Reducing the Dangers of Working in Construction Site Confined Spaces

By Neil Kalra

Confined spaces like manholes, interior utility closets, and ground trenches or pits; are not designed for continuous occupancy and are hard to evacuate in case of an emergency. People working in confined spaces face life-threatening hazards such as being overwhelmed by toxic substances, electrocutions, explosions, and asphyxiation.

In 2015, According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 136 U.S. workers died in sudden events within a confined space in 2015. And over 11,000 preventable confined space injuries occurred to workers – many of them in the construction industry – that same year according to the Occupational Safety and Hazard Administration (OSHA).

Construction workers often perform tasks in confined spaces, work areas that:

  • Are large enough for an employee to enter but;

  • Have limited means of entry or exit, and;

  • Are not designed for continuous occupancy.

Other confined space examples may include sewers, crawl spaces, attics, boilers, and elevator shafts, among others.

Confined spaces can be deadly because of the potential for burial under materials or earth, oxygen deficiency or enrichment, flammable gases or vapors, combustible dusts, toxic substances and other physical hazards can injure a confined construction worker. Other health hazards to worker safety include obstacles such as electrical and mechanical equipment, poor visibility, biohazards, and claustrophobia; noise, radiation and extreme temperatures.

These confined areas can create preventable physical and atmospheric hazards that if properly addressed prior to workers entering these spaces, will be safe to perform construction work.

Only workers who have been assigned and trained to work in a permit space may do so. Additionally, before they can enter any confined space, the employer has to get a permit that specifies what safety measures must to be taken and who is allowed to enter that particular confined space.

There are three primary members to a confined space team. They are:

  • Entrant.

  • Attendant.

  • Supervisor.

Growing Awareness of Safety in Jobsite Confined Spaces

The confined spaces rules – and standards that govern them for the construction industry – have been recently rewritten. Before that, standards governing safety for confined spaces on construction sites lagged noticeably behind those of other workplaces. And they they are very complicated.

But the responsibility is on the property owner and general contractor to clearly instruct all workers on safety in confined spaces and rigorously monitor both these special work areas and worker safety while they are there. And if construction workers are required to wear personal protection equipment (PPE), it must be provided and paid for by the property owner and/or contractor.

Safety Tips for Working in Confined Spaces

Confined spaces, particularly permit spaces must be accessible only by trained professionals. Some general safety tips to help you stay safe in confined spaces include:

  1. Area must be free from hazards: Before entering a confined space, confirm that it has a permit before you enter and the area is clear of harmful materials and substances.

  2. Test the atmosphere – Properly trained supervisors and employees must conduct atmospheric tests (oxygen, hydrogen and explosive gas tests).

  3. Ventilate – Never use the ventilator as a vacuum to draw the air outside. All vent fans must be safe and properly grounded. The atmosphere should be tested as much as possible. If the atmosphere is not within limits, ventilate again.

  4. Take care of each other – When someone is working on a confined space, always ensure a workaround watch who can call rescue teams for emergencies or is trained and equipped to conduct a rescue.

  5. Use PPE – Use harness, lifeline or continuous gas monitoring devices. Also, use a self contained breathing apparatus if needed.

Whether you or a family member was injured due to a construction, auto, commercial vehicle, or semi-truck accident; you may be entitled to full benefits and compensation. Know your rights and get the answers you deserve.

The attorneys at Kalra Law Firm are dedicated to getting construction accident victims the compensation they deserve. Call our office now to speak with one of our experienced construction accident lawyers to represent you in your case. We offer a free initial consultation and will not charge unless we win your case. If you have any questions about your construction accident, call our New York City and Queens Construction accident lawyers today at (718) 897-2211.

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