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The hazards of confined spaces in construction

A confined space like an office cubicle might not be pleasing to work in, but in the construction industry, confined spaces can be dangerous or even deadly. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has issued guidance about the safety of confined spaces in that line of work.

OSHA has issued a new fact sheet on confined spaces safety standards. Confined spaces in construction work can include basements, crawl spaces and attics. The safety standards affect confined spaces that are large enough for a worker to enter but have limited means of entry and exit and that are not designed for continuous occupancy.

Confined spaces that have hazardous conditions like material that could engulf a worker or inward sloping walls that could trap a worker might require a permit before work can be performed in them. OSHA notes that basements, crawl spaces and attics in residential homes generally do not meet its criteria for hazardous conditions, but that extreme heat in home attics can be dangerous, and working in such an environment could require a permit.

Because some home basements are meant to be occupied continually, this type of basement does not meet the definition of a confined space. Residential crawl spaces usually do not trigger the requirements of the safety standard unless they contain a specific hazard.

Employers' obligations regarding the safety standard are outlined in the OSHA fact sheet. Employers who fail to follow OSHA requirements can be fined. Injured workers may want to meet with an attorney to see what the procedure is for filing a claim for workers' compensation benefits under their employer's insurance coverage.

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