OSHA: Underground Construction (Tunneling)

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OSHA Underground Construction (Tunneling) informational booklet provides a general overview of a particular topic related to OSHA standards. It does not alter or determine compliance responsibilities in OSHA standards or the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Because interpretations and enforcement policy may change over time, you should consult current OSHA administrative interpretations and decisions by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission and the Courts for additional guidance on OSHA compliance requirements.

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The construction of underground tunnels, shafts, chambers, and passageways are essential yet dangerous activities. Working under reduced light conditions, difficult or limited access, and egress, with the potential for exposure to air contaminants and the hazards of fire and explosion, underground construction workers face many dangers. To help employers protect the safety and health of underground construction workers, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has prepared a number of guidance documents, including the underground construction regulations, found in Part 1926, section 800 of Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations (29 CFR 1926.800). OSHA regulations relating to underground construction were originally adopted in 1971 and revised over the years to add new protective measures and enhance worker safety. This publication summarizes OSHA’s regulations related to underground construction. As such, it should be used as a guide but not as a substitute for the complete text of 29 CFR 1926.800.

All employees involved in underground construction must be trained to recognize and respond to hazards associated with this type of work. Training should be tailored to the specific requirements of the Jobsite and include any unique issues or requirements.

The following topics should be part of an underground construction
employee training program:

  • Air monitoring and ventilation
  • Illumination
  • Communications
  • Flood control
  • Personal protective equipment
  • Emergency procedures, including evacuation plans
  • Check-in/check-out procedures
  • Explosives
  • Fire prevention and protection
  • Mechanical equipment

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Table of Contents

The content

The Content of OSHA Underground Construction ( Tunneling )

  • Introduction…4
  • Construction operations covered by
  • the OSHA standard…4
  • Employers and employees covered by
  • the OSHA standard…5
  • Requirements of the OSHA standard…6
  • The need for a “competent person”…6
  • Training requirements…6
  • Notification and communication requirements…7
  • Site control procedures…8
  • Check-in/check-out procedures…8
  • Control of access and egress…9
  • Ground support of portal and subsidence areas…9
  • Ground support of underground areas…9
  • Ground support of shafts…10
  • Fire prevention and control…10
  • Ventilation requirements…12
  • Illumination requirements…13
  • Special air monitoring requirements…13
  • Test for oxygen first…14
  • Testing for methane and other flammable gases…14
  • Hydrogen sulfide levels…15
  • Special conditions for drilling and
  • blasting underground…15
  • Special requirements for using cranes
  • and hoists underground…16
  • Potential hazards that require special precautions…18
  • Gassy or potentially gassy operations…18
  • Emergency procedures…21
  • Recordkeeping requirements…22
  • OSHA assistance…22
  • Safety and health management system guidelines…22
  • State programs…23
  • OSHA consultation services…23
  • The OSHA Voluntary Protection Program (VPP)…24
  • Strategic Partnership Programs…25
  • The OSHA Alliance Program…25
  • OSHA training and education…26
  • The information is available electronically…26
  • OSHA publications…27
  • Contacting OSHA…27
  • OSHA Regional Offices…28

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