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New OSHA rule impacts construction businesses and workers

Oklahoma employers who own construction businesses face new federal requirements designed to safeguard their workers. The new rule, which takes effect on Aug. 3, 2015, requires construction companies to have a plan in place when their employees will be working in confined spaces.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration says construction employers will need to determine if their people will be working in confined spaces. If they will be, employers need to identify potential hazards and how to mitigate them, what training these workers should receive and how to rescue them if anything goes wrong.

OSHA defines confined spaces as those that are big enough for an employee to enter, but which have limited entrances and exits and do not allow for continuous occupancy. Confined spaces include manholes, HVAC ducts, storm drains and incinerators. According to the federal agency, these areas may be dangerous, as confined workers may be injured or the air inside the spaces may not be safe for them to breathe.

Since the construction industry as a whole has a high injury rate, workplace safety is important. Construction injuries can be quite serious, and workers may even be killed on the job. Oklahoma workers who are hurt on the job may be eligible to file for benefits through the employer's workers' compensation coverage These benefits can include medical expense coverage and a percentage of lost wages if the employee is unable to work. An attorney who has experience in this matter can often be of assistance during the filing process, and legal counsel may be able to provide representation at a subsequent hearing should the claim be disputed or denied.

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