In September 2013, a construction worker working near Syracuse, NY was fatally burned when he was welding in a confined space that contained flammable gas. The open flame ignited the gas and the worker was trapped inside the confined area. The worker suffered severe burns all over his body and passed away after arriving at the hospital.
At the time of this accident, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) did not have specific rules regarding the prevention of construction accidents in confined spaces. The laws OSHA used for these situations were based primarily on similar laws used in the manufacturing industry. But accidents such as this one and others like it convinced OSHA that it was time to put together rules that protected workers, and held contracting companies responsible for creating safer work areas.
New Rule 29 CFR Part 1926
Early in 2015, OSHA released wording for its new rule regarding construction in confined spaces titled Rule 29 CFR
Part 1926. The new rule created the idea of a “permit required confined space” that puts the responsibility of identifying dangerous confined spaces on the employer, and protects workers from getting into situations they are untrained to handle.
Under the new rule, employers are required to inspect every confined work area and then determine if that area poses a hazard or not. If the confined work space is deemed to be hazardous, then only employees who have the proper training are allowed to work in those areas.
There are also rules regarding how many employees work in these confined areas, and what their roles would be. When an employer does not assign a permit to a confined area that is hazardous, that employer faces serious fines.
What Is A Confined Area?
The National Association of Home Builders clarifies what OSHA deems to be confined spaces by saying that they are work areas that:
- Present limited means to safely enter and exit the area
- Are at least large enough for one worker to enter
- Are enclosed areas not intended to sustain continuous occupancy
If a work area meets these criteria, then the company must run tests to determine if the confined area presents a work hazard. There are specific guidelines used to establish what type of hazard the area creates, and focused permitting laws that must be used once a hazard is identified. Workers are encouraged by OSHA to question whether or not it is safe to work in non-permitted areas, and OSHA even recommends contacting inspection authorities to look over confined areas that raise worker concerns.
What To Do If You Are In A Confined Area Accident
Construction accidents of any kind can be dangerous, but confined spaces present challenges that are unique. When a worker is enclosed in a tight space that has the potential to be dangerous, the threat of injury increases. The new OSHA rule is designed to warn workers before they enter a confined area as to what threats the area presents, but not all companies are adhering to the new law.
If you or someone you know has been injured on a construction work site in a confined space, then it is critically important to contact an attorney immediately. Under the new laws, workers are supposed to be warned about dangerous confined spaces, and only properly trained employees are allowed to work in areas that present any potential danger. An attorney can protect your rights and make sure that you get the compensation you deserve to get your life back on track.