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Myths and Misunderstandings

Thursday, July 01, 2010

How often have you heard the statement “I will just call 911 if we have a confined space emergency”?  Let’s dispel some common myths and misunderstandings regarding confined space rescue compliance.

In accordance with OSHA 1910.146 (d)(9) an employer that will have personnel entering Permit Required Confined Spaces at their workplace must “develop and implement procedures for summoning rescue and emergency services, for rescuing entrants from permit spaces, for providing necessary emergency services to rescued employees, and for preventing unauthorized personnel from attempting a rescue.

Meeting this requirement can be accomplished in several ways…

    - Develop an in-house rescue team made up of host employees.
    - Contract with an outside third party rescue team.
    - Coordinate with local emergency services (“911”).

Whatever way an employer chooses, there are specific evaluation criteria that must be met according to 1910.146 (k)…

The rescue team must be capable of responding in a timely manner and reaching the victim(s) within an appropriate amount of time based on the hazards of the confined space.  On-site teams (in-house or third party contracted teams) are generally better able to meet this requirement.

The team must be equipped and proficient in performing the type(s) of rescue that may be encountered.  Can they walk the walk, or just talk the talk?

The employer shall ensure at least one member of the rescue team is currently certified in CPR/First Aid.

The employer shall also ensure that the designated rescue team practices making permit space rescues at least once every 12 months from the actual spaces or representative spaces in regards to opening size, configuration, and accessibility. Representative spaces shall simulate the types of permit spaces from which rescue is to be performed.

Non-Mandatory Appendix F – Rescue Team/Rescue Service Evaluation Criteria

These are some but not all of the requirements of an initial and periodic performance evaluation of the rescue team:

At a minimum, if an offsite rescue team is being considered, the employer must contact the service to plan and coordinate the evaluation of the team based on 1910.146 (k).  Merely posting the service’s phone number or planning to rely on “911” to obtain these services at the time of a permit space emergency would not comply with paragraph (k)(1) of the standard.

Can the rescue team respond in an appropriate amount of time based on the hazards of the space?  For known IDLH hazards or hazards that can quickly develop into IDLH conditions, on scene rescue standby is required.  For non- IDLH hazards, a response time of 10-15 minutes may be adequate.

Will the offsite rescue team be available to respond to a confined space incident or is there a potential they will be out of service on a separate incident and unable to respond?

If necessary, can the rescue service properly package and retrieve victims from a permit space that has a limited size opening (less than 24 inches in diameter) or from a space that has internal obstacles or hazards? Does the service have the capability to provide rescue from an elevated location using high angle rescue techniques?

About the Author:
Patrick Furr, employed with Roco since 2000, has been actively involved with technical rescue since 1981. He is a Roco Chief Instructor as well as a Team Leader for our on-site safety services in New Mexico. Pat teaches Confined Space Rescue, Rope Access, Tower Work/Rescue and Fall Protection programs across North America. He is a retired U.S. Air Force MSgt/Pararescueman.




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