Sheet metal & Air Conditioning Contractors’ National Association

Information

OSHA Confined Spaces in Construction Final Rule

The OSHA Confined Spaces in Construction final rule, issued May 4, 2015, was unclear about how it applied to attics and crawlspaces in residential construction. However, a settlement has been reached between OSHA and interested parties who negotiated the rule and OSHA has withdrawn prior information including a “Fact Sheet” pertaining to attics and crawlspaces. The agreement clarifies that the Confined Spaces in Construction final rule has a very limited application in the residential HVAC industry including that attics, basements, and crawl spaces in a residential home will not typically be defined as, or trigger the requirements of, a permit-required confined space as they typically do not contain the types of hazards or potential hazards that make a confined space a permit-required confined space.
 
OSHA has published a set of Questions and Answers (Q&As) that describe application of the rule to common spaces in the residential homebuilding industry. The list of Q&As can be found on the OSHA website.
 
The Q&As define “residential home building” or “residential home construction”; clarify that the vast majority of the rule’s requirements only apply to permit-required confined spaces; and clarifies that the performance of duties outside of an attic would rarely turn a “confined space” into a “permit-required confined space” (because that work is unlikely to create a hazardous atmosphere or physical hazard in the attic that could impede the ability of an entrant to safely exit the space without assistance).
 
The rule does require employers to conduct an initial evaluation of a confined space to determine if it is a permit-required confined space as defined by the rule. This evaluation does not require a physical survey of the space. Instead, the evaluation requirement may be met through existing experience and knowledge of the space, provided this information is adequate to make the determination required by the rule.
 
For a copy of the settlement, go to the OSHA section of the SMACNA Safety webpage. For more information, visit OSHA's webpage on the final rule. For additional information or guidance, contact Mike McCullion, SMACNA’s director of market sectors and safety at mmccullion@smacna.org or 703-995-4027.