Why Lives May Depend on Confined Space Safety Training

Confined space safety training is about more than federal compliance. It is a matter of life and death, a workshop presenter told his audience on Tuesday.

In the “Confined Space” workshop during the 2024 AMPP Annual Conference + Expo, Charles Brown of Greenman-Pedersen, Inc. (GPI) covered the legal requirements of working in confined spaces and the safety reasons behind them.

He said more than 200 confined-space fatalities are recorded annually, with 60% of those being would-be rescuers. Nearly 90% die of suffocation, and more than 95% had no formal training. All of them, he emphasized, could have been prevented.

Brown noted that the U.S. Occupational Safety and HealthAdministration (OSHA) worked for 20 years to get a Construction Standard for Confined Spaces into workplaces.

According to OSHA, confined spaces include manholes, crawl spaces, and tanks, as well as areas that are not designed for continuous occupancy and are difficult to exit in the event of an emergency. Confined spaces can bring life-threatening hazards such as toxic substances, electrocutions, explosions, and asphyxiation.

The new standard, Brown explained, is different in these ways:

1. Recognizing multi-employer work sites. Theconstruction industry often involves many different contractors and subcontractors, and the rule provides for a more coordinated approach.
2. Alerting local emergency services and ensuring that the emergency services, in turn, inform the employer if something arises that would prevent them from responding to an emergency.
3. Training must be in a language and must use a vocabulary that is understood by the employee.

By learning and following the safety regulations, Brown said, “we will save lives.”

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