Unfortunately, unlike maritime or general industry, OSHA construction regulations do not have permit required confined space standards, and do not have lock-out requirements to assure that hazards are isolated. Our system of adding new OSHA regulations is essentially broken. Both these standards have been on the regulatory agenda for well over a decade.
A direct reading explosimeter and oxygen monitor is standard issue for sewer and utility crews, but rarely available in construction.
These hazards are entirely predictable and are easy and cheap to monitor and control, but they still kill people.
A big part of the problem is often lack of communication on multi-employer sites. The trend in the US is toward increasing temporary agency workers, contract workers, service/maintenance workers employed by a vendor rather than the project operator/owner, and worst of all the increase in self-employed subcontractors.
There are about two and a half million self-employed US construction workers (many of which are misclassified employees). The OSHA Act doesn’t even apply to the self-employed since it applies only to employers. In fact, none of the labor laws apply to the self-employed (minimum wage, overtime, workers compensation, unemployment insurance…). These workers are often glorified as “entrepreneurs,” but at least in construction most would rather be employees.
We will continue to see preventable deaths until construction users like DuPont take some level of responsibility for the contractors and subcontractors on their projects, in their supplier webs, and consider the full life-cycle of their products. DuPont certainly has the industrial hygiene and safety capacity and the expertise to have prevented these deaths. But it is still too easy to just shift the blame to the worker’s employer, the crew foreman, or the workers themselves. One way to start would be to require owners to maintain injury logs both for their own employees and for anyone else working on their plant sites.