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Memo clarifies citation policy for welding, cutting, heating in confined spaces

OSHA reminds administrators definition of “confined space” in construction has changed

Posted February 15, 2019

In a recent memo, OSHA reminds regional administrators and state plan designees that the former definition of a “confined space” in construction has been replaced with the new three-part definition at 1926.1202, and that definition should be used to determine whether a violation of the welding in confined spaces standard at 1926.353(b)(1) has occurred.

The memo notes that just as under the former definition, the hazard addressed is the accumulation of toxic or flammable contaminants. OSHA says it expects accumulation would occur when welding in a confined space under the new definition because the welding, cutting, or heating task itself produces metal fumes, gases, and smoke, and there is an inherent risk of incapacitation if exposure levels to carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, or smoke suddenly spike.

OSHA says the following citation policy applies:

Section 1926.353(b)(1) is triggered by the act of welding, heating, or cutting in a confined space, regardless of whether the atmospheric hazard within the space is likely to exceed any particular exposure level. If an employer has not implemented mechanical or local exhaust ventilation when welding, cutting, or heating is performed within a confined space, a serious violation of section 1926.353(b)(1) should be considered unless:

  • Open ventilation is present, such as when a confined space has a substantial number of openings in its walls to outside the confined space (like a screen or open sections of rebar) or is entirely open on one side but still has limited or restricted means of access and egress. For example, to access or egress the space, a ladder, ramp, controlled descent device, etc. must be used; and
  • The employer has conducted air sampling within the confined space where welding, cutting, or heating is being performed and determined that natural ventilation maintains the atmospheric hazard below the threshold limit values in Appendix A to 1926.55.

OSHA says that if the two bulleted factors above are established, the Compliance Officer should consider the employer's failure to implement mechanical or local exhaust ventilation a de minimis violation unless air sampling demonstrates the existence of an atmospheric hazard.

Confined Spaces: Entry Team Training - Construction ActivitiesJ. J. Keller's Confined Spaces: Entry Team Training - Construction Activities helps employees meet requirements of the OSHA standard regarding construction activities in confined spaces.


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