Rizzo Corporation
Rizzo Corporation

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Workers Study Confined Space Safety

About 70 employees of the Rizzo Corp. and A.M. Rizzo Electrical Contractors 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.”

SafetyKatie Asselin
Rizzo Trains for Confined Space Work

Of course we have to make money, Rizzo President and CEO Anthony Rizzo Jr. told construction managers during Wednesday’s monthly safety meeting, earning him a chuckle. "I know that’s what you’re thinking", he said.


“But nothing is worth a life. We want you all to go home at the end of the day,” Rizzo said, "and that includes everyone who works with you."


Rizzo was talking to managers who were learning about a new Occupational Health and Safety regulation that will go into effect in August that covers working in confined spaces. Every month Rizzo workers gather to discuss the month’s experiences with health and safety. They also cover a safety topic.


This month’s topic was a new confined space regulation that is still being studied around the country. The upshot is construction firms will have to take many more precautions and spend more time planning before sending a worker into an enclosed space. OSHA estimates nearly 800 accidents will be avoided by these regulations.


Safety Director Peter Serencsics told the gathering of 40 people the company will work out its own policies that are in accord with the new OSHA rules. He met with managers after the meeting to start that policy work.


The new OSHA rule was revealed on May 4, and it will go into effect on August 3. It is referred to as regulation 1926 subpart AA, and is part of the Health and Safety Regulations for Construction.


“This rule will save lives of construction workers. Unlike most general industry worksites, construction sites are continually evolving, with the number and characteristics of confined spaces changing as work progresses. This rule emphasizes training, continuous worksite evaluation and communication requirements to further protect workers’ safety and health,” said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health.

SafetyKatie Asselin