Construction Confined Space – 3 Ways to Stop Confusion


Unless you’re in residential construction, the Temporary Enforcement of OSHA’s new Construction Confined Space standard lapsed over one month ago. In the months since since the initial promulgation, I steadily receive calls and emails asking what rule should be followed. This makes me think that people are overcomplicating Subpart AA and construction confined space in general! Here’s my 3 piece approach to compliance.

Where are you?

If your state plan state is one of the following, follow your state’s current rule until they update or replace it. These states were called out in OSHA’s Preamble to Subpart AA as having a rule in place that is similar to the new rule: Alaska, California, Kentucky, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Virginia, Washington. This leaves out states that do not have a similar rule already in place or who incorporate Federal OSHA rules in full.

If your state is NOT listed above, be on the lookout for rulemaking ahead of Federal OSHA’s February 2016 deadline. This marks six months from the promulgation of the final Federal rule, which is the timeline state plan states must follow to either meet or exceed a Federal OSHA rule. Subscribe to your state’s email announcement list, attend educational sessions hosted by your state’s OSHA staff, or keep informed through your usual channels.

Where is your program? 

Again, if you are in a state that incorporates Federal OSHA rules or does not have a state plan, you must follow Subpart AA. My advice to everyone in a state plan state is to familiarize yourself with the 5 key differences between the Federal OSHA General Industry standard and the new Construction Confined Space Standard. You can read more at the link, for now, the quick explanation of the 5 differences is as follows:

  1. Subpart AA includes detailed requirements for coordination when multiple employers are at the worksite.
  2. A Competent Person must evaluate the worksite and identify confined spaces.
  3. Atmospheric monitoring must be continuous whenever possible.
  4. Engulfment hazards must be continuously monitored.
  5. Permits can be suspended instead of canceled.

If I were a gambler, I’d bet that state plan states will update their existing rules to include these 5 elements, or adopt Subpart AA in its entirety.

What do you do?

If you’re in residential construction, you have time! OSHA’s Temporary Enforcement Period was extended for you until January 8, 2016. The same Good Faith Efforts apply from the initial Temporary Enforcement Period, click on the link to read 10 things you should do during this time.

If you’re still unclear on if your current written program and employee training meets Subpart AA, you can download a fully editable Construction Confined Space program and training presentation at

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