Understanding Confined Spaces: Workplace Fatalities in Oklahoma

The Critical Role of Safety in Confined Spaces: A Closer Look at Workplace Fatalities in Oklahoma

In Oklahoma, workplace safety within confined spaces has once again emerged as a pressing concern following a federal investigation into an Oklahoma City contractor’s negligence, which resulted in the tragic death of a 30-year-old worker. Brewster & De Angelis attorney, Monty Lair, explained, “This tragic incident demonstrates the importance of both developing and following corporate safety policies that meet federal regulations”. Through an exploration of confined spaces, risks, and the legal avenues for protection and compensation, we emphasize the fine line between safety and tragedy.

Understanding Confined Spaces

A confined space, as defined by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), is an area that is large enough for an employee to enter fully and perform assigned work, and have limited or restricted means for entry and exit. A confined space is not designed for continuous occupancy by the employee. These spaces may include underground vaults, tanks, storage bins, pits and diked areas, vessels, silos, and other similar areas These spaces pose risks such as toxic gas exposure, oxygen deficiency, and explosion hazards.

OSHA has established specific regulations to ensure the safety of workers entering these spaces, particularly when they are considered "permit-required confined spaces". Permit-required confined spaces include one or more of the following:

  • A hazardous atmosphere.
  • Engulfing materials.
  • Converging walls or sloping floors that could trap or asphyxiate entrants.
  • Other safety or health hazards, such as unguarded machinery, exposed live wires, or heat stress.

A comprehensive understanding of these regulations and their importance is critical for the safety and well-being of employees in these general high-hazard industries.

The Importance of Compliance

Key causes of confined space injuries or fatalities include failure to inspect premises to identify and give warning of confined spaces and permit-required confined spaces, inadequate training, failure to monitor hazards, neglect in risk assessment, and lack of emergency procedures.

Mr. Lair highlights a concerning statistic: failure to adhere to federal safety regulations leads to an average of two deaths per week in permit-required confined spaces, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, and Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries. The adherence to, and enforcement of, safety measures are not just a matter of regulatory compliance but a moral obligation to safeguard the lives of employees.

OSHA Regulations in Oklahoma

OSHA's standard for confined spaces (29 CFR 1910.146) outlines over 75 requirements for practices and procedures to protect employees from the hazards of entering permit spaces. Employers are responsible for:

  • Identifying each permit-required confined space in their workplace.
  • Preventing unauthorized entry into these spaces.
  • Protecting authorized entrants from hazards through a comprehensive permit space program. This includes evaluating the hazards of permit spaces before employees enter them, developing and implementing the means (i.e. provide and maintain equipment, and ensure that employees use the equipment properly), training, procedures, and practices necessary for safe permit space entry operations, and implement effective emergency rescue and emergency services.

OSHA enforces and governs these procedures and practices through inspections, which can be prompted by worker complaints, referrals, accidents, or programmed inspections. If an employer fails to comply with these standards, OSHA can:

  • Issue citations and propose penalties.
  • Require the employer to abate the identified hazards.
  • Offer assistance and guidance to help the employer come into compliance.
  • In severe cases, OSHA may pursue legal action to guarantee compliance.

In the event of an injury or death in a confined space accident, employees or their families should seek the advice of experienced attorneys to determine their rights in pursuing legal action against the responsible parties.

Seeking Legal Assistance

Our team of personal injury attorneys understand the serious and devastating implications of confined space accidents. Our goal is to hold the responsible parties accountable for their negligence and ensure you receive the maximum recovery for your injuries or for the death of a loved one.

For more information or to discuss your case, contact us today.


When Dealing With a Legal Matter,
Put Confidence On Your Side

Work With Brewster & De Angelis Today
  • Please enter your first name.
  • Please enter your last name.
  • Please enter your phone number.
    This isn't a valid phone number.
  • Please enter your email address.
    This isn't a valid email address.
  • Please make a selection.
  • Please enter a message.