Press Room

Thursday June 14, 2012

Working Alone - OSHA's Maritime Regulation for Confined Spaces and Isolated Locations

Risks associated with working in confined spaces are heightened due to the inability to physically see the operators as well as the addition of onerous protective equipment. Depending on the work scenario, workers in confined spaces typically cannot utilize radios because of high noise, blasts hoods, respirator use, heavy gloves, and other personal protection equipment.

Since verbal communication may not be possible, operators rely on archaic communication signals to convey their needs, such as tugging on ropes, banging hammers on vessel walls, or simply interrupting operations to use hand signals.

Choices are limited. You can allow the person to work alone, or have additional workers to observe and respond to rope tugs, hammering or other signals. Neither is a good choice when considering safety or productivity. When something goes wrong or an emergency situation occurs, immediate response may not be possible. As a result, OSHA has become involved in a regulatory manner.

OSHA recently implemented rules for working alone in the maritime industry. Shipyards are huge areas and work is often in remote areas and confined space operations such as abrasive blasting, painting, welding and so forth.

OSHA 1915.84 states that:

Except as provided in § 1915.51(c)(3) of this part, whenever an employee is working alone, such as in a confined space or isolated location, the employer shall account for each employee:

  • 1915.84(a)(1)
    Throughout each work shift at regular intervals appropriate to the job assignment to ensure the employee's safety and health; and
  • 1915.84(a)(2)
    At the end of the job assignment or at the end of the work shift, whichever occurs first.
  • 1915.84(b) 
    The employer shall account for each employee by sight or verbal communication. 

This OSHA regulation requires employers to take action and provide workers with proper communication methods, ensuring each worker will complete the job as safely as possible. Since comparable communication issues occur in other industries, OSHA will likely consider applying similar regulations there also—improving productivity and safety.

Contact CavCom for more information about improving your company's productivity, safety and communication.