ASSE Joins Chorus Against Construction Confined Spaces Rule

Delivering his organization's comments in a Feb. 26 letter to OSHA chief Edwin Foulke Jr., the American Society of Safety Engineers' president, Michael W. Thompson, CSP, joined the chorus of stakeholders who oppose the proposed construction confined spaces rule. Thompson's letter summarizes the ASSE position this way: "ASSE's overall conclusion is that this Proposed Rule is unduly complicated, introduces unnecessarily new terminology and requirements that are complicated and burdensome, and fails to recognize current safety practices that are widely understood and have proven successful in practice both in general industry and in construction."

The crux of the association's opposition is that the proposal isn't harmonized with the ANSI/ASSE Z117.1-2003 standard, Safety Requirements for Confined Spaces, and Thompson's letter says it is apparent that the standards used in OSHA's evaluations of existing standards were ones no longer affirmed by the Z117 Committee. (The standard is available from ASSE at www.asse.org/cartpage.php?link=z117.1-2003). To drive home the point about Z117.1's importance, a list attached to the letter shows 58 examples where OSHA cited the Z117.1 standard in General Duty Clause enforcement actions.

Thompson's letter is posted on www.asse.gov. It lists specific concerns about the terminology in the OSHA proposal, that the proposal doesn't require the host employer or controlling contractor to evaluate hazards in confined spaces, the need for ensuring a competent atmospheric tester is employed, and the failure to include oxygen deficiency in the proposed section on atmospheric monitoring. The letter says the conclusion of ASSE and Z117 Committee members is that the proposal, if adopted without changes, "would provide for a significantly lower level of safety than what is currently required throughout the construction industry by the Z117.1-2003 Standard."

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