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OSHA’s Temporary Enforcement Policy Related to Confined Spaces in Construction Standard Applies to Many Massachusetts Workers

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADue to numerous requests for additional time for safety training, the United States Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) recently announced that a temporary enforcement policy related to the agency’s new Confined Spaces in Construction standard would become effective on August 3rd. Full enforcement of the new policy will reportedly begin in October.

The rule was issued in May and requires employers in Massachusetts and across the nation to afford construction workers with substantially similar safety protections that are currently provided to workers in other industries such as manufacturing. Those measures include sharing information regarding potential health and safety hazards with workers and continuously monitoring potential dangers related to enclosed work spaces. The new standard is expected to reduce fatal accidents and protect as many as 800 construction industry employees from sustaining serious harm at work each year.

OSHA has agreed to refrain from issuing citations to employers who attempt to comply with the new rule during the 60-day period that the temporary enforcement policy is in place. In order to demonstrate good faith compliance, employers must adhere to either the new rule or the previous Confined Spaces in Construction standard. In addition, scheduling safety training for construction workers, ordering new equipment that complies with the standard, and making additional efforts to protect employees from potential confined space dangers may also be taken into account by the agency. A construction employer that fails to demonstrate a good faith effort to comply with the new standard may be cited despite the temporary policy.

Employees who work in confined spaces often face life-threatening hazards, such as asphyxiation, exposure to dangerous chemicals, and explosions. Confined spaces include crawl spaces, tanks, ducts, manholes, and other enclosed spaces that are not designed for continuous human use and may be difficult to depart in an emergency. Under the new standard, employers are required to address the unique dangers associated with working in confined spaces with construction employees prior to entry. Atmospheric hazards and ventilation must also be monitored while employees are performing work in an enclosed space.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 was created in an effort to reduce workplace injuries and deaths in Massachusetts and nationwide. The Act requires employers to provide construction and other employees with a working environment that is reasonably free from preventable safety hazards. The law also mandates that employers comply with certain health and safety regulations.

If you are a construction worker who suffered a serious workplace injury in Boston, you may be entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits. The knowledgeable attorneys at Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. are available to help you navigate the process of your worker’s compensation claim. To speak with a seasoned Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer about your harm, you should contact Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. online or give us a call today at 800-367-0871.

Additional Resources:

OSHA issues temporary enforcement policy for confined spaces in construction, OSHA Trade News Release dated July 9, 2015

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