July 2013 - Rescue Me

Have you done a complete hazard assessment of your operations and work sites to evaluate them for confined spaces? Have you designated those spaces according to their safety requirements – non-permit required or permit required? Have you read the OSHA standard for permit required confined spaces? These three heavy questions all lie on the shoulders of the employer. So what’s the big deal with confined spaces?

As with most other safety situations, people die every year because they don’t follow the rules. OSHA takes the position that no worker should go to work and have to worry about whether or not they are going to make it home safely at the end of their work shift.

Let’s focus on 29 CFR 1910.146, and the topic of how to rescue someone from a permit required confined space. Unfortunately, this requirement does not always attract the attention that it deserves. The standard allows for either an on-site rescue team or for off-site assistance. All too often the employers’ solution is to call the fire department if rescue services are needed. But we must not overlook the fact that most fire services will not enter a confined space unless they have had hands on training with the space in question. Additionally, many fire services have had to reduce their capabilities due to current economic restrictions. So the big question is, what are you going to do if the fire service is not available? Employers have the responsibility to have a rescue plan in effect and available before any employees enter a permit required confined space.

The regulations specify that the attendant must have immediate communications with the rescue service and they must be able to respond in a timely manner. This statement does not leave a lot to be imagined. In a life and death situation, a timely manner may mean immediate, on-site responders. In less severe circumstances, up to fifteen minutes may be acceptable. It is up to the employer to determine what is needed and to provide the appropriate response services.

Response teams must be properly trained and equipped, and knowledgeable of the hazards and risks involved with the specific spaces they may be required to enter.  There is no such thing as generic training for permit required confined space rescue teams. Additionally, attendants must be trained in non-entry rescue operations. This may mean proper communications, use of non-entry rescue equipment and first aid including the use of AED’s.

Rescue of individuals involved in permit required confined space entries can be technically challenging, require specific training, and according to the standard, require annual practice. So the final question is; is your organization prepared for a proper permit required confined space operation and have you established the required rescue services for the entry?

For additional information on permit required confined space entries, contact your nearest SCATS office. Consultants can advise you as to whether or not you are in compliance with the regulations and trainers can assist you by providing classes on Permit Required Confined Spaces.

To learn more about safety training classes and other services available through SCATS, contact the office nearest you at 1 - (877) 4SAFENV or visit our website at www.4safenv.state.nv.us.