OSHA Regulations and Their Implications

Fred A. Anderson

Abstract

This paper describes the pertinent Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation that will govern much of the underground construction of the Exploratory Studies Facility (ESF) for the Yucca Mountain Project (YMP). The provisions of the regulation are outlined, and their cost and contractual implications are discussed based on recent experience on other underground projects. Recommendations are provided for the drafting of contract documents to establish responsibility and compensation for ensuring compliance with the regulation.

Introduction

The scope of this paper is limited to the discussion of the cost and contractual implications of compliance with the provisions of the OSHA regulation related to underground construction as found in Title 29, Section 1926.800, of the Code of Federal Regulations (29CFR1926.800). Only the construction of underground openings is discussed.

This particular regulation will be the one most pertinent to the tunnels to be constructed for the ESF at the YMP. Agency jurisdictional issues are not addressed, since 29CFR1926.800 will be the basis for regulatory activity by federal OSHA, Nevada OSHA, or the Department of Energy (DOE), depending on the outcome of various legislative or policy decisions currently under consideration.

The purpose of this paper is to encourage project personnel involved in the planning, design, and construction of the ESF at Yucca Mountain to consider and discuss the facilitation of ESF contractor compliance with OSHA regulations.



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--> OSHA Regulations and Their Implications Fred A. Anderson Abstract This paper describes the pertinent Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation that will govern much of the underground construction of the Exploratory Studies Facility (ESF) for the Yucca Mountain Project (YMP). The provisions of the regulation are outlined, and their cost and contractual implications are discussed based on recent experience on other underground projects. Recommendations are provided for the drafting of contract documents to establish responsibility and compensation for ensuring compliance with the regulation. Introduction The scope of this paper is limited to the discussion of the cost and contractual implications of compliance with the provisions of the OSHA regulation related to underground construction as found in Title 29, Section 1926.800, of the Code of Federal Regulations (29CFR1926.800). Only the construction of underground openings is discussed. This particular regulation will be the one most pertinent to the tunnels to be constructed for the ESF at the YMP. Agency jurisdictional issues are not addressed, since 29CFR1926.800 will be the basis for regulatory activity by federal OSHA, Nevada OSHA, or the Department of Energy (DOE), depending on the outcome of various legislative or policy decisions currently under consideration. The purpose of this paper is to encourage project personnel involved in the planning, design, and construction of the ESF at Yucca Mountain to consider and discuss the facilitation of ESF contractor compliance with OSHA regulations.

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--> The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 requires employers to provide a safe and healthful work place for employees. Therefore, the employer is the organizational entity or individual cited and fined for failure to comply with OSHA regulations. In the context of this paper, the entity cited will be a construction contractor or subcontractor or another contractor or agency having employees exposed to a particular hazard, whether caused by an employee's employer or another employer working at the same site. In the latter case, citations are issued in compliance with OSHA's multiemployer work-site policy outlined in the OSHA Field Operations Manual. Provisions Various provisions of the OSHA regulation follow. Access and egress is generally interpreted to require a safe walking surface in the tunnel, which personnel may traverse without being exposed to water, debris, or tripping hazards. To date, the European practice of providing a safety railing between a walkway and a haulage way has not been a U.S. requirement, but this possibility should be considered in the United States and a decision obtained from the agency ultimately determined to have jurisdiction before cost estimates are finalized. Contracts should clearly establish who will construct and maintain the walking surface, since it will be traversed by employees of numerous employers, including technicians, rescue personnel, and official visitors. For obvious reasons, the walkway should be out of the path of moving equipment, but in a tunnel boring machine (TBM)-driven tunnel this can mean additional blocking or shoring to provide a level surface above the invert. Providing a safe walking surface in the area of sumps, track switches, or passing zones will carry additional costs. Other hazards to walking personnel, such as conveyor belts, electrical conductors, and load lines, should be kept a safe distance from the walkway or otherwise guarded. Personnel haulage requirements generally follow Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) requirements for man-cars or tracks transporting personnel. Arms or heads protruding from the conveyance are the chief hazard requiring attention. Check-in/check-out is a common requirement for underground construction and is easily met. Maintaining a single check-in/check-out board facilitates a rapid determination of how many people are underground in the event of an emergency.

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--> Safety instruction is a requirement that each employer will generally be responsible for meeting. The proper maintenance of records facilitates proof of compliance. Such records include class rosters and entries in employees' personnel records indicating the content and times of training. Note that training in the use of self-rescuers is required in 29CFR1926.103. Notification requires that employees be informed of hazardous occurrences or conditions when they come on shift and that employers communicate with one another to ensure coordination of activities and notification of employees. Communications requirements are not unusual. Project management chooses one contractor to provide and maintain the communications system, avoiding the cost and confusion of having multiple systems installed by the several employers. The system must be capable of functioning during emergencies. The next five items are addressed in the OSHA regulations under the heading Emergency Provisions. Hoisting capability only applies when shafts are used as a means of egress. Again, to best address this requirement, project management identifies the contractor responsible for providing and maintaining the equipment and operators. Self-rescuers are a long-standing requirement. Generally, each employer provides self-rescuers and training in their use to each employee. Thought should be given to identifying a supplier of self-rescuers to official visitors or others who may have occasional need to go underground. There is an obvious advantage to having only one type of self-rescuer in use on the project—to minimize the risk of employees mixing up self-rescuers stored at the heading or at other locations underground. At least one designated person shall be on duty aboveground whenever any employee is working underground. This person keeps an accurate account of employees underground and shall secure aid, if necessary. It may be most efficient for one contractor to provide the designated person. Emergency lighting responsibilities to provide hand lamps or cap lamps traditionally rest with the individual employer. Compliance with this provision is generally not a problem. The costs and contractual implications of compliance with the provision of rescue teams are significant. Salary and equipment costs alone ensure that this will be a million-dollar item in a year's time, especially at a site as remote as Yucca Mountain.

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--> The regulation states, in part, that on job sites where 25 or more employees work underground at one time, the employer shall provide at least two 5-person rescue teams. Where fewer than 25 employees work underground at one time, the employer shall provide at least one 5-person rescue team. In either case, one rescue team is to be either at the job site or within one-half-hour travel time from the entry point. The second rescue team, if required, can be up to two hours' travel time from the site. The question of whether one or two rescue teams are required is subject to interpretation. In modem tunnel construction, the tunneling contractor will often have fewer than 25 people underground, but all the employers at the site may well have a total of more than 25 people underground. This will likely be the case at the ESF, with all the visitors, technicians, engineers, geologists, and others who will flock to the site. On the other hand, given the long history of excavation in geologic formation, its generally stable nature, the lack of detectable methane, and the absence of ground water sources, it is reasonable to question the likelihood of any emergency involving more than a few of the employees who are underground. There remains only the remote possibility of smoke being generated by a fire coincident with a failure of the ventilation system. The primary five-person rescue team will have to be available from a point not more than 30 minutes from the entry point. This probably means that a team located at the Nevada Test Site could also be available to respond to emergencies at the ESF. The overall resources of the two facilities should be reviewed to judge response capability. Whatever arrangements are feasible will have to be incorporated into the various contracts involved. In these deliberations, it is important to note that firefighters equipped with normal turnout gear and Scott air packs are generally very much out of their element underground, if for no other reason than the limited air supply provided by these units, but also because it cannot be assumed that they have training in underground emergencies. Familiarity with the tunneling activities underway is essential to the rescue team members. The fact that transportation, haulage, ventilation, and other services change as the heading is advanced is often overlooked in the planning of rescue operations. Rescue team members may lack the familiarity needed to perform various tasks (e.g., reach the heading, restore ventilation, etc.), unless they receive continuing training. Labor issues may require resolution, or the appropriate trades may need to be represented on the rescue team. Problems arising from labor issues may include the following: rescue team members being unable to operate haulage or transportation equipment, either through lack of training or jurisdictional rules; rescue teams lacking personnel able to recognize or mitigate electrical hazards; and rescue team members having no knowledge of and sometimes not even the ability to recognize construction explosives.

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--> This provision only states, ''The employer shall ensure that rescue teams are familiar with conditions at the job site.'' There is a real concern that improperly trained or equipped rescue team members may themselves become victims or that tunnel workers who have the necessary knowledge and a strong desire to aid their coworkers may be injured while operating a critical piece of equipment, for example, without breathing apparatus. In any case, planning is required, and contracts may have to be written or modified to ensure the provision of a rescue team or teams available at all times that personnel are underground at Yucca Mountain. The provision regarding hazardous classifications (potentially gassy operations) states, "The atmosphere in all underground work areas shall be tested quantitatively for carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, hydrogen sulfide, and toxic gases, dusts, vapors, mists, and fumes as often as necessary to ensure that the permissible exposure limits prescribed in [29CFR]1926.55 are not exceeded." This section of the regulation goes on to outline requirements for monitoring, for example, flammable gases and engine exhausts and for maintaining records of the test results. Given the long history of tunneling at the Nevada Test Site, it is reasonable to assume that there will be no exposure to methane, other flammable gases, or hydrogen sulfide. However, this does not eliminate the need for air quality monitoring. Project planning should therefore include provision for air quality monitoring (including the designation of a responsible contractor), coordination among contractors, and maintenance of records readily available to OSHA inspectors. Ventilation requirements for underground areas outlined in the regulation are not unusual, but again, project planners should determine who will be responsible for providing ventilation, during what periods of time, and in what amounts to accommodate all activities anticipated in the ESF during construction. The provision of ventilation should then be made a contract requirement with a corresponding pay item. Illumination can be handled in much the same way as ventilation. Fire prevention and control is aligned with normal tunneling practice, but note specifically the requirements that flammable materials may not be stored within 100 ft of any access opening, surface structures may not be located within 100 ft of any opening, and any underground structures shall be constructed of materials having a 1-hour fire rating. There is also a requirement that fire-resistant hydraulic fluids be used underground.

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--> The provisions on ground support contain no requirements different from those dictated by good tunneling practice. However, there is a provision that a competent person must inspect the work area at the start of each shift to assess ground stability. That same or another competent person shall determine that rock bolts are correctly torqued. The tasks given these people are reminiscent of those assigned to the safety miner in years past. If there are shafts at this project, the provisions of this section of 29CFR1926.800 will need to be met. However, the requirements for shafts should not have significant cost or schedule impacts. Provisions related to blasting in the underground construction regulation (29CFR1926.800) generally refer to 29CFR1926.900, entitled "Blasting and the Use of Explosives," to provide requirements. 29CFR1926.900 is derived from common and generally accepted blasting standards used by MSHA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and other agencies and organizations. In addition to those included by reference to the Blasting Standard, there are only two provisions added to the Underground Standard. One of these prohibits the common practice of miners returning to the heading before ventilation is restored and the powder smoke is cleared. The other requires that blasting wire be kept clear of other conductive material. The 11 subparagraphs under the heading drilling contain no surprises and generally apply only to the contractor who is actually advancing the heading. Haulage procedures also follow accepted practice and provisions generally found in mining regulations. Electrical safety essentially references 29CFR1926.400, "Electrical," of the construction standards. Compliance with this regulation has proven difficult on at least one occasion related to the general requirements found in 29CFR1926.403, which discuss approval; examination; and listing, labeling, or certifying equipment. The issue in that case involved a TBM; its power supply cable; and the requirements for listing, labeling, or certifying the individual electrical components on the TBM. In addition, the case involved the potential requirements for listing, labeling, or certifying the total system, meaning the TBM, its power supply, and auxiliary equipment, such as the conveyor system. The TBM manufacturer, the contractor, and the electrical subcontractors must ensure that conditions likely to be found underground, such as ground water, cannot infiltrate the electrical system at any point to cause fires or explosions. Costs and delays associated with these issues can be significant.

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--> Electrical fires and explosions, aside from being potentially life-threatening, are also noisy, smoky attention-getters with both the press and OSHA. There is at least one way to reduce the possibility of electrical hazards. The authority issuing plans and specifications can seek interpretations beforehand and can require a careful inspection of the TBM before startup. Inspection should ensure that none of the conditions expected underground can possibly cause electrical problems and that all electrical components are properly listed and labeled for their intended use and exposure. The contractor operating the TBM should ensure that only a few trained electricians are allowed to work on, alter, or maintain the electrical system and that all others clearly understand that the components of the electrical system are off limits to welding, cutting, drilling, storing of lunch buckets, drying of gloves, and all other forms of tampering that seem to be the assumed right of underground workers everywhere. The section on hoisting unique to underground construction regulates cranes and hoists used in underground construction and principally applies in underground work involving shafts. While cranes are generally not allowed to be used for hoisting personnel in surface construction, the standard specifically excludes this prohibition for underground construction. The remaining sections address underground work in a pressurized environment. The standard continues with sections on caissons and other underground work in which compressed air is used to provide a pressurized environment. Since such work will not be conducted at Yucca Mountain, this paper will not address these issues. Of necessity, this paper does not discuss each provision in great detail. However, there are detailed requirements in the standard that must be met. For example, a large and good construction company recently retained a reputable firm to design a hoisting cage for a shaft. Somehow the cage was enclosed with three-quarter-inch wire mesh instead of the one-half-inch wire mesh plainly required by the regulation. As luck would have it, an OSHA inspector noted this failure to comply and issued a citation. Conclusions The total number of safety regulations covering the work at Yucca Mountain spans several volumes and includes more standards than those previously discussed. Additional standards that will apply at Yucca Mountain include the hazard communications standard,

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--> posting requirements, requirements for personal protective equipment, and lock-out/tag-out requirements for equipment and may include confined space entry requirements, as well. Employers will need to be aware of those standards pertinent to their respective operations. One way to ensure compliance and lessen the potential for cost and schedule impacts is to include specific contract requirements and corresponding pay items for those safety requirements involving multiple employers. This approach also promotes a safe work place. In the case of the ESF at Yucca Mountain, for example, the provision and maintenance of a walkway in the tunnels for access and egress, of lighting and ventilation, of a tunnel rescue team or teams, and of underground transportation are items that should be made contract requirements with specifications and specific pay items. Other items that should be considered as specific contract requirements include check-in/check-out, communications, and air-quality monitoring. Taking these steps assigns both responsibility and compensation, reducing the likelihood of duplication or gaps in compliance. Discussion Several conference participants agreed that standards with which a project must comply should be specified before the commencement of the project. DOE has done so for the YMP, telling the underground contractors that they must comply with the California OSHA tunnel safety orders, MSHA standards, and OSHA standards. DOE and its contractors have agreed on the particular requirements from the respective standards that must be met at Yucca Mountain. Nevertheless, at least one conference participant was concerned that problems may arise when safety jurisdiction is returned to the federal OSHA. Mr. Anderson anticipated no problems with OSHA for the ESF at Yucca Mountain. He suggested that throughout the project, contracts should include explicit requirement language to keep the contractors continually aware of the requirements they are responsible for meeting. Also, to forestall any problems with the federal OSHA, project planners at DOE should contact OSHA and force them to take a stand on any questionable issues and thus to share responsibility for safety management at Yucca Mountain. This will prevent OSHA from later citing project contractors for noncompliance in cases where DOE was compelled to make safety management choices without explicit OSHA guidance. However, one participant cautioned that in his experience, the best a company

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--> can expect from the governing organization is non-objection to documented procedures. He expressed hope that DOE will achieve better cooperation with OSHA.

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