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OSHA implements new standards on enclosed spaces

Workers in New Jersey are protected by standards enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal department charged with monitoring workplace safety across the country. The department maintains specific rules and regulations to keep dangerous areas of workplaces as safe as possible. It has recently supplemented existing standards that govern safe professional conduct in enclosed areas, with the new ones specifically targeting active construction sites.

Enclosed spaces are defined as areas with limited methods of getting in and out. They are not meant to be occupied by employees on a long-term basis, but they must be entered by workers in the course of their employment. General standards regarding these issues were first issued in 1993.

In addition to many other conditions, a competent person must be sent to inspect enclosed places and inform all responsible parties about any risks that may be encountered. If there is a potential for the enclosed area to have a hazardous atmosphere, shift or deform in such a way that the worker can become trapped or any other known hazard, then it may be necessary for the site operators to obtain a permit. Continuous monitoring of the atmosphere in enclosed areas is also encouraged by the new standards.

Those who are injured on the job while working on a construction site may want to speak with an attorney to determine the recourse that may be available. In addition to assessing whether the injured worker is eligible to file a claim for workers' compensation benefits, legal counsel may be able to determine whether the injury was caused by the negligence of a non-employer third party. If so, it may in some cases be possible to pursue a separate lawsuit against the responsible person or entity in addition to pursuing a claim for benefits.

Source: OH&S Online, "OSHA's New Confined Space Standard", Chris Irwin and Jessica Smith, July 1, 2015

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