OSHA has introduced a new confined space standard that will have an effect on workers in Pennsylvania and across the country. In particular, the standard addresses the construction industry more directly than the existing standard enacted in 1993 did. The new rule is scheduled to take effect on Aug. 3, 2015.
OSHA representatives state that about 780 serious work-related injuries and five fatalities can be prevented annually with the new standard. Some of the risks that the new standard addresses and hopes to minimize is the lack of oxygen and the exposure to toxic fumes, vapors and gases.
With the new construction industry standard, many important changes have occurred. While it was written in a similar fashion as the rule that applies to all industries, there are several key differences between the two. For example, the construction industry standard includes a paragraph regarding how to coordinate activities when multiple employers are on the same job site. This component may help to prevent toxic exposure in a confined space when a worker is working on a different task in the same vicinity. Additionally, the construction site owner must provide key information to the general contractor regarding known hazards involving confined spaces. The contractor is responsible for sharing this information with all subcontractors and employees on site. Additionally, the new standard includes a requirement for a competent person to be the one who enters a confined space.
Individuals who are injured on the job may choose to discuss their case with a workers’ compensation lawyer. Legal counsel might explain whether workers’ compensation benefits will be available or if the employee may find it advisable to pursue a personal injury lawsuit against a non-employer third party whose negligence caused the injury.