Moderator: Kimberly Darby
May 01, 2015
12:30 pm CT
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(Unintelligible) must provide safe conditions for its people. As the President has said, we must never accept that injury, illness or death is the cost of doing business.
While we have made great progress during this administration, we know that we have more work to do. And we know that construction workers face risk every day. And construction workers who enter spaces such as manhole, crawl spaces or tanks face particularly hazardous risk such as electrocution, explosion and asphyxiation.
That's why I am particularly proud that today the Department of Labor, through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is issuing a final rule to bring these workers greater protection. This new rule and the increased protection it affords workers will significantly improve the safety of construction workers who enter confined spaces.
Our Assistant Secretary for OSHA will talk about two workers who were overcome by fumes and died last year while repairing leaks in a manhole. This rule will protect other workers like them saving both workers' lives and preventing an estimated 780 serious injuries every year.
Workers should not have to sacrifice their lives or their health to bring home a paycheck. That is why OSHA is taking these steps to prevent worker fatalities and injuries.
This final rule issued today by OSHA is the culmination of decades of work by the agency to increase protection for construction workers entering confined spaces. It is a major step along the way to help assure that at the end of every workday every worker can go home safe and healthy.
I will now turn the call over To Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, Dr. David Michaels. And I want to thank him for his leadership and tireless work on behalf of workers.
Dr. David Michaels:
Thank you, Deputy Secretary Lu. We greatly appreciate the support you provided us in finalizing this rule. Without your help, we would not have been able to reach the finish line in this important effort.
All workers have the right to a safe and healthy workplace. And it only makes sense that all workers have similar protections when working around the same hazards. Confined spaces such as sewers, manholes, crawl spaces and tanks are not intended for continuous occupancy. They can be very difficult to exit and they can be deadly.
This new rule will afford construction workers the same level of protections as workers in other industries who work in confined spaces. We estimate that every year this new rule will prevent 780 serious injuries and save the lives of five construction workers.
If this new rule had been in place and followed, it could have saved the lives of two workers killed in Georgetown, Idaho, last year who Deputy Secretary Lu discussed in his remarks.
Bo Taylor was applying an aerosol sealant in a manhole when he was overcome by fumes and fell into three feet of water at the bottom of the manhole. Trent Sorensen, Bo's uncle, and the site superintendent went into the manhole to rescue his nephew and was also overcome by the fumes. Trent's son Tyler left to call for help.
A volunteer arrived and attempted to rescue using his own self-contained breathing apparatus but the mask leaked and the volunteer had to stop the rescue attempt. Emergency Medical Technicians arrived approximately 45 minutes after Bo lost consciousness. Neither of the two men survived.
With proper planning, ventilation, rescue training, proper equipment and prior engagement with local emergency services, Bo Taylor and Trent Sorenson could be alive today. The rule we're announcing today cannot go back and save the lives of Bo and Trent. But we know that from this day forward workers' lives will be saved and serious injuries prevented by this new rule.
This rule will provide construction workers with protections already afforded to workers in manufacturing and general industry with some differences tailored to the construction industry. Unlike most general industry worksites, construction sites are continually evolving with the number and characteristics of confined spaces changing as the work progresses.
This rule emphasizes training, continuous worksite evaluation and communication requirements to further protect workers' safety and health. Here are a few of the requirements in the new rule that differ from those in the existing general industry rule.
A competent person must conduct the initial jobsite evaluation in the final rule. The OSHA standards that apply to manufacturing and general industry does not specify who has to conduct the evaluations. The competent person approach is common in construction industry rules. Information-exchange requirements in the final rule inform employers what discussions must be conducted and when during confined-space entry.
All contaminant and engulfment hazard monitoring must be done continuously, as the technology is readily available for most hazards. For substances where continuous monitoring technology is not available, periodic monitoring is required. The construction rule explicitly requires employers to coordinate emergency services before workers enter the confined space.
During controlled atmosphere entry, employers must isolate physical hazards rather than eliminate all of them such as using lockout/tag out, blocking off access to struck-by hazards and things like that. This is not inconsistent with interpretations issued for the general industry rule but is clarified in the final rule for construction.
The final rule will be officially published in the federal register on Monday, May 4 and become effective on August 23, 2015. To help employers, workers and others understand the new requirements; we've developed a new website that contains compliance-assistance materials such as Frequently Asked Questions and educational factsheets.
We will continue to add additional outreach documents as they become available. As you heard earlier, we estimate this new rule will prevent almost 800 serious injuries and save five lives every year. And that's we're here today. That's why this rule is so important. Thank you.
Thank you, Dr. Michaels. At this time, we will open up the call for questions. Operator, do we have any questions from the audience?
Just a reminder - if you would like to ask questions at this time please Star 1 and when prompted, please record your first and last name. One moment for the first question. Your first question comes from Bruce Rolfsen with Bloomberg BNA. You may now ask your question.
My mute was on. I apologize. I have a question. The rule makes reference in response to concerns that it no longer addresses what are described as hazardous enclosed spaces. For the layman out there such as me, what is the difference between a hazardous enclosed space that I guess is already covered by some OSHA standards versus the confined spaces we're talking about here?
Dr. David Michaels:
I'm going to - Bruce I'm going to turn this over to Jim Maddux the director of our Directorate of Construction.
Yes, thanks Bruce. The term hazardous enclosed space was a term that was used in the proposed rule that OSHA issued in 2008. Because so much of the commentary that we received urged us to go back and do something more similar to the general industry rule. We have done that. And so the term hazardous enclosed space is no longer used in the final rule.
Okay. Let me ask a second question here. And the secretary was talking there about the requirement for rescue. Is that - as I understand it, there's a requirement that there be plans made in advance and coordinated in advance but not necessarily that a rescue crew be there at the actual site of the confined space. Would that be correct or...
Yes, that's correct. The employer is required to either have their own rescue service or to make arrangements for rescue service before an entry is attempted. But the rescue service does not have to be onsite all the time.
Okay. All right. Thank you. I had other questions but I'll let someone else have a chance. Thank you.
As long as that service is available, that's the important thing.
Okay. Thank you, Jim.
Just a reminder. If you would like to ask a question please press Star 1 and when prompted please record your first and last name. The next question comes from Christopher Cole of Inside OSHA. You may ask your question.
Hi, good afternoon. I was just wondering could you please elaborate on the difference between the general industry standard and this new one with respect to isolating physical hazards? I heard you mention that and I just was hoping you could explain a bit further what that distinction is.
Dr. David Michaels:
Yes, that's a distinction that has actually been an interpretation of the non-construction standard for many years. And so the plain language of the general industry standard says that you have to eliminate the hazards. So in some cases eliminating the hazards is actually more of a problem than simply isolating them.
So for example if there's some sort of a tripping hazard, you know, it may actually be easier to just put in some sort of a ramp or a cover over the tripping hazard than to go in and cut it out and then go back and reinstall it after the confined space entry is complete.
I see. Thank you. Just one other thing. Recognizing how long it does take to issue an OSHA rule. So the time period, I'm just wondering about the process here from the SBREFA report to now is roughly 12 years I believe.
Can you kind of explain was much of this time taken through a back and forth with industry on specific provisions? And how much of it was regular administrative time taken to go through the regulatory process?
Dr. David Michaels:
Chris, the history of this is I think notable in that we issued a - in 2007 we issued our notice of proposed rulemaking and the proposal was really substantially different than our final. You know, some people sometimes say that OSHA issues a proposed rule and that's what the final's going to look like.
And this really is proof that that's not the case. We listen to our stakeholders. We received comments from many stakeholders saying that the proposal would make - would complicate many work sites because employers already - many employers already work on confined spaces using a general industry standard.
And the proposal that was made during the Bush administration was a different approach. And so we examined those comments and using the information we received in the SBREFA process and then in the hearings and the comments from the NPRM, we revised the proposal to make it substantially similar to the general industry standard.
So that - during those years there was a major rewriting that went on. And taking in the comments we got from not just industry, but all of our stakeholders.
The next question comes from Bruce Rolfsen with Bloomberg BNA. Your line is now open. You may ask your question.
Hello again. Secretary Michaels you mentioned that there'd be a Web site available with information on this. I don't - are you - is OSHA also planning any other type of outreach efforts?
I know when the electrical rule that was introduced last year there were several telephone and Webinar type things that were done through the Edison Electric helped sponsor. I don't know will there be similar things for this program, this rule?
Yes, Bruce. We still have a number of guidance products that we're continuing to develop. The Web page now has our introductory set of FAQs and a few fact sheets. We have a few more fact sheets that we're considering for the rule.
We'll continue to do more FAQs as people ask for them. And we'll be producing a small entity compliance guide. We've also been approached by the AGC and a couple of other organizations who would like to sponsor Webinars.
We plan to do that.
All right. And, oh, I was going to ask. I know you mentioned this rule takes effect in about 90 days. Within the rule, are there any extensions to certain areas that would be worth noting or is this pretty much everything takes effect at the same time?
Dr. David Michaels:
That's correct. In this case, every - all the provisions take effect August 3, 2015.
Just a reminder. If you would like to ask a question please press Star 1 from your touchtone phone and when prompted please record your first and last name. Once again that's Star 1 and when prompted please record your first and last name. The next question comes from Elizabeth Grossman with In These Times. Your line is open and you may ask your question.
Thanks so much for taking my question. My question is about the requirement for rescue plans. Who would be responsible for having those plans in place and engaging with the rescue service in the case of a job site where there are contractors and multiple subcontractors? Would it be the primary company or which one in the layer of contractors would be responsible for that?
All of them are responsible for meeting that requirement if they have employees that are entering the space. If one of the employers arranges for that service then the other employers can rely on that same service.
Dr. David Michaels:
And Liz if I can underscore that one of the basic principles that this rule is based on is that there must be shared information and active communication between all the employers involved. Without that, workers are put at risk.
There are no further questions from the audio participants at this time. Once again a reminder. If you would like to ask a question please press Star 1 from your touchtone phone and when prompted please record your first and last name.
We thank everyone for calling. This will end the call. We wish you a great afternoon. Thank you everyone.
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