The Race is Over

By Dave Olson
In June 4, 2015
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Confined Space Rules – Oregon vs. Washington DC

Oregon’s new combined Confined Space Rule for General Industry/Construction, (OAR 437-002-0146 ), is now in place.  The new Federal OSHA’s Confined Space Entry Rule for Construction(29CFR1926.1201) is also underway, which makes this an opportune time to consider which of these new rules protects workers best.

Oregon’s combined Rule (OAR 437-002-0146)

I believe the intent to blend the two industries makes a lot of sense, but are the trade off’s worth it?  General Industry has been using the former  OAR 437-002-0146 since 1993, so making small adjustments from lessons learned isn’t much of a stretch.

Alternate Entry

One adjustment made to the rule is intended to make it easier to use the “Alternate Entry”, as long as you have completely eliminated all hazards that made it a permit space. Oregon OSHA cleaned-up the process, provided a nice flow chart, and also a document you can customize for your particular site. The trade-off is you are no longer allowed to reclassify a Permit Space; once a Permit Space, always a Permit Space. You can enter under alternate conditions provided that you have completed the process, and have full documentation to support that process. When you have completed your task, it goes right back to a Permit Space. Additionally, you cannot use Alternate Entry if the Permit Space is part of a continuous system unless you can positively isolate the space from the rest of the system.

Rescue

Another change has been in “Rescue”. Before you can allow any employee to enter into any Permit Confined Space, you must have a documented Rescue Plan, a procedure that everyone knows which addresses how to remove an employee who is unable to self-rescue. OSHA cleaned-up the language in both the Non-Entry as well as the Entry portion of the new rule. The rescue process is nearly identical as stated within the previous version of the rule.

Within the Non-Entry Rescue portion of the new rule, the main adjustments discovered are the need for the attendant to have certified First-Aid & CPR training, as well as training on the equipment that the attendant uses to perform non-entry rescue. Also, adjustments were made to contact information related to medical pick-up and entry requests, should you ever need to call someone for help in these areas.

The Entry Rescue language has also changed within the new rule in a manner to ensure there is less room for misunderstanding the meaning of a key statement: “Before you allow any employee to enter a permit space, you must ensure that trained emergency responders will be available if an entrant needs help.” This holds true for Entry Rescue, unless you are able to use alternate entry.

Additionally, the new rule clearly states in more than one place that using 911 for your Entry Rescue does not meet the standard, unless the 911 support team have been trained on and can comply with 2/L,437-002-0182, their rule for Permit Entries. Also, the 911 support team must accept the designation to be your rescue team. After much research in the Portland Metro area and beyond, I have not been able to find any 911 departments that will accept a rescue team designation. Still, you must have a rescue service that can respond in a timely manner, and this is hard to do in the busy metro area. This makes having access to a team on site a must in most cases.

Conclusions

So, for those of you in General Industry, the new rules can be considered more of an exercise in adjusting what your team should already be doing by taking time to read, interpret and digest the new language. The adjustments made within the rule are truly written as best practices to ensure the highest levels of safety for your enterprise.

Now that you know there is new language, and now that you know a new rule exists that may affect how you do business, I recommend everyone continue to educate themselves about these new rules. In my next blog post, we’ll take a look at how the construction industry must adjust to a brand new 27-page rule.

Until then, enjoy your work, and be safe.

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