Reeling from seven confined-space deaths in one year, California has issued an alert and launched a special employer initiative to stem that toll.
The Confined Space Special Emphasis Initiative is aimed at both those who work in confined spaces, and the individuals who try to rescue them.
More than six in 10 confined-space deaths involve would-be rescuers, said Ellen Widess, who heads the state’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Cal/OSHA).
“Confined spaces can be deceptively dangerous,” Widess said. “These confined-space fatalities are preventable with proper programs in place.”
1 Year, 7 Deaths
The initiative follows a wide variety of confined-space deaths and injuries in California over the last year. The state saw seven workers perish in confined-space incidents in 2011, including two young brothers overcome by toxic gases in a recycling drainage tunnel.
The initiative includes a Confined Space Hazard Alert and specific information to help employers and employees identify confined-space situations and take appropriate precautions.
The program aims to:
• Increase employee and employer awareness of these hazards;
• Provide resources, training and consultation; and
• Increase enforcement efforts.
Common types of confined spaces include tanks, silos, pipelines, sewers, storage bins, drain tunnels, and vaults.
“We are taking a comprehensive approach to reducing these deaths and injuries in California,” said Widess.
In general, confined-space regulations require all employers to have:
• A written confined-space plan that includes identifying and marking all spaces on site;
• Procedures to test and monitor the air inside those spaces before and during all entries;
• Procedures to prevent unauthorized entries and to have an attendant outside the space at all times;
• Effective controls of atmospheric or safety hazards inside the space; and
• Employee and supervisor training on safe work procedures, hazard controls, and rescue procedures.
Cal/OSHA has posted confined-space hazard materials on its website at www.dir.ca.gov/dosh. Online webinars and other outreach programs will also be held throughout the year.