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OSHA Enacts Regulations Protecting Workers in Confined Spaces

Written by Ankin Law Office

Working in confined spaces poses a particular risk to Chicago employees. Consult a workers’ compensation lawyer at 312.600.0000.

Most employees face some type of risk in the workplace, however, those who work in confined spaces are subject to a particularly high possibility of danger. In May of 2015, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) tightened regulations for employers in the construction industry who require workers to enter confined spaces. Employers are now required to provide ongoing education and continuously monitor safety hazards. Those who have been injured in a confined space in Illinois may be eligible for workers compensation benefits.

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OSHA enacts regulations infographic

Students at Western Illinois University recently took a first-hand look at the hazards of working in permit-required confined spaces. These include areas like underground utility holes, tanks, pipelines and silos. Students learned about potential dangers, and how to avoid them. With limited openings for a worker to enter and exit a space and more potential for exposure to toxic atmospheres, the dangers of working in these conditions are evident. The Western Illinois University Campus has over 50 such spaces.

The dangers of working in permit-required confined spaces are very real. These spaces include areas such as manholes, tunnels and equipment housing. Employers are responsible for ensuring that each of these areas is safe to work in and that workers are appropriately trained and have access to proper safety equipment and tools before they enter such a space.

Recently, OSHA cited the Army Corps of Engineers for failing to label several areas as permit-required confined spaces. Workers were also not trained on the hazards and emergency practices of working in these spaces.

The hazards of working in confined spaces include:

  • Increased exposure to noxious fumes
  • Decreased oxygen levels
  • Greater risk of electric shock
  • Potential for heat-related illness
  • Higher risk of fire
  • Fewer opportunities to exit, during an emergency
  • Decreased levels of communication between employees
  • Risk from falls

Over 1.6 million Americans work in confined spaces each year. Employers in Illinois are required to provide training and safety measures for employees working in these conditions. Nevertheless, many Chicago workers find themselves injured from working in a confined space.

Even employees who are well-trained in the procedures for working in a confined space can find themselves injured on-the-job. In Illinois, workers’ compensation reform has led to an increased responsibility on behalf of injured workers to prove that their injury happened as a result of conditions on the job. This is one reason why consulting with a workers’ compensation attorney in such a case can protect the interest of an employee injured in a confined space in Chicago.