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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.


Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents

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