Post #4 – As mentioned in an earlier blog post (#2), OSHA has three different sets of confined space entry standards; one applies to construction work, and another applies to general industry work. OSHA also have a standard that applies to confined space work conducted in the Maritime industry, but that standard will not be discussed in this blog post.
It is imperative that you understand which of the OSHA standards apply to your particular confined space entry operations, and conversely, which one does not, as the requirements of each standard differ. And the way to make sure you understand is to refer to the sections that list the scope and the application for each of the OSHA confined space entry permit requirements.
Scope of the OSHA Confined Space Entry Standards Applicable to General Industry
1910.146(a) lays out the scope of the OSHA permit-required confined space entry standards for general industry workplaces. It states:
“This section contains requirements for practices and procedures to protect employees in general industry from the hazards of entry into permit-required confined spaces. This section does not apply to agriculture, to construction, or to shipyard employment (parts 1928, 1926, and 1915 of this chapter, respectively).”
To reiterate information provided in post #2, general industry work typically consists of activities performed during the manufacturing of goods or products, including those at chemical plants and refining operations. General industry work also includes most general maintenance activities. Service industries such as telephone and cable companies, restaurants, coffee shops and bakeries are also covered by the OSHA 1910.146 general industry standards for confined space entry, as are warehousing and logistics operations and the healthcare industry. 1910.146 would even apply to work involving entry operations at establishments such as bowling allies and amusement parks.
Scope of the OSHA Confined Space Entry Standards Applicable to Construction
For the construction industry, 29 CFR 1926, paragraph 1201(a) explains the scope of the confined spaces in construction standards. This paragraph states the following:
“This standard sets forth requirements for practices and procedures to protect employees engaged in construction activities at a worksite with one or more confined spaces.”
According to 1910.12(b), work regulated under 1926 subpart AA construction standards applies only to confined space entry operations related to construction, alterations, and/or repairs, which include painting and decorating. This would include, but is certainly not limited to, confined space entry work involved in the construction of a brand-new structure, major renovation or repair of all or part of an existing structure, repainting portions or all of a structure, and demolition work.
Which Confined Space Standard Takes Precedence?
Here is the tricky part; while the 1926 subpart AA confined spaces in construction standard does not apply to general industry work, that standard does apply to construction work conducted inside of a confined space that happens to be located at a general industry worksite.
Consider the following hypothetical of how entry into a tank, which as we will see in an upcoming blog post is usually considered a confined space, could feasibly be regulated by both the OSHA confined space entry standards for construction and also the confined space standards for general industry, switching back-and-forth over the course of time. Notice how the determination depends on the work activities that are taking place, and not the location.
- A large tank is fabricated in the shop at a manufacturing company, including having a protective lining sprayed onto the interior tank surfaces by a worker: this work is regulated under 146 General Industry requirements for confined space entry.
- The tank is erected at a chemical plant expansion project, where workers enter the tank to install fill lines and drain pipes: this work is regulated under 1926 Subpart AA Construction requirements for confined space entry.
- After the chemical plant is up and running in normal production, entry is made into the tank once a year to conduct an inspection of the protective lining on the interior surfaces of the tank to determine its general condition: this preventive maintenance work is regulated under 146 General Industry requirements for confined space entry.
- After an annual inspection discovers damage to the lining caused when the tank was previously struck by a forklift, a lining crew enters the tank to blast out the old lining and reapply a new tank lining: this repair work is regulated under 1926 Subpart AA Construction requirements for confined space entry.
- Subsequent annual entries are made to conduct inspections of the interior lining to determine its general condition: this preventive maintenance work is regulated under 146 General Industry requirements for confined space entry.
- After 30 years of use, the tank has been deemed obsolete, and is scheduled to be demolished. A crew enters the tank to cut loose interior braces and baffles as part of the tank demolition process; this demolition work is regulated under 1926 Subpart AA Construction requirements for confined space entry.
As the previous set of scenarios demonstrate, the over-riding factor to determine which set of OSHA confined space entry permit requirements apply to a given situation is usually the type of work (general industry or construction) being performed inside the confined space, as opposed to the location where the confined space work happens to be taking place.
Application – Workplaces Where OSHA Confined Space Standards Do Not Apply
I will wrap up this blog post by touching certain employers to whom the OSHA confined space entry permit requirements do not apply. The OSH Act of 1970, which establishes coverage of federal OSHA standards, was originally written to apply only to private sector employers in the U.S. and its territories. That means public employers like state and local government agencies (e.g.: municipalities and counties) are not regulated by the OSHA standards, including those for confined space entry operations, unless they happen to be located in one of the states or territories operating under a State Plan OSHA program, as explained in a blog post #2.
Also exempt from coverage by the OSH Act, and therefore exempt from the federal OSHA confined space entry standards, are workplaces for which other federal agencies have laws that regulate employee safety in certain operations. For example, entry into underground mines, which logically seem to be confined spaces, are actually covered by the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) regulations, and are therefore exempt from OSHA standards for confined space entry. And construction work conducted at worksites overseen by the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers must follow the EM-385-1-1 requirements for confined space entry.
Do Federal Confined Space Entry Requirements Apply to the Feds?
One last interesting factoid; the OSH Act originally did not apply to Federal agencies, meaning federal employers were not required by Congress to follow OSHA’s confined space entry standards; in fact, not even OSHA was required to follow their own confined space entry regulations! However, because of an executive order issued in 1980, federal agencies do now have limited coverage by OSHA standards, and must therefore comply with applicable OSHA confined space entry requirements (and all other applicable OSHA standards) during their entry operations.
Additional Information and Training on Confined Spaces
Hopefully this blog post helps clarify which OSHA confined space entry requirements apply to work being conducted at your site. Or, it may make you realize OSHA lacks jurisdiction over confined space entry operations at your worksite, and that you must figure out what alternate set of regulations may apply. You can learn more about this and other topics by taking one of the online confined space training courses available on our website.
In the next blog post (#5), we will address exactly who is responsible for making sure all permit-required confined spaces at the worksite are properly identified.
Final Note: Thanks for reading the blog. Please help spread the word about our confined space entry training blog by sending a link to the blog ( https://confinedspacetraining.net/confined-space-training-blog/ ) to others in your network who could benefit from this information.
Thanks, – Curtis
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