MALTA, N.Y. — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has developed a new rule to protect workers in confined spaces, including residential attics and crawl spaces, that will impact the work of home performance contractors, notes the Building Performance Institute Inc. (BPI).
Routine tasks such as installing spray-foam insulation in attics or installing plumbing in a crawlspace will require documented safety plans, and in some cases stationing an additional person outside the space to grant access.
Effective Aug. 3, 2015, the rule — which has long applied to confined spaces such as tunnels and manholes — now specifies crawl spaces and attics due to recent fatalities. Two workers died while applying primer to floor joists in a crawl space. They were burned when an incandescent work lamp ignited vapors from the primer. In another incident, a flash fire killed a worker who was spraying foam insulation in an enclosed attic. The fire was caused by poor ventilation. OSHA estimates the rule will prevent nearly 800 serious injuries per year.
Under the new rule (29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA), permits to access specific confined spaces are granted by the general contractor or lead contractor on each job. There are numerous safe entry procedures requiring planning and preparation by the contractor ahead of time.
The rule will apply to any space that meets the following three criteria:
• Is large enough for a worker to enter it;
• Has limited means of entry or exit; and
• Is not designed for continuous occupancy.
A space may also be a permit-required confined space if it has a hazardous atmosphere, the potential for suffocation, a layout that might trap a worker through converging walls or a sloped floor, or any other serious safety or health hazard.
Under the new rule, permits to access specific confined spaces are granted by the general contractor or lead contractor on each job. There are numerous safe entry procedures requiring planning and preparation by the contractor ahead of time.
Employers will be required to train workers to ensure they know about the existence, location, and dangers posed by each permit-required confined space.
BPI has organized a webinar to discuss what the new rule means for home performance contractors, which is scheduled for July 14, 2015, from 3 to 4:30 p.m. EDT. Register here.
An OSHA fact sheet on the rule is available here.
Publication date: 7/6/2015