Confined Spaces WA’s Updated Rules Go into Effect Feb. 5

The Department of Labor and Industries (L&) has updated guidelines and rules related to confined spaces in Washington state. Those rules go into effect on February 5, 2018.

Although the rules didn’t change dramatically, BIAW (along with Kitsap Building Association member Ron Perkerewicz) took the opportunity to try and get an exception to the rule for entering residential attics and crawlspaces. While the exception was not allowed, L&I did adopt the guidance documents from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) which were developed with input from the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). This was a small, but important, victory since the interpretation of a confined space for attics and crawlspaces in residential applications currently is left up to the field staff of L&I. 

Updates on the Confined Spaces Rule

The rule added definitions for several activities such as host employer, hazard elimination, and qualified person, to name a few. (Find the complete list of new definitions under WAC 296-809-099).

Other changes include language to clarify that the employer must identify permit-required confined spaces in their workplace using a competent person who has the knowledge, skills, and abilities to do so, with the authority to take prompt corrective action. In addition, under WAC 296-809-20002, an “Important” note was added that outlines the 2-step process used when identifying permit-required confined spaces.

There were several changes to how employers inform employees of confined spaces and control their entry to permit-required confined spaces. The rule also specifies that the employer must keep “canceled” entry permits for at least one year.

Employee training and certification, alternate entry procedures, employer responsibilities for making sure employees follow the rules along with how sub-contractors can get the general contractor in trouble are all addressed in the new rule.

Find the rule language on L&I’s website or on the state Legislature’s website under WAC 296-809.