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Planning for Successful Confined Space Rescues

by ckilbourne

Every year, workers die in confined space emergencies. Many of those fatalities come as a result of failed rescue attempts. To prevent deaths, you have to plan for successful rescues.

p>OSHA’s permit-required confined space rescue requirements are found at 29 CFR 1910.146(k). This section says that if you send employees into confined spaces, you must plan for their rescue should something go wrong. The regulations give you two options:

  • You can create your own rescue team made up of your own employees.
  • You can contract with an outside rescue service, such as a fire department, to provide rescue services.

If you choose the first option and create your own rescue team, designated members of that team must be:

  • Trained in rescue duties
  • Trained in CPR and first aid
  • Provided with appropriate PPE
  • Provided with necessary rescue equipment
  • Given an opportunity to practice rescues from the spaces on your premises at least once a year

OSHA emphasizes rescues in the standard because confined spaces are such hazardous places. Every year, hundreds of incidents lead to numerous fatalities. Accidents and deaths may be caused by a variety of hazards. For example:

  • The atmosphere in the space might be flammable, toxic, corrosive, or have insufficient oxygen.
  • There might be mechanical and electrical hazards created by equipment brought in to perform the required work.
  • Falls from slippery access ladders are common. Visibility may be limited, which can also lead entrants to stumble and fall.
  • Thermal effects such as heat and cold can affect the health and safety of entrants.
  • Structural hazards such as barriers, bends in tunnels, baffles in tanks, overhead pipes, small and difficult entry and exit openings, and other such impediments can create emergency situations.
  • And, in some cases, entrants can be engulfed by materials in the space such as sand, grain, or water.

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Preventing Rescue Fatalities

With so many hazards, it is no wonder that emergencies occur requiring the rescue of workers from confined spaces that have suddenly become dangerous. But rescues themselves can be dangerous endeavors:

  • Many confined space fatalities occur among rescuers.
  • Most failed rescues result from improper planning, inadequate training, and insufficient manpower to carry out an effective rescue.
  • Atmospheric problems account for most confined space deaths, both for entrants and rescuers.
  • Inadequate recognition of hazards, evaluation of the space, and testing and monitoring prior to entry cause most emergency situations requiring rescue. And those same inadequacies hamper rescue efforts and endanger rescuers.

What can be done to prevent rescue fatalities? 

  • Entrants, attendants, and supervisors must be trained to recognize hazards and take proper precautions. If they do that, the lives of entrants will not be put at risk, and rescue attempts that endanger rescuers will not be necessary.
  • You must also plan for rescues. If there is no tested and proven plan of action, rescues will be haphazard, risky, and often unsuccessful. And the lives of both rescuers and entrants may be lost.
  • Preventing rescue deaths means designating and training a special rescue team. Not just anyone can be a rescuer.
  • In order to ensure the safety of your rescue team, you have to make sure they’re properly equipped with both necessary PPE and rescue equipment.
  • And preventing rescue fatalities also involves conducting regular practice drills using the kinds of spaces your employees enter and simulating all the different types of hazardous situations rescuers might encounter.

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Rescue Plans

A written rescue plan is the key to successful rescue planning. A thorough rescue plan includes:

  • Self-rescue, non-entry rescue, and entry rescue procedures
  • Victim removal procedures and equipment
  • Required PPE and protective clothing for rescuers
  • Methods of communication and lighting
  • Testing, evaluation, and monitoring procedures to assess emergency situation
  • Control of hazards through ventilation, lockout of energy, and so on
  • Control of secondary hazards such as cave-ins, traffic at the site, etc.
  • Availability of emergency vehicles and medically trained personnel at the scene

Your rescue plan should be reevaluated whenever:

  • Conditions within a confined space change
  • New hazards are discovered
  • There is turnover in the rescue team
  • New equipment is introduced
  • A real or simulated rescue fails
  • Performance of rescuers on routine proficiency tests or in simulations is unsatisfactory

Tomorrow, we’ll review confined space rescue services requirements.

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  1. Anonymous        
    January 28, 2013 4:57 am