News Releas USDL: 95-297
Wednesday, August 2, 1995
Contact: Frank Kane, (202) 219-8151
OSHA Schedules Hearing On Changes In Permit-Required Confined
Spaces Standard; Reopens Comment Period
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
today announced it will hold public hearings starting Sept. 27
on its proposal to modify the rescue provisions of its permit-required
confined spaces standard. It also is reopening the
comment period on the proposal.
OSHA proposes to revise the standard to state more clearly
the employer's duty to ensure effective rescue capability for
employees who enter permit-required confined spaces and to allow
more flexibility in the point of attachment of a retrieval line
to an entrant.
OSHA also is questioning whether provisions should be added
to the standard to provide affected employees, or their
representatives, the opportunity to observe the evaluation of
confined spaces, including atmospheric testing or monitoring and
to have access to the results of such evaluations and monitoring.
OSHA promulgated the standard Jan. 14, 1993, to protect
workers assigned to enter permit-required confined spaces, which
can pose serious hazards because of their configuration,
difficulty of entry or other factors.
The standard provides a comprehensive regulatory framework
within which employers can effectively protect employees who
enter permit spaces. It also provides for the establishment of
written permit space programs, authorization of entry through
written permits and the implementation of measures necessary for
safe entry operations. These measures include testing and
monitoring of spaces, control of hazards, stationing of an
attendant to monitor entry, employee training and availability of
rescue and emergency medical personnel.
OSHA agreed to propose revisions to the rescue and employee
participation provisions of the standard as part of a settlement
with the United Steelworkers of America, AFL-CIO/CLC (USWA). The
Steelworkers had sought court review of the standard, in part on
the ground that it did not adequately address those two areas.
The proposed language will clarify that employers who
arrange for outside services to perform permit space rescues in
their workplaces must select rescue services capable of
responding in a timely manner, that are properly trained,
equipped and capable of functioning appropriately to perform
permit space rescues.
OSHA also said that the language in the standard specifying
the point of attachment of a retrieval line to a permit space
entrant may be unnecessarily restrictive. ADS Environmental
Services, a contractor that performs work in sewers, has
petitioned OSHA for a variance from that paragraph, saying that
their operations have demonstrated that a point of attachment in
front of the entrant at about mid-shoulder level is adequate to
meet OSHA's objective that an entrant present the smallest
possible profile during removal.
To address this situation, OSHA is proposing a change so
that the pertinent provision becomes more performance-oriented.
The existing provision requires that the point of attachment must
be either at the center of the entrant's back near shoulder level
or above the entrant's head. Now the agency is proposing to
allow any other point of attachment that enables the entrant's
body to present the smallest possible profile during retrieval.
The hearings will begin at 9 a.m. on September 27 in the
Frances Perkins Building auditorium, U.S. Department of Labor,
200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, D.C., 20210.
Notices of intention to appear at the hearings, along with
all testimony and evidence which will be introduced in the
hearing record, must be postmarked by Sept. 13 and submitted in
quadruplicate to Tom Hall, Occupational Safety and Health
Administration, Division of Consumer Affairs, Room N3647, U.S.
Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.,
20210, telephone (202) 219-8615.
OSHA also is reopening the comment period on the proposal.
Comments must be postmarked by Sept. 13 and submitted in
quadruplicate to the Docket Office, Docket No. S-019A, Room
N2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave. NW,
Washington, D.C., 20210, telephone (202) 219-7894.
Comments limited to 10 pages or less may be transmitted by
facsimile to (202) 219-5046, provided the original and three
copies are sent to the Docket Office. Written submissions must
clearly identify the issue addressed and the position taken with
respect to each issue.
The original 90-day comment period ended Feb. 27, 1995.
OSHA received 51 written comments, including requests for
hearings from several commenters. The comments are available for
inspection and copying in the OSHA Docket Office.
Notice of the public hearings and extension of the comment
period is published in the Wednesday, Aug. 2 Federal Register.