Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
On May 4, 2015, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued its long-awaited Final Rule on Confined Spaces in Construction. Confined spaces, such as manholes, tanks, sewers, attics and crawl spaces, are work areas that are not designed for continuous occupancy and may be difficult to exit in the event of an emergency.
These spaces can be subject to the accumulation of toxic or flammable contaminants, oxygen deficient atmosphere or present physical hazards that must be addressed prior to entering the space to perform work. Examples include: manholes, sewer systems, stormwater drains, water mains, crawl spaces, attics, heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) ducts, and pits.
The new rule has a myriad of new requirements and applies to a wide range of employers, including general contractors. It requires identification and evaluation by a competent person and employee notification of confined spaces on the jobsite prior to entry; hazardous atmosphere testing and monitoring; written confined space-entry program and entry permits that document procedures for workers who must enter a confined space; the controlling contractor/host employer be the primary point of contact for information about permit spaces at the work site; specified duties for authorize confined spaces entrants, outside attendants, and supervisors; emergency rescue requirements; and workers to be trained on hazards and procedures for entering confined spaces.
The new standard was to become effective Aug. 3, 2015. However, in response NAHB and other construction trade association requests for additional time to train and acquire the equipment necessary to comply with the standard, on July 9, 2015, OSHA issued a 60-day temporary enforcement policy, thereby postponing full enforcement on the new standard to Oct. 2, 2015. NAHB has developed the Confined Spaces Toolkit that offers compliance assistance materials for members and is available on nahb.org.
NAHB and the Texas Association of Builders have both filed Petitions for Review in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals challenging the standard.