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OSHA strengthens worker protections in confined spaces

California employers of construction workers exposed to confined spaces have to meet extra safety standards issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Subpart AA of 29 CFR 1926 of the updated OSHA regulations establishes that employers must identify confined spaces at work sites and assess their hazards. Workers must also receive safety training specific to the confined spaces and learn how to rescue workers if an accident happens.

Confined spaces appear in many situations. Examples are boilers, sewers, digesters, and ventilation ducting. The regulations define these types of spaces as big enough for human entry, not meant for prolonged occupancy and limited in regards to entry and exit. Employer programs to promote worker safety in these spaces must be in writing before people can enter the confined areas.

Because many construction sites involve multiple contractors and subcontractors, the confined spaces regulations specifically apply to the controlling contractor and not a host employer. The primary on-site employer must observe the regulations and inform workers of confined space hazards and procedures. OSHA predicts that these increased safety standards will prevent five deaths every year and 780 confined space worker injuries.

When a construction site injury occurs, the injured worker may wish to file a workers' compensation claim in order to receive benefits for the workplace injury. The employer must also be informed of the incident in order for the insurance claim to be processed. Sometimes an injured worker chooses to consult with legal counsel about how to prepare documentation for a benefits claim. The representation of an attorney can also be helpful at a subsequent appeal shearing should the claim be disputed or denied.

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