service, it is critical that the rescuers can protect your employees. The emergency services should be familiar with the exact site location, the types of permit-required confined spaces and the necessary rescue equipment.
Pre-planning for a rescue will ensure that the emergency service is capable, available and prepared to save your workers.
Before the start of any rescue operation, you must evaluate prospective emergency responders, and select one that has the following traits:
- Adequate equipment for rescues, such as the following:
- Atmospheric monitors
- Fall protection
- Extraction equipment
- Self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) for the particular permit-required confined space
- The ability to respond and conduct a rescue in a timely manner based on the site conditions, and the capability to conduct a rescue if faced with potential hazards specific to the space. These hazards may include the following:
- Atmospheric hazards
- Flooding or engulfment
- Poor lighting
- Chemical hazards
- The ability to notify you in the event that the rescue team becomes unavailable.
To ensure the safety of your workers, you must take a proactive role in securing the services of emergency responders. This includes finding the most efficient way of contacting emergency responders, conducting a tour of the project site with them and communicating any changes made to the site before a rescue becomes necessary.
Communicating With Emergency Responders
Talking with emergency responders about the hazards they might encounter during a rescue will assist in preparing for the situation. The following are some questions responders should be able to answer when you request their services:
- Are you able to respond and conduct a rescue in a timely manner based on the site conditions?
- Do you have the appropriate equipment for response and rescue?
- Are you prepared for the hazards identified at the project site?
- Are you aware of the exact location of the work site? This includes information on access routes, gates, site plans and GPS coordinates.
- Can you visit the site and hold a practice rescue?
- What is the best way to contact you? How would I communicate any changes to site conditions throughout the project?
- Could other emergencies or group training preclude you from responding, and how will that be communicated?
Complying with OSHA’s new standard will protect your workers and save you from costly penalties. Contact us today at 831-661-5697; we can provide you with our comprehensive resource, “Permit-required Confined Spaces in Construction Program and Training Materials.”
An effective accident prevention program requires proper job performance from everyone in the workplace. As an owner or manager, you must ensure that all employees know about the materials and equipment they work with, known hazards and how to control those hazards.
Each employee needs to know the following:
- No employee is expected to undertake a job until he or she has received proper job instructions and is authorized to perform that job.
- No employee should undertake a job that appears unsafe.
You may be able to combine safety and health training with other training sessions, depending upon the types of hazards present in your workplace.
Here are some actions to consider:
- Ask your OSHA state consultant to recommend training for your worksite. The consultant may be able to conduct training while he or she is there.
- Make sure you have trained your employees on every potential hazard that they could be exposed to and how to protect themselves against those hazards. Then, verify that they really understand what you taught them.
- Pay particular attention to your new employees and to employees who are moving to new roles within the organization. Since they are learning new operations, they are more likely to get hurt.
- Train your supervisors to understand all the hazards faced by the employees and how to reinforce training with quick reminders and refreshers, or with disciplinary action, if necessary.
- Make sure that your top management staff understands their safety and health responsibilities and how to hold subordinate supervisory employees accountable for their actions.
Why is job safety and health important?
In 2013, 4,585 employees died from occupational incidents, and there were a staggering 3.0 million total recordable cases of workplace injury and illness. On average, each of these 3.0 million cases required eight days away from work, which means U.S. employers as a whole paid for millions of days of lost work time. Experts estimate that workplace injuries and illnesses cost U.S. businesses more than $125 billion annually. Effective job safety and health programs not only help reduce worker injuries and illnesses, they save employers money in the long run.
How does OSHA contribute to job safety and health?
The primary goal of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is to carry out the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), which Congress originally passed in 1970. The OSH Act has undergone several amendments and revisions since its inception, but it is still in place “to assure so far as possible every working man and woman in the Nation safe and healthful working conditions and to preserve our human resources.” OSHA contributes to job safety and health by enacting regulations that forward this ideal.
Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Parts 1902-1990, houses all the OSHA standards, though OSHA also allows states to enact occupational safety and health laws of their own under federally-approved plans. State-run programs are at least as strict, and sometimes more so, than federal standards. This ensures a minimum standard of job safety and health that all employers must follow to protect employees.
Are all employees covered by the OSH Act?
The OSH Act covers all employees except public employees in state and local governments and those who are self-employed. Public employees in state and local governments are covered by their state’s OSHA-approved plan, if applicable.Federal employees are covered under the OSH Act’s federal employee occupational safety and health programs, which are outlined in 29 CFR Part 1960.
United States Postal Service employees, however, are subject to the same OSH Act coverage provisions as those in the private sector.Other federal agencies that have issued requirements affecting job safety or health include the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) and some agencies of the Department of Transportation (DOT), including the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).
Employees in these industries are subject to their respective regulations.Additionally, businesses in the retail, service, finance, insurance and real estate sectors that are classified as low-hazard are exempt from most OSHA requirements, as are small businesses with 10 or fewer employees. Exceptions are discussed in 29 CFR Part 1904, which also explains which OSHA regulations exempt employers are still required to follow.
What are your responsibilities as an employer?
If you are an employer covered by the OSH Act, you must provide your employees with jobs and a place of employment free from recognized hazards that are causing, or are likely to cause, death or serious physical harm. You must also comply with the OSHA statutory requirements, standards and regulations that require you to:
- Provide well-maintained tools and equipment, including appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Provide medical assistance and guidance for employees sustaining workplace injuries/illnesses
- Provide required OSHA training
- Report accidents that result in fatalities to OSHA within eight hours
- Report accidents that result in the hospitalization of three or more employees to OSHA within eight hours
- Keep records of work-related accidents, injuries, illnesses and their causes
- Post annual injury/illness summaries for the required period of time
What are your rights as an employer?
When working with OSHA, you may do the following:
- Request identification from OSHA compliance officers
- Request an inspection warrant
- Receive a reason for inspection from compliance officers
- Have an opening and closing conference with compliance officers
- Accompany compliance officers on inspections
- Request an informal conference after an inspection
- File a notice of contest to citations or proposed penalties
- Apply for a variance from a standard’s requirements under certain circumstances
- Be assured of the confidentiality of trade secrets
- Submit a written request to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) for information on potentially toxic substances in your workplace
What are employees’ responsibilities?
All employees are obligated to help prevent exposure to workplace safety and health hazards by becoming familiar with and adhering to all applicable OSHA requirements.
What are employees’ rights?
With regards to OSHA regulations, employees have the right, among other actions, to:
- Review employer-provided OSHA standards, regulations and requirements
- Request information from the employer on emergency procedures
- Receive adequate, OSHA-required safety and health training on toxic substances and emergency action plan(s)
- Ask the OSHA area director to investigate hazardous conditions or violations of standards in the workplace
- Have his or her name withheld from the employer when filing a complaint with OSHA
- Know what actions OSHA took as a result of the employee’s complaint and have an informal review of any decision not to inspect or issue a citation
- Have an employee representative accompany the OSHA compliance officer on inspections
- Observe monitoring and measuring of toxic substances or harmful physical agents and review related records (including medical records)
- Review the Log of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (OSHA 300 Form), if applicable, at a reasonable time
- Request a closing discussion following an inspection
- Object a citation’s set abatement period
- Seek safe and healthful working conditions without your employer retaliation
Why is OSHA important to your business?
OSHA plays a key role in making your facility a safe, healthy place to work. Beyond providing the tools and guidance to work toward an injury- and illness-free workplace, OSHA is important in identifying businesses that are not committed to safety. Employers that do not carefully follow OSHA regulations often face hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in fines.
How can you get more information on safety and health?
OSHA provides free publications, standards, technical assistance and compliance tools to help you understand the nuances of the regulations. OSHA’s website also offers extensive assistance by way of workplace consultation, voluntary protection programs, grants, strategic partnerships, state plans, training and education to guide you in your quest for workplace safety. To learn more about OSHA and the critical elements of a successful safety and health management system in your workplace, visit www.osha.gov.
This document is an introductory guideline. It does not address all potential compliance issues with OSHA standards. It is not meant to be exhaustive or construed as legal advice. Contact your licensed commercial property and casualty representative at Scurich Insurance or legal counsel to address applicable compliance requirements. © 2009-2012, 2015 Zywave, Inc. All rights reserved.