About 70 employees of A.M. Rizzo Electrical Contractors and Rizzo Corporation learned about new, stricter OSHA rules governing confined spaces Saturday.
Workers divided into four groups and rotated between four stations during the four-hour training. The trainers were Safety Director Pete Serencsics, Licensed Environmental Professional Rob Rein, Kevin Mulligan and Rob Pocius.
“We divided it that way to keep their attention,” said Safety Director Peter Serencsics, who ran a station that described two confined space accidents across the country that cost workers their lives. In one case, workers were overcome by nitrogen gas while trying to retrieve a role of duct tape. In the second, a solvent fire burst out in between workers and the tunnel exit. “It was all something you could imagine happening. If I can get everyone to raise the question, it saves lives.”
A confined space is defined as a small space not designed for continued occupancy. It typically has a limited-sized entrance and a limited-sized exit. In many cases, confined spaces give rise to hazards that can harm workers, such as poisonous gases, cave-in hazards or the potential for fires. Examples include trenches, manholes, vaults, sewers, drains, shafts, incinerators, tanks, boilers and bins.
“Confined spaces can present conditions that are immediately dangerous to workers if not properly identified, evaluated, tested, and controlled,” wrote OSHA in its fact sheet on confined spaces in construction sites, which are now regulated by 29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA.
Serencsics, Rizzo’s safety director, said the biggest threat to workers from confined spaces is a “lack of training.” Serenscics runs monthly training sessions, and for confined spaces on construction sites, he said Rizzo relies on workers with years of construction experience to evaluate confined spaces. Those leaders have the power and experience necessary to close down a job or end a task, despite the cost, if the workspace is dangerous. “It’s not an easy decision.”