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Confined spaces final rule issued by OSHA

Pennsylvania residents who are employed in certain aspects of the construction industry may want to know that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration released a final rule on working in confined spaces. Issued on May 4, it will be effective on Aug. 3.

According to OSHA, employers will be required to assess all work sites to determine whether there are confined spaces in which workers will be performing tasks. They must then identify all hazards that will exist in those spaces and determine what can be done to address them. Training programs should then be designed for employees and a rescue plan for getting injured employees out of the spaces must be in place.

Confined spaces are defined as areas that are large enough for a worker to enter but that have few entry or exit points. They are also not designed to be permanently occupied. OSHA estimates that with the new rule, 768 fewer injuries and five fewer deaths will occur each year due to confined space accidents. One important part of the rule is that every employer who has employees working at a site with a confined space will be required to take the same safety steps, even if their workers are not intended to perform any tasks in the space.

Construction work can be hazardous, and OSHA's safety rules are designed to help prevent workplace injuries. Another protection in place is the Pennsylvania workers' compensation system, which mandates that most employers provide insurance coverage to help those who are injured while working on the job. Benefits can include medical treatment as well as a percentage of wages lost during the recovery period, and many workers find it advisable to obtain the assistance of a workers' compensation attorney in preparing and filing the required claim.

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