Confined spaces like silos, septic tanks, vats and utility vaults can be found in many workplaces in Louisiana and around the country. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a confined space is an area that is not designed for continuous use but is large enough for a worker to enter. Confined spaces are considered particularly dangerous because they offer limited means of escape in an emergency.
After studying the hazards of working in confined spaces, OSHA introduced a standard designed to protect workers. However, OSHA chose to make its confined space standard performance-orientated rather than prescriptive. While performance-oriented standards allow employers to exercise a certain degree of discretion when deciding how to best protect their workers, prescriptive standards are stricter and specify materials and equipment that must be used and procedures that must be followed. The OSHA standard applies to spaces that contain hazardous atmospheres or materials that could engulf workers and are configured in a way that could make escape difficult.
Asphyxiation is the most common cause of death in confined space accidents, and rescue workers account for 60 percent of the lives lost. OSHA introduced its confined spaces standard two decades ago, but workplace safety advocates say that employers are still not doing enough to protect their workers.
Workers in Louisiana who are injured in confined spaces may be eligible to receive benefits under the state’s workers’ compensation program even if their negligent behavior caused the accident in question. This is because fault is not generally taken into consideration when these claims are evaluated. However, employers may claim that workers are exaggerating their injuries or did not get hurt while on the job. Attorneys with a background in this area will likely have encountered these arguments, and they could provide injured workers with the benefit of this experience by providing representation during appeals hearings.