OSHA Issues New Safety Rule Created to Protect Construction Workers in Massachusetts and Elsewhere

The United States Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”) has issued a final ruledesigned to provide added safety for construction employees who work in confined spaces that are not designed to be occupied on a continuous basis. Since manholes, tanks, ducts, tunnels, silos, and other confined spaces typically lack an emergency escape route, workers are often placed at increased risk for a variety of injuries and tragic deaths.

According to OSHA, the rule was created after two workers were asphyxiated while repairing a manhole. Sadly, one employee was killed while attempting to save his coworker. In addition to asphyxiation hazards, workers who operate in confined spaces also suffer harm caused by heat, toxic chemicals and other substances, explosions, and electrocution. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez stated that, although construction employees regularly enter confined spaces, fatal accidents do not have to result from doing so. Perez estimated that nearly 800 severe injuries may be prevented by the new rule each year.

Under the final rule, construction employees in the U.S. will be afforded similar protections to those already enjoyed by manufacturing workers for more than 20 years. The rule focuses on easily understandable training, continuous monitoring of an often evolving construction work site, and new communication requirements. The rule also mandates that an employer ensure physical hazards are eliminated and emergency responders are available to assist workers in the event of an accident.

All construction workers and employers that build or upgrade structures are required to comply with the new rule. Before entering a confined space that may contain a hazard that could make it difficult for the employee to leave without help, a construction worker must be trained to work in a so-called permit space. In addition, an employer is required to create a written permit that outlines those safety measures that must be taken by each worker who enters a confined space.

The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 was created to reduce preventable work-related accidents across the U.S. Whenever a serious construction or other workplace accident occurs, OSHA will normally investigate whether an employer complied with established safety standards at the job site.

If you were hurt at work in Massachusetts, you should contact the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. Our dedicated lawyers are available to help you pursue the benefits you may be entitled to following an on the job accident. To discuss your rights under the Massachusetts workers’ compensation law in greater detail, call Kantrovitz & Associates, P.C. today at 800-367-0871 or contact us through our website.

Additional Resources:

Confined spaces rule could protect nearly 800 construction workers a year from serious injuries and reduce life-threatening hazardsUnited States Department of Labor Press Release dated May 1, 2015

Workers’ Compensation