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OSHA’S CONFINED SPACE STANDARD FOR CONSTRUCTION

Posted By Western States Roofing Contractors Association, Monday, September 10, 2018


By: Trent Cotney, Cotney Construction Law

8621 E Dr. MLK Jr. Blvd, Tampa, FL 33610
866.303.5868 | tcotney@cotneycl.com

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According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a confined space is one that is large enough for an employee to enter fully and perform assigned work, such space is not designed for continuous occupancy, and is limited or restricted in means of entry or exit. Some examples include tanks, storage bins, silos, and underground vaults to name a few. A confined space is determined to be a permit-required confined space if has one or more of the following: potential hazardous atmosphere; material with potential to engulf an entrant; can cause entrant to be trapped or asphyxiated by inwardly converging walls/floors sloping downward, or any other serious safety/health hazard.

In order to better understand the allocation of responsibility under OSHA’s confined space standards, it’s helpful to understand the definitions of the parties involved with the permit space.  A competent person is one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees and who has the authority to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.  A controlling contractor is the employer that has overall responsibility for construction at the worksite.  A host employer is the employer that owns or manages the property where the construction is taking place.  The entry employer, which is a new term to the standard, refers to any employer who decides that an employee it directs will enter a permit space; in other words, this may be a roofing contractor, whether a contractor or subcontractor.   An attendant is an individual stationed outside one or more permit spaces who assesses the status of authorized entrants and who must perform duties specified by section 29 CFR 1926.1209.  An entry supervisor refers to the qualified person responsible for determining if acceptable entry conditions are present at a permit space where entry is planned, for authorizing entry and overseeing entry operations, and for terminating entry as required.

Before beginning work on a worksite, a competent person must identify all confined spaces and permit spaces.  If the worksite contains a permit space, the roofing contractor must inform exposed employees and the controlling contractor of the existence and location of, and the danger posed by, each permit space.  If employees will not be entering permit spaces, the roofing contractor must take measures to prevent those employees from entering.  If employees will enter a permit space, the roofing contractor must have a written permit space program.  The OSHA website provides an example program for reference.

Before operations begin, the host employer must coordinate with the controlling contractor and provide information about the location, hazards, and precautions taken with regard to the permit space.  The controlling contractor must communicate that information to and coordinate with each entity which may enter the permit space or whose activities may result in a hazard in the permit space.  The controlling contractor must ensure that multiple entry employers do not create hazards for each other.  The entry employer must inform the controlling contractor of the permit space program that it will follow and the foreseeable hazards in each permit space.

As part of the permit space program, each entry employer must:

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Author’s note:  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.

Trent Cotney, CEO of Cotney Construction Law, is an advocate for the roofing industry, General Counsel of Western States Roofing Contractors Association (WSRCA), Florida Roofing & Sheet Metal Contractors Association (FRSA), Roofing Technology Think Tank (RT3), Tennessee Association of Roofing Contractors (TARC), and several other local roofing associations. For more information, contact the author at 866.303.5868 or go to www.cotneycl.com. 

Tags:  LEGAL  SAFETY 

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