When workers must complete tasks in confined spaces, such as in pits, there are several hazards that must be addressed. There is a new construction standard developed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The criteria for a confined space are:
— Has limited exits and entry points; and
— Has an entry large enough for a worker; and
— Is not made for a worker to continually occupy it
If a confined space has what is considered a hazardous atmosphere, a layout that could trap a worker or the potential for suffocation or engulfment, then a permit is likely required before a worker can enter. Even though a pit is usually over four feet deep and open on the top, it may still require a permit. For example, a pit could be below grade or completely underground, such as a sewer system utility vault. There are many other places where pits can be found, including:
— Elevator pits
— Sump pits
— Steam pits
— Industrial chemical waste pits
— Garage service pits
The new OSHA Construction Confined standard must be followed by all employers and employees. This includes pits that are new and old. Personal protective equipment must be used when required, and employees should be given the PPE by their employers.
When a worker suffers an injury or death in a confined space, OSHA will investigate the accident and issue its findings. Workers’ compensation will normally cover medical expenses and lost wages. Death benefits may be paid to the worker’s family. An attorney can provide more information on workers’ compensation appeals and possible third-party lawsuits.
Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “Confined Spaces in Construction: Pits,” accessed Sep. 04, 2015