What is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)?
OSHA is part of the United States Department of Labor. The administrator for OSHA is the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health. OSHA’s administrator answers to the Secretary of Labor, who is a member of the cabinet of the President of the United States.
What is OSHA’s mission?
With the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, Congress created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to assure safe and healthful working conditions for working men and women by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.
Whom does OSHA’s mission cover?
The Occupational Safety and Health Act covers most private sector employees and their workers. The Federal OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1910 for General Industry addresses working condition at Baylor University. Baylor’s Environmental Health and Safety Department is responsible for compliance with all aspects of the 1910 Standard as they apply to the university.
General Information Summary
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was established in 1971. Since then, OSHA with the efforts of employers, safety and health professionals, unions and advocates, have had a dramatic effect on workplace safety. Fatality and injury rates have dropped markedly. Although accurate statistics were not kept at the time, it is estimated that in 1970 around 14,000 workers were killed on the job. That number fell to approximately 4,340 in 2009. At the same time, U.S. employment has almost doubled and now includes over 130 million workers at more than 7.2 million work sites. Since the passage of the OSH Act, the rate of reported serious workplace injuries and illnesses has declined from 11 per 100 workers in 1972 to 3.6 per 100 workers in 2009. OSHA safety and health standards have prevented countless work-related injuries, illnesses and deaths.
Employer-Reported Workplace Injuries and Illnesses – 2015
There were approximately 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers in 2015, which occurred at a rate of 3.0 cases per 100 equivalent full-time workers, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. The 2015 rate continues a pattern of declines that, apart from 2012, occurred annually for the last 13 years. Private industry employers reported nearly 48,000 fewer nonfatal injury and illness cases in 2015 compared to a year earlier, according to estimates from the Survey of Occupational Injuries and Illnesses. Because of this decline, combined with an increase in reported hours worked, the total record able cases incidence rate fell 0.2 cases per 100 full-time workers.
OSHA has long regulated work done in confined spaces in the interest of minimizing risks to workers. On August 3, 2015, however, new OSHA regulations went into effect that will significantly impact the construction industry. Are you ready for the changes to come?
What is A Confined Space?
For an area to be categorized as a “confined space,” the following three requirements must be met:
- The space must be large enough to be occupied by a single person.
- The space must not be intended nor designed for continual occupancy.
- The space has limited entry and exit.
Some spaces that typically fall into this category include boilers, manholes, air conditioning ducts, bins, and storm drains. Other factors, such as atmospheric hazards, the possibility of engulfment, and other serious hazards may play a role in the classification.
Why Are the OSHA Regulations Changing?
The existing regulations that pertained to general industry were deemed to be inefficient for the construction industry. According to OSHA, the new standard “incorporates construction-specific provisions, reflects advances in technology, and improved enforceability of the requirements.” It also places additional emphasis on training, monitoring and evaluating, and communication.
By clarifying what constitutes as a confined space and creating construction specific parameters, the goal of the changing OSHA regulations is to make employees safer in the exact situations they need it the most!
What Do I Need to Know?
Here’s what you need to know about the recent changes:
- The regulations now more appropriately reflect the fact that construction sites often employ multiple contractors and subcontractors, and they subsequently enable better coordination between all stakeholders.
- The new regulations clearly outline the components of a qualified confined space plan: pre-entry planning, better identification and designation of confined spaces, evaluating potential hazards within those spaces, and seeing to it that those hazards are eliminated or controlled.
- It’s the responsibility of the various employers to train their workers on confined spaces and to designate the individuals who will work in them.
- In some sub-categories of confined spaces, an attendant must be at the entrance any time work is being done inside.
- Employers are responsible for making sure that any work being done outside of the confined space doesn’t introduce hazardous materials into that confined space. For example, employers should refrain from operating generators outside of a confined space when workers are inside, due to the risk of carbon monoxide build-up.
- When possible, employers must monitor the quality of the atmosphere inside the confined space.
- Employers are also responsible for continuously monitoring any engulfment hazards that may be present.
- If an employer is relying on local emergency services, both parties are required to establish communication in advance. The employer has to let emergency services know that their help may be needed, and emergency services must inform the employer of anything that might affect their ability to provide that help.
- The employer is responsible for providing training that is in a language the employee understands. In addition, the employer must determine whether any changes in responsibilities or circumstances might necessitate additional training.
- Employers must also make sure that only designated, authorized employees enter confined spaces. This includes putting steps in place to keep non-authorized personnel out.
- The new regulations stipulate that “entering” a confined space means putting any part of the body into that space; it does not require being completely inside the space.
- OSHA now considers not making a decision about a confined space to be a decision in itself. In other words, inaction is equal to action in OSHA’s eyes.
Since confined spaces were already highly regulated, meeting these new standards shouldn’t be too much of a burden for most employers. The important part is to understand what’s changed, make plans for complying with those new requirements, and informing everyone at the work site as to what that means for them and their jobs. Is your construction site prepared to be in compliance with the new OSHA regulations? If not, what do you need to do to get there so OSHA doesn’t come knocking.