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October 16, 2015
OSHA further extends confined space enforcement deadline

OSHA’s Confined Spaces in Construction standard was published in May 2015 and took effect in August. A temporary enforcement policy was in effect for all covered employers through October 2. OSHA has now extended that temporary enforcement policy through January 8, 2016, but only for employers engaged in residential construction work. Nonresidential construction employers please note—your confined space activities are now subject to the standard.

In a memorandum on the extension, the agency explains that, before January 8, it “will not issue citations under the confined spaces in construction standard to an employer engaged in residential construction work if the employer is making good-faith efforts to comply with the standard, as long as the employer is in compliance with either the training requirements of the standard … or the former training requirements….”

Under that provision, “All employees required to enter into confined or enclosed spaces shall be instructed as to the nature of the hazards involved, the necessary precaution to be taken, and in the use of protective equipment required. The employer shall comply with any specific regulations that apply to work in dangerous or potentially dangerous areas.”

What does OSHA mean by ‘good-faith efforts?’
The following factors will be considered by OSHA when evaluating whether an employer is engaged in good-faith efforts to comply with the new standard.

  • The employer has not trained its employees as required under the new standard and whether the employer has scheduled such training
  • The employers does not have the equipment required for compliance with the new standard, including personal protective equipment, and whether the employer has ordered or arranged to obtain such equipment and is taking alternative measures to protect employees from confined space hazards
  • The employer has engaged in any additional efforts to educate workers about confined space hazards and protect them from those hazards

The new Confined Spaces in Construction standard (29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA) provides construction workers with protections similar to those in place for manufacturing and general industry workers, with some differences tailored to construction work. An example is ensuring that multiple employers share vital safety information.

The rule includes detailed training requirements for workers involved in, or affected by, confined space entry operations. Before the release of Subpart AA, construction employers were required to train employees entering confined spaces “on the nature of the hazards involved, the necessary precautions to be taken, and in the use of protective and emergency equipment.”

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