New Advances in Construction and Confined Space Safety


Tuesday, May 24, 2016, 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM


Preserving the Health of Tunnelers During Construction. A Case Study of Applying a Program Approach to Occupational Hygiene on Australia’s Longest Underground Rail Tunnels: The Sydney Metro Northwest Rail Link

K. Cole, Ventia, Kingsgrove, NSW, Australia

Situation/Problem: Thiess, John Holland and Dragados were awarded the AUD$1.15 billion Tunnels and Station Civil (TSC) contract as part of the Sydney Metro Northwest Rail Link for the design and construction of 15 kilometres of twin tunnels; the civil works for new five stations; two services facilities and an onsite precast facility to manufacture the tunnel segments. A risk-based occupational health and hygiene program was developed with the aim of preventing occupational illness and disease in an industry that has been plagued historically with cases of silicosis and other diseases. The TSC works involved tunneling through​​​ sandstone containing over 90% quartz. Therefore, controlling exposures to respirable crystalline silica (RCS) was a focal part of developing an effective occupational health and hygiene program.

Resolution: Development of the program began with a comprehensive review of learnings from previous tunneling projects; up-front planning and the implementation of engineering controls amongst numerous administrative control measures such as risk-based exposure monitoring. The use of specialised personal protective equipment was also necessary to further reduce exposure.

Results: Over the period of 15 months, regular exposure monitoring coupled with the implementation of targeted control measures, demonstrated that exposures reduced over the course of the project. Although the presence of respirable dust and RCS is widespread in underground tunneling, exposure data demonstrated that the risk of exposure to respirable dust was low in comparison to both regulatory and industry standards. High and varied concentrations of quartz in the rock being tunneled, presented ongoing challenges for exposure control to RCS and will likely continue to do so in future tunneling projects in Sydney. Notwithstanding these challenges, RCS exposures were lower than measured on previous tunneling projects which resulted in an improved work environment during the construction of Australia’s largest underground rail tunnels.

Lessons learned: The risk-based occupational health and hygiene program enabled project teams to understand the risk of exposure across their workforce and enabled targeted application of controls to where they were most effective at reducing exposure. While exposures to RCS were comparable or lower than industry standards, the use of respiratory protection continued to be needed to further reduce exposure to underground workers as an ongoing control measure.



Developing a Comprehensive Manual to Prevent Fatal Incidents in Confined Spaces in South Korea

T. Kim, Changwon National University, Changwon, Korea (the Republic of); K. Ahn, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Whitewater, WI

Objective: In South Korea, 164 incidents in confined spaces resulted in 220 fatalities in the period of 2005-2015. Many of these incidents occurred because safety procedures for working in confined spaces were not followed. The objective of this study is to develop a comprehensive manual that can be used to prevent such fatal incidents.

Methods: We analyzed data related to the fatal incidents that occurred in South Korea in the period of 2005-2015 to determine characteristics and causes of the incidents. We also reviewed similar cases and accident prevention programs in other countries, including the U.S., Japan, and the U.K. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations were used to find proper ventilation methods.

Results: The number of fatal incidents and casualties were higher in the months of July and December. Oxygen deficiency (30%), hydrogen sulfide (20%), and carbon monoxide (20%) were the leading causes of the incidents. The incidents occurred in the construction (33%), manufacturing (26%), and service (11%) industry. Various causes of the incidents were identified. Based on the data analysis and benchmarking of the other countries’ accident prevention programs, we developed a comprehensive manual that includes safety procedures, preventive measures, and proper ventilation methods for different types of confined spaces. Confined spaces were classified into 6 different types, and proper supply and exhaust ventilation methods were suggested for each.

Conclusions: This manual provides necessary information on safety procedures, preventive measures, and proper ventilation methods for different types of confined spaces. It will contribute to the prevention of fatal incidents in confined spaces.



Breathe Freely Initiative in the UK Construction Industry by BOHS

T. Boyle, British Occupational Hygiene Society, Pride Park, United Kingdom

Situation/Problem: Construction workers in the UK are at high risk of contracting lung disease from the work that they do. In 2015, approximately 3,500 will die from cancer caused by past exposures to asbestos, 500 more from silica dust, another 5,500 will be diagnosed with occupational cancer. Today alone, an unknown but significant number will breathe in the hazardous substances that will one day seriously affect their health or kill them.

Resolution: There’s a solution: most of these industrial diseases can be prevented by: recognizing the real hazards, evaluating the risks of being exposed to them, and effectively controlling those exposures (also known as good occupational hygiene practice). The goal is to help prevent lung disease in UK construction workers. The British Occupational Hygiene Society (BOHS) decided to take the lead by starting an initiative directed towards that goal.

Results: On Worker Memorial Day, Tuesday 28th April 2015, the Breathe Freely initiative was launched. It was started as a collaborative initiative led by BOHS in partnership with key organisations within the UK construction industry. It provides guidance, tools and resources that facilitate the recognition, evaluation and control of workplace exposures leading to the implementation of a recognised management standard. Targeted specifically at managers and site supervisors within the construction industry, the aim is not just to raise awareness of the problem but also to effect action by providing practical solutions through sharing of best practices and encouraging implementation of effective exposure controls. A website has been set up to provide access to Breathe Freely resources at To help spread best practices, we have developed a series of case studies and data sheets. We have 20 fact sheets each highlighting the main hazards, highest risks and preferred control options for all the key construction trades. We’ve put occupational hygiene into a construction site context so it’s clear where and how an occupational hygienist can help. And we have real on-site case studies showing actual situations and solutions.

Lessons learned: At the time of the submission the initiative was just 5 months old. By the time of the AIHA Conference it will be over a year old and we will have much more information to share regarding both the program growth and lessons learned.



Many Pieces to the Puzzle: Successful Implementation of Engineering Controls for Dusts & Fumes in Construction

P. Susi, CPWR, Marlton, NJ

Situation/Problem: Engineering controls are the preferred method for reducing exposure to hazardous agents. However, in the construction industry, use of one principal engineering control, local exhaust ventilation (LEV), is still not commonplace. At the same time, construction workers are routinely exposed to hazardous metal fumes when welding and silica dust associated with numerous work processes.

Resolution: We conducted a four-year study which utilized industry participation (from contractors, labor and equipment manufacturers) to identify important engineering control attributes and to select LEV systems for evaluation. Selected LEV systems (three for welding and four for masonry work) were evaluated in a controlled setting. In addition, training on correct use of LEV was developed and piloted. Finally, two case studies (one related to masonry work and the other involving welding) were used to explore factors that contributed to use of LEV in a large municipal area and on a large power plant renovation and maintenance project.

Results: LEV for welding fumes varied in performance, but reduced exposure to manganese and hexavalent by at least 50 %. LEV systems tested for tuck pointing reduced respirable silica exposures by over 95%. Training impacted LEV performance. A statistically significant reduction in respirable particulate (43%) was measured based on pre-and post-training personal air monitoring.

Lessons learned: Implementation of engineering controls is a multi-faceted challenge. The construction industry is comprised of numerous trades, types of contractors, clients and work environments. Therefore, factors that influence use of LEV will vary. However, for LEV to be successful, training on correct use is generally necessary regardless of the trade or work environment. Knowledge of the health effects of hazardous agents is also of value to give workers some sense of the importance of using LEV. Engaging workers in the selection of LEV increases the likelihood that the system will be viewed as practical and used. OSHA continues to be an important driver for use of LEV by contractors. However, client demand or local environmental regulations may be at least as influential in driving use of LEV on some jobs and in some local areas. At the research level, facilitating communication between workers and equipment manufacturers is essential for improving product design.



Findings from the FACE Reports on Worker Fatalities in Confined Spaces

K. Ahn and S. Choi, University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, Whitewater, WI; T. Kim, Changwon National University, Changwon, Korea (the Republic of)

Objective: Confined spaces present many potential safety and health hazards, which can cause fatal injuries to workers who enter such spaces. NIOSH and State investigators have reviewed fatal incidents involving confined space entry and rescue efforts as part of the Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation (FACE) Program since 1982. However, due to the narrative structure of the FACE reports, it is difficult to identify patterns and common causes to prevent similar injuries from reoccurring. The objective of this study is to systematically analyze the findings from the FACE reports and provide practical information that can be used to prevent fatal incidents in confined spaces.

Methods: We built a database and analyzed the data for a total of 170 NIOSH FACE and STATE FACE reports in the period of 1984-2012. The variables in this database include industry, type of confined space, hazard, existence of written safety program, existence of entry permit procedure, existence of training, and recommendation items. A total of 683 recommendation items from the FACE reports were extracted.

Results: The FACE reports covered fatal incidents in: agriculture (26%), manufacturing (18%), construction (17%), services (15%), public administration (14%), transportation/utilities (6%), and oil/gas industries (3%). Main hazards investigated include engulfment/burial (35%), oxygen deficient air (19%), toxic gases (16%), flammable/explosive substances (6%), drowning (5%), inert gases/asphyxiants (5%), falls (4%), and solvents (4%). Types of confined spaces include: silos/bins (23%), sewers/manholes (16%), trenches (11%), tanks/vessels (9%), vats/pit digesters (8%), utility/service rooms/vaults (7%), transportation tanks (5%), water tanks/pits/vaults (4%), manure pits (4%), wells (4%), and others (9%). The FACE reports show that 87% of fatal cases had no entry permit procedures, 64% had no safety programs in place, and 59% had no training. The top ten recommended items by the investigators were: training (12%), developing and implementing a confined space program (10%), developing and implementing safety program/procedures (9%), enforcement (8%), job hazard analysis/job site survey/inspection (7%), redesign/modification (7%), and warning signs/identification (6%). Confined space hazards, existence of written safety program, existence of entry permit procedure, existence of training, and FACE recommendations were assessed by each industry and each confined space type.

Conclusions: The results from this study can provide industry and confined space specific information on contributing risk factors and practical, effective solutions. It will contribute to the prevention of fatal incidents in confined spaces in the industry.



The New EM385-1-1: Are You Prepared for Compliance?

P. Rice, ClickSafety/Ahtna Netiye, Walnut Creek, CA

Situation/Problem: For those of us that perform occupational safety and industrial hygiene activities on US. DOD projects the rules are changing, have changed. Are you prepared?

Resolution: The revised 2014 Engineering Manual 385-1-1 released by the US Army Core of Engineers (USACOE) is out. Are you prepared for compliance? EM-385 is the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) Engineering Manual 385-1-1, Safety and Health Requirements, which has strict compliance guidelines for contractors performing construction, demolition and alteration work on Department of Defense projects. Compliance with the EM385-1-1 is required by contract specifications in construction contracts throughout Department of Defense, USACOE, Naval Facilities Engineering and Command (NAVFAC) NASA, Veterans Administration, State Department, and U.S. EPA. Key revisions such as training requirements for Site Safety and Health Officers (SSHO) Collateral Duty Safety Officers (CDSO), Accident Prevention Planning (APP) and associated documentation will be discussed.

Results: From this presentation, attendees shall be familiar with: the history and background of EM385-1-1, EM385-1-1 manual design and elements, applicable operations that fall under EM385-1-1 requirements, identify key changes of the latest revision, and identify key training requirements for workers and EH&S staff.

Lessons learned: IH's must get familiar with EM 385-1-1 if they choose to work on USACE and related (e.g. NAVFAC) activities.​