New OSHA Rescue Requirements for Confined Space Retrieval: What You Should Know

Confined spaces exist in nearly every industry, and many workers come into contact with at least one during the course of their work. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, about 90 deaths involving confined spaces occur every year across a wide range of industries. Unfortunately, two-thirds of those deaths are workers killed while trying to rescue someone else from a confined space. This is often due to the critical nature of these rescues, which sometimes lead to poorly planned retrieval attempts.

Many workers and employers are unaware of the dangers confined spaces pose, which include:

  • Lack of oxygen
  • Poisonous gas, fume, or vapor
  • Liquids and solids suddenly filling the confined space or releasing gases into it when disturbed
  • Fire and explosions
  • Residues left behind that can give off gas, fume, or vapor
  • Hot working conditions
  • Falling objects
  • Moving parts of equipment and machinery
  • Electrical shock resulting from defective extension cords, welding cables, etc.
  • Poor visibility
  • Substances entering through piping such as gases, hot substances, or water

Very often, injuries and deaths occur as a result of work being carried out in a confined space, such as welding, painting, flame cutting, or using chemicals.

The New OSHA Rule

In May 2015, OSHA issued a final rule that applies to construction workers who are working in confined spaces. The new rule is known as Subpart AA of part 1926 of the Code of Federal Regulations and is enforced beginning Oct. 2, 2015. It applies to all construction workers who may be exposed to confined space hazards, such as those who work in sewers, manholes, crawl spaces, boilers, tanks, storage bins, silos, stacks, vaults, pits, chambers, tanks, vats, trenches, sewers, drains, flues, ductwork, unventilated or poorly ventilated rooms, and many more locations that have cramped spaces and narrow openings.

By Craig Firl, Rick Argudin