Construction Confined Space Stakeholder Meetings

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is developing a new standard to address hazards faced by construction workers in confined spaces. We plan to issue a proposed rule for confined spaces in construction next year. To help us in this effort, we will hold public stakeholder meetings to gather information concerning confined spaces in construction. The meetings will be held according to the schedule below. The purpose of this notice is to encourage those stakeholders who are interested in and have knowledge of confined spaces in construction to attend and to participate in the meetings.

Because of the limited time available, participation in each discussion must be limited to 35 individuals. Those wishing to speak at the meetings should check the "yes" box on the stakeholder response form. If it becomes necessary to select from among the potential speakers, we will select in a manner to ensure balanced representation of backgrounds and viewpoints so that representatives of labor and management from both large and small business are heard. Speakers' time will be limited to allow for all speakers to be heard. OSHA will not accept written comments at these meetings.

In addition to the 35 speakers, seating for participants who wish to observe will be available on a first-come basis (Seating preference will be assigned in the order in which we receive the attached attendance form). We must receive attendance forms no later than October 3, 2000. We will confirm, via e-mail or fax, all responses received by that date. Confirmation will include notification of speaker status.

Issues Discussed at the
Construction Confined Space Stakeholder Meetings

  1. The Agency seeks information concerning the characteristics of confined spaces in the construction industry, such as:

    Examples of confined spaces that you encounter
    The defining characteristics of confined spaces in construction
    Examples of obstructions that impair entering or exiting confined spaces

  2. It is our understanding that there are engulfment hazards, such as in sewers, that often cannot be effectively isolated (blocked off). We are considering a requirement that, in those situations, employers use an early-warning system to continuously monitor the non-isolated hazard. Such a provision would specify that the system must alert entrants and attendants of the engulfment hazard in time to safely exit the confined space. Examples of such systems would be a remotely-activated alarm, or a lookout who has a communication link to the attendant. We are considering the following questions:

    Is there a need for an early-warning system in these situations?
    What early-warning systems are available for use in spaces such as sewers?
    How often, and under what conditions, are they used?
    Are the available systems effective?

  3. For atmospheric hazards, the general industry standard allows periodic (rather than continuous) monitoring in some circumstances. Since that standard was adopted, monitoring technology has advanced, and costs for continuous monitoring equipment have declined. As a result, we are considering requiring continuous monitoring in all cases under the construction standard. We are considering the following questions:

    Would continuous monitoring better protect employees than periodic monitoring?
    Are there labor cost savings associated with using continuous monitors?
    What do continuous monitors cost?

  4. Are there ways to make it easier for small businesses to protect their employees from confined space hazards without compromising safety?
  5. OSHA is considering a requirement that would permit an attendant to monitor more than one permit-required confined space (PRCS) at a time, and allow an attendant or entry supervisor to serve simultaneously as an entry supervisor and attendant. Such duties would be permitted if the employer: (1) can ensure that the attendant can fully perform such duties and responsibilities, (2) provides the means and procedures for the attendant to respond to an emergency affecting any of the permit-required confined spaces, and (3) the attendant or entry supervisor can perform the critical tasks of their principal jobs. We are considering the following questions:

    What are the maximum number of PRCSs an attendant can effectively monitor?
    Have any emergencies occurred in which an attendant's ability to perform rescue-related tasks was compromised because they were responsible for monitoring several PRCSs?
    What experience does the construction industry have with attendants or authorized entrants also serving as entry supervisors?
    Are there circumstances where this arrangement should be prohibited?