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Tips for Using Roco’s Confined Space Types Chart

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Is your rescue team (or service) truly capable of rescuing workers from the various types of confined spaces on your site?

What about rescue services for the contractor who’s working on your site with personnel entering permit spaces?

As a rescue team, have you considered all the angles in preparing for confined space rescue?

Refineries, plants and manufacturing facilities have a wide range of confined spaces – some having only a few, where others may have hundreds. In OSHA’s 1910.146, a big consideration is allowing rescue teams the opportunity to practice and plan for the various types of confined spaces they may be required to respond for rescue.

Obviously, it would be impossible to practice in each and every one of the spaces – from a time standpoint as well as most times the spaces are operating and functioning units within the plant. That’s why section (k) of 1910.146 also allows practice from “representative” spaces.

Using OSHA’s guidelines for determining representative spaces, Roco’s Confined Space Types Chart was developed to assist rescue teams in planning and preparing for the various types of spaces in their response area. Our CS Types Chart allows you to categorize permit spaces into one of six types – which can be used to prepare rescue plans, determine rescue requirements and practice drills or evaluate a prospective rescue service.

While there may be hundreds of permit spaces on site, many of them will fit into one of these six types and require the same (or similar) rescue plan. Of course, there are always unique situations in addition to physical characteristics, such as space-specific hazards or specialized PPE requirements, but we feel this chart is a valuable tool that can be used for critical planning and preparation for confined space rescue operations.

Over the decades here at Roco, we have seen just about every type of confined space configuration there is. We’ve also learned that it is imperative to understand the physical limitations of the space access and internal configuration and how this affects the choice of equipment and techniques in order to provide a viable, safe rescue capability.

During an emergency is NOT the time to learn that your backboard or litter will not fit through the portal once the patient is packaged. By referring to the Types Chart and practicing simulated rescues from the relevant types of spaces will help identify these limitations in a controlled setting instead of during the heat of an emergency.

Here’s an example


Most backboards are 16 to 20-inches wide. With an 18-inch round portal, the backboard will only fit through the “widest” part (or diameter) of the opening. In effect, this cuts the size of the opening in half (see illustration). If the thickness of the backboard is approximately 1-inch, then you only have about 7 or 8-inches of space remaining to clear the patient. This is one example where all the rescue equipment components may fit into the space but cannot be removed once the patient is packaged.

 


On the Roco Types Chart, you will note that there are six (6) general types identified, which are based on portal opening size and position of portal. For example, Types 1 and 2 are “side entries”; Types 3 and 4 are “top entries”; and Types 5 and 6 are “bottom entries.” There are two types of each due to portal size as discussed above. Openings greater than 24-inches will allow packaged patients on rigid litters or rescuers using SCBA to negotiate the opening. Spaces less than 24-inches will require a higher level of expertise and different packaging and patient movement techniques.
Confined Space Portal Types defined by OSHA

Because OSHA 1910.146 requires employers to allow access for rescue planning and practice purposes, here’s an opportunity to be better prepared and practiced on thetypes of spaces in the response area. So, get out your clipboard, tape measure, some sketch paper, and a flashlight (if safe to do so) in order to view as much of the interior of the space as you can. Gaining access to architectural or engineering drawings may also be helpful in determining the internal configuration of the space for the times that actual entry is not feasible. Armed with this information, it is time to “type” the spaces in your response area using the Roco CS Types Chart.

Once this is completed, pay particular attention to spaces that have been identified as Types 1, 3, or 5. These spaces have restrictive portals (24-inches or less) and are considered “worst case” regarding entry and escape in terms of portal size. As mentioned, this is very important because it will greatly influence the types of patient packaging equipment and rescuer PPE that can be used in the space.

Another critical consideration is accessibility to the space – or “elevation” of the portal. While the rescue service may practice rescues from Top, Side and Bottom portals – if it’s from ground level, that’s very different from a portal that’s at a 100-ft elevation. Here’s where high angle or elevated rescue techniques normally are required for getting the patient lowered to ground level. This is important! Rescue practice from a representative space needs to be a “true” representation of the kind of rescue that may be required in an emergency.

In Appendix F, OSHA offers guidelines for determining Representative Spaces for Rescue Practice. OSHA adds that “teams may practice in representative spaces that are ‘worst case’ or most restrictive with respect to internal configuration, elevation, and portal size.” These characteristics, according to OSHA, should be considered when deciding whether a space is truly representative of an actual permit space.

Roco Note: Practice in portals that are greater than 24-inches is also important so that rescuers can practice using all proper patient packaging protocols that may be allowed with larger size openings.

(1) Internal Configuration – If the interior of the space is congested with utilities or other structural components that may hinder movement or the ability to efficiently package a patient, it must be addressed in training. For example, will the use of entrant rescuer retrieval lines be feasible? After one or two 90 degree turns around corners or around structural members, the ability to provide external retrieval of the entrant rescuer is probably forfeited. For vertical rescue, if there are offset platforms or passageways, there may be a need for directional pulleys or intermediate haul systems that are operated inside the space.

What about rescues while on emergency breathing air? If the internal configuration is so congested that the time required to complete patient packaging exceeds the duration of a backpack SCBA, then the team should consider using SAR. Will the internal configuration hinder or prevent visual monitoring and communications with the entrant rescuers? If so, it may be advisable to use an “internal hole watch” to provide a communication link between the entrant rescuers and personnel outside the space.

What if the internal configuration is such that complete patient packaging is not possible inside the space? This may dictate a “load and go” type rescue that provides minimal patient packaging while providing as much stabilization as feasible through the use of extrication-type short spine boards as an example.

(2) Elevation – If the portal is 4 feet or greater above grade, the rescue team must be capable of providing an effective and safe high angle lower of the victim; and, if needed, an attendant rescuer. This may require additional training and equipment. For these situations, it is important to identify high-point anchors that may be suitable for use, or plan for portable high-point anchors, such as a “knuckle lift” or some other device.

(3) Portal Size – The magic number is 24 inches or less* in diameter for round portals or in the smallest dimension for non-round portals. It is a common mistake for a rescue team to “test drive” their 22-to-23-inch wide litter or backboard on a 24-inch portal without a victim loaded and discover that it just barely fits. The problem arises when a victim is loaded into the litter. The only way the litter or backboard will fit is at the “equator” of the round portal. This will most likely not leave enough room between the rigid litter or backboard and the victim’s chest, except for our more petite victims.

And, it’s already difficult to negotiate a portal while wearing a backpack SCBA. For portals of 24 inches or less, it is nearly impossible. DO NOT under any circumstances remove your backpack SCBA in order gain access to a confined space through a restricted portal or passageway. If the backpack SCBA will not fit, it is time to consider an airline respirator and emergency escape harness/bottle instead.

By using the Roco Types Chart in preplanning these “worst case” portals and the spaces that fall into the type 1, 3, or 5 categories, the rescue team will be able to determine in advance that different equipment or techniques may be required in order to effect rescue through these type portals.

*ROCO NOTE: In Appendix F, OSHA uses “less than 24-inches” in Section B (#8); however, in (3) Portal Size (a) Restricted, it uses “24-inches or less,” which we are using in our Types Chart.

(4) Space Access – Horizontal vs. Vertical? Most rescuers regard horizontal retrievals as easier than vertical. This is not always the case. If there are floor projections, pipe work or other utilities, or just a grated floor surface, it may create an incredible amount of friction or an absolute impediment to the horizontal movement of an inert victim. In this case, the entrant rescuers may have to rely on old-fashioned arm and leg strength to maneuver the victim. Once the victim is moved to the portal, it may become an incredibly difficult task to lift a harnessed victim up and over the lower edge of the portal. Even if the portal is as little as three feet above the level of the victim, it is very difficult to lift a victim’s dead weight up and over the portal lower edge. Sometimes using a long backboard as an internal ramp may do the trick. For vertical access, there may be a need for additional training or equipment to provide the lifting or lowering capability for both the victim and the entrant rescuer.

Appropriate rescue pre-plans and realistic rescue practice can be one of the best ways to be prepared for confined space rescues – and allow rescuers to operate more safely and effectively in an emergency situation. Roco CS Types Chart can be used as a quick reference when doing an initial assessment of confined spaces and permit-required confined spaces. It helps in designing rescue training and practice drills that will truly prepare rescuers for the particular spaces on site. The information can also be used when conducting performance evaluations for your team, a contracted stand-by rescue service, a local off-site response team, or a contractor who supplies their own rescue services while working in your plant.

In section (k), OSHA requires employers to evaluate the prospective rescue service to determine proficiency in terms of rescue-related tasks and proper equipment. If you are relying on a contracted rescue service or if an on-site contractor is providing their own rescue capabilities, we encourage you to have them perform a simulated rescue from a representative type space. Otherwise, if an incident occurs and the “rescuers” you are depending on are not capable of safely performing a rescue, your company could be culpable.
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OSHA's Confined Space Construction Rule Under OMB Review

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

OSHA's final rule on confined spaces in construction is being reviewed by the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. The review is one of the final steps required before OSHA can formally publish the rule.

OIRA, which is a branch of the White House's Office of Management and Budget, received the rule for review on Nov. 14. The office is limited to a 90-day review but can request an extension. The rule has been in the works since at least 2003; the proposed rule was published in 2007.

Several provisions in the proposed rule are similar to those found in the agency's confined spaces standard for general industry. That rule, issued in 1993, mandates specific procedures and includes requirements such as a written program, atmospheric monitoring and training.

Stand by for additional updates on this regulation.

News story from the National Safety Council. 

 

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VFD Acquires Rescue Equipment Through Firehouse Subs Foundation

Monday, November 24, 2014

More than $15,000 in fire rescue equipment was donated to a local volunteer fire department in Washington, WV through the Firehouse Subs Foundation.

The equipment for the Washington Bottom department is for confined areas such as off-road, industrial and water-related accidents. And the department's members are already trained to use it.

"It's nice to know we have the people with the knowledge, the skills, and now, the equipment to use the equipment properly," said Fire Chief K.C. Lindner. "We have the folks who have spent the many hours training and perfecting it. Now, we have the equipment to use."

 


Picture above: Roco Student, Ryan Goldsmith demonstrating the rope rescue equipment.

Money for the donations comes from the purchase of Firehouse's used pickle barrels by its customers.

The chain has been providing equipment to first responders for nearly a decade.

Story source: http://www.thenewscenter.tv/news/headlines/Fighting-Fire-With-Firehouse-283402671.html 

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Atmospheric Monitoring Frequency…Update for Roco Students

Friday, November 07, 2014

One of our very attentive students recently noticed a statement in our Study Guide that was incorrectly attributed to OSHA when it is really a Roco Best Practices Guideline. In the Confined Space chapter of our Study Guide, it states that OSHA requires air monitoring “within 30 minutes of the entry,” and this is not an OSHA requirement. The 30-minute timeline is a Roco recommendation for conducting “baseline” pre-testing prior to entry, but it is not an OSHA requirement.

The revised wording is explained below. You may click here to download and print the corrected pages for your Roco Study Guide. If you have any questions or need assistance, please contact the Roco office at 800-647-7626.


 

CONFINED SPACE CHAPTER

(1) ATMOSPHERIC MONITORING:  (Page 13)
ROCO RECOMMENDATION: Although OSHA does not define a specific timeline to conduct pre-entry atmospheric monitoring, we recommend that a “baseline test” be conducted approximately 30 minutes prior to the entry and then another test conducted immediately prior to entry. A comparison of these readings could indicate that atmospheric changes have occurred inside the space. If a space has been vacated for a period of time, it is recommended that similar baseline testing be repeated.

Also, while OSHA allows for periodic monitoring and sets no exact timespan between testing, Roco recommends continuous air monitoring any time workers are in the space. In addition, pre-entry testing as well as periodic testing should be based on the hazard assessment for a given space to include any previous work activities that may have introduced atmospheric hazards as well as any known history of hazardous atmospheric conditions. Another consideration is how rapidly those hazards can change the atmosphere, which may require additional precautions for safe entry.

(2) MONITORING FREQUENCY:  (Page 15)
OSHA does not define a specific timeline for conducting pre-entry atmospheric monitoring or periodic testing. OSHA 1910.146 (c)(5) refers to testing the internal atmosphere before an employee enters the space and testing as necessary to maintain acceptable entry conditions. Testing should be based on the hazard assessment for a given space as well as how rapidly those hazards could cause a change in the atmosphere, which may require additional action for safe entry.

As a safer way, Roco recommends continuous monitoring while employees are inside a permit-required confined space.


Frequently Asked Questions: PRCS Standard Clarification (OSHA.gov)

How much periodic testing is required?


The frequency of testing depends on the nature of the permit space and the results of the initial testing performed under paragraph (c)(5)(ii)(c). The requirement in paragraph (c)(5)(ii)(F) for periodic testing as necessary to ensure the space is maintained within the limits of the acceptable entry conditions is critical. OSHA believes that all permit space atmospheres are dynamic due to variables such as temperature, pressure, physical characteristics of the material posing the atmospheric hazard, variable efficiency of ventilation equipment and air delivery system, etc. The employer will have to determine and document on an individual permit space basis what the frequency of testing will be and under what conditions the verification testing will be done.

 
What does testing or monitoring "as necessary" mean as required by 1910.146(d)(5)(ii) to decide if the acceptable entry conditions are being maintained?

The standard does not have specific frequency rates because of the performance oriented nature of the standard and the unique hazards of each permit space. However, there will always be, to some degree, testing or monitoring during entry operations which is reflective of the atmospheric hazard. The employer must determine the degree and the frequency of testing or monitoring. Some of the factors that affect frequency are:

* Results of test allowing entry.
* The regularity of entry (daily, weekly, or monthly).
* The uniformity of the permit space (the extent to which the configuration, use, and contents vary).
* The documented history of previous monitoring activities.
* Knowledge of the hazards which affect the permit space as well as the historical experience gained from monitoring results of previous entries.

Knowledge and recorded data gained from successive entries (such as ventilation required to maintain acceptable entry conditions) may be used to document changes in the frequency of monitoring.

OSHA 1910.146 REFERENCES

1910.146(c)(5)(ii)(C)
Before an employee enters the space, the internal atmosphere shall be tested, with a calibrated direct-reading instrument, for oxygen content, for flammable gases and vapors, and for potential toxic air contaminants, in that order. Any employee, who enters the space, or that employee's authorized representative, shall be provided an opportunity to observe the pre-entry testing required by this paragraph.

1910.146(c)(5)(ii)(F)
The atmosphere within the space shall be periodically tested as necessary to ensure that the continuous forced air ventilation is preventing the accumulation of a hazardous atmosphere. Any employee, who enters the space, or that employee's authorized representative, shall be provided with an opportunity to observe the periodic testing required by this paragraph.

1910.146(d)(5)(i)
Test conditions in the permit space to determine if acceptable entry conditions exist before entry is authorized to begin, except that, if isolation of the space is infeasible because the space is large or is part of a continuous system (such as a sewer), pre-entry testing shall be performed to the extent feasible before entry is authorized and, if entry is authorized, entry conditions shall be continuously monitored in the areas where authorized entrants are working;

1910.146(d)(5)(ii)
Test or monitor the permit space as necessary to determine if acceptable entry conditions are being maintained during the course of entry operations;

 

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Who is your Fall Protection MVP?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

The following article was featured in the September issue of ISHN, and authored by Roco Chief Instructor Pat Furr.
Every team has their most valuable player or person, their MVP. When you consider all the personnel who make up the fall protection team at your facility, who is your MVP?

Chances are it is your Competent Person. OSHA defines a Competent Person as “One who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.” In order to do their job and become your Fall Protection MVP, it is very important that your Competent Person be.....well, competent.


Understanding Regulations & Standards

Competence can come through formal training, work experience, self-study, or most likely a combination of all three. Areas in which the Competent Person must be well versed include a thorough understanding of legislated requirements pertaining to fall protection. A great deal of time must be spent visiting the applicable OSHA regulations that apply to the type of work activities that the Competent Person will be overseeing.

This can be rather daunting, but there are plenty of resources to help in this effort. OSHA provides clarification through the issuance of letters of interpretation, Safety and Health Information Bulletins (SHIBs) and safety posters, and several training institutions provide formal training covering OSHA regulations as part of their curricula.

In addition to understanding the OSHA legislated requirements, it is also helpful that the Competent Person use consensus standards, BKM, and certainly any company policies that strengthen the OSHA required protections. The ANSI/ASSE Z359 family of standards is a big help, especially Z359.2 titled, “Minimum Requirements for a Comprehensive Managed Fall Protection Program.” This document provides recommended guidance for roles and responsibilities, training, fall hazard surveys, procedures, the hierarchy of fall protection, anchorages, inspection, maintenance and storage of fall protection equipment, rescue procedures, incident investigation, and evaluating program effectiveness.

Meeting the Needs of Authorized Persons

The Competent Person is in a unique position. They must communicate to the Authorized Persons that will be employing the fall protection procedures and systems, and also to the Program Administrator. In many cases, the Competent Person may be the Program Administrator, too. In this position, the Competent Person must strive to understand the needs of Authorized Persons regarding systems and equipment that will not create an unacceptable hindrance to their job.

If the fall protection equipment is so burdensome that workers cannot do their job, or is very uncomfortable, there is a better chance they will be reluctant to use it. So one of the most important aspects of the Competent Person’s education is to stay abreast of the types of fall protection equipment and systems commercially available. With the recent explosion of modern, lightweight, multi-function, easily deployed fall protection equipment and systems, the question of feasibility and overcoming reluctance on the part of the Authorized Person is becoming a concern of the past.

Fall Hazard Survey

The “Fall Hazard Survey” is a great tool for the Competent Person to use to identify existing and potential future fall hazards at the worksite, and to determine means to abate those hazards. This exercise is outlined in ANSI/ASSE Z359.2 and provides a systematic approach to this most valuable step. I refer to it as the fall hazard walk-about — a top-to-bottom, north-to-south, thorough physical review of all areas in which current or future work at height may be performed. The goal is to identify fall hazards by type and to identify one or more means to eliminate or control hazards while keeping the hierarchy of fall protection in mind at all times.

Once the Fall Hazard Survey is completed, it may call for the use of active fall protection equipment and systems if falls cannot be eliminated through engineering controls. In this instance, the Competent Person may have to impose limits on work activities and prescribe specific guidance on equipment and non-certified anchor point selection, and also on equipment use limitations to control swing falls and clearance requirements. Procedures put into place to eliminate or control fall hazards should be documented and included in the fall protection program.


Rescue Planning

One often overlooked duty of the Competent Person is to prepare or ensure that written rescue pre-plans are developed for any identified fall hazard that calls for the use of personnel fall arrest systems. I advocate development of a rescue from height pre-plan anytime employees are performing work at an elevated location that is accessed by means other than a stairwell or elevator. This includes platforms that may be protected by passive restraints such as standard guardrails or parapets. Always consider the possibility that a worker may be injured or become suddenly ill while at this elevated position and will need prompt rescue to get them safely to ground level.


Equipment Inspections & Incident Investigation

There are two primary types of fall protection equipment and system inspections, and the Competent Person plays a role in both types. The Competent Person is tasked with performing OSHA-mandated periodic inspections and any periodic inspections in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions for use. Pre-use inspections of fall protection equipment will be completed by the Authorized Person, but the training on these pre-use inspections and the person who ensures that these inspections are indeed completed is the Competent Person. If any equipment fails a pre-use or periodic inspection, it is immediately removed from service. In the unfortunate event that there is a fall from height incident, the Competent Person will participate in the investigation.

Role Recap

I’d like to summarize the role of the Competent Person “According to Pat” by saying they:

  • •  Must be very knowledgeable of the OSHA fall protection regulations.

  • •  Identify and understand all areas where work is performed at height and provide solutions adhering to the hierarchy of fall protection by completing a thorough and honest Fall Hazard Survey.

  • •  Have a finger on the pulse of traditional and emerging technologies for fall protection equipment and systems. Provide solutions to the Authorized Persons that are comfortable, convenient, and may be safer than what is currently being used.

  • •  Understand the capabilities and limitations of rescue systems.

I hope you have your own “Fall Protection MVP” at your work site and, if not, maybe it is time to groom one.

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Roco QUICK DRILL #5 - Building Complete Rescue Systems

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Due to time restraints in refresher training, oftentimes individual team members may only get to build a portion of a rescue system – for example, setting up a mainline or performing patient packaging. In order to have maximum team efficiency, it is important to keep all team members proficient in all aspects of the rescue operation.

1. Lay out enough equipment to build a mainline and a safety line system and for a particular type of packaging. Describe which system is to be used and how the patient will be packaged (i.e. vertical stokes raise, or horizontal SKED lower with attendant).

2. Identify what will be used as anchors. If working in a classroom or apparatus floor, a chair leg could be designated as bombproof or substantial anchor depending on the rigging the team member is being asked to do. If you are in the field, use whatever anchors are available.

3. Assign a team member to construct or rig the entire system on their own, including packaging the patient.

This drill allows a Team Leader to identify potential weaknesses in individual performance skills, while improving the team member's understanding of how the systems work. The knowledge gained will also help in planning future training sessions to correct any deficiencies. For the individual team member, this drill will reinforce all aspects of putting systems together and identifying weak points or areas of confusion that need to be corrected.    

 

 

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Rescue Challenge 2014 - Huge Success!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Congrats to the 7 excellent teams who participated in 2014 Roco Rescue Challenge this week. There was plenty of learning, and lots of doing, and these guys and gals represent some of the finest industrial rescuers in America.

Thanks to all who made this year's event a success, and to the hard working emergency responders who dedicate their lives to saving others!



Rescue Challenge 2014 Video


Visit Roco Rescue's Facebook for a full photo gallery of Challenge 2014!

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Can I Use a Crane as Part of my Rescue Plan?

Thursday, October 02, 2014

One question that is often asked, "Can I use a crane as part of my rescue plan?"

With the exception of positioning the load attachment point of a crane for a high-point anchor, or using a properly rated “personnel basket” to move rescuers and victims, the answer is typically “no” – except in very rare and unique circumstances. The justification for using a crane to move personnel, even for the purposes of rescue, is very limited. Be sure you have a clear understanding of the guidelines and precautions.

Both OSHA General Industry and Construction Standards severely limit the use of cranes to move personnel, and prescribe the proper safety measures for these operations.


Using a crane for rescue is not a carte blanche exception to the requirements of these standards unless very specific criteria are met. OSHA requires the use of personnel platforms when moving personnel with a crane. Personnel platforms that are suspended from the load line and used in construction are covered by 29 CFR 1926.1501(g). There is no specific provision in the General Industry standards, so the applicable standard is 1910.180(h)(3)(v). This provision specifically prohibits hoisting, lowering, swinging, or traveling while anyone is on the load or hook.

OSHA has determined, however, that when the use of a conventional means of access to any elevated worksite would be impossible or more hazardous, a violation of 1910.180(h)(3)(v) will be treated as “de minimis” if the employer complies with the personnel platform provisions set forth in 1926.1501(g)(3), (4), (5), (6), (7), and (8).

Even the use of a personnel platform is restricted. OSHA prohibits hoisting personnel by crane or derrick except when no safe alternative is possible. OSHA has determined that hoisting with crane or derrick-suspended personnel platforms constitutes a significant hazard to employees. Therefore, the hoisting of personnel is not permitted unless conventional means of transporting employees are not feasible. Or, unless conventional means present greater hazards (regardless if the operation is for planned work activities or for rescue). Where conventional means would not be considered safe, personnel hoisting operations meeting the terms of this standard would be authorized. OSHA stresses that employee safety, not practicality or convenience, must be the basis for the employer's choice of this method.

It’s important to consider, however, that in some instances such as when entering permit-required confined spaces, OSHA specifically requires rescue capabilities. In others, the general duty to protect an employee from workplace hazards would require rescue capabilities. Consequently, being “unprepared” for rescue would not be considered a legitimate basis to claim that “moving a victim by crane was the only feasible or safe means of rescue.” This is where the employer must complete written rescue plans (or ensure that their designated rescue service has done so), for permit-required confined space operations and for workers-at-height using fall arrest systems. 

When developing these written rescue plans, it may be determined that there is no other feasible means to provide rescue without increasing the risk to the rescuer(s) and victim(s) other than using a crane to move the human load. These situations would be very rare; thus, requiring very thorough documentation which may include written descriptions and photos of the area as part of the justification for using a crane in rescue operations.

Here’s the key… Simply relying on using a crane to move rescuers and rescue victims without completing rescue plans with very clear justification would not be in compliance with OSHA regulations. It must be demonstrated that the use of a crane was the only feasible means to complete the rescue while not increasing the risk compared to other means. Even then, there is the potential for an OSHA Compliance Officer to determine that there were indeed other feasible and safer means.

In other words, using a crane as part of a rescue plan must have rock solid written justification demonstrating that it is the safest feasible means to provide rescue capability.

On the practical side, however, the use of cranes as “stationary, temporary high-point anchors” can be a tremendous asset to rescuers. It may also be part of a rescue plan for a confined space or a top entry fan plenum, for example. The use of stationary high-point pulleys can allow rescuers to run their systems from the ground. It can also provide the headroom to clear rescuers and packaged patients from the space or an elevated edge.

Of course, security of the attachment of the system to the crane and the ability to “lock-out” any potential movement are a critical part of the preplanning process.

Taking it a step further, where some movement of the crane may be required to do the rescue, extreme caution must be taken! It may require advanced rigging techniques in order to prevent movement of the crane from putting undo stress on the rescue system and its components. Rescuers must also evaluate if the movement would unintentionally “take-in” or “add slack” to the rescue system, which could place the patient in harm’s way.

Consider this, movement of a crane can take place on multiple planes – left-right, boom up-down, boom in-out and cable up-down. If movement must take place, rescuers must evaluate how it might affect the operation of the rescue system.

Of course, one of the most important considerations in using any type of mechanical device is its strength and ability (or inability) to “feel the load.” If the load becomes “hung up” while movement is underway, serious injury to the victim or overpowering of system components can happen almost instantly.

No matter how much experience a crane operator has, when dealing with human loads, there’s no way he can feel if the load becomes entangled – and, most likely, he will not be able to stop before injury or damage occurs. Think of it this way, just as rescuers limit the number of haul team members so they can feel the load, that ability is lost when energized devices are used to do the work.

Applicable OSHA standards only restrict the “movement of personnel” with a crane. The same practical safety considerations that led OSHA to enact these standards should apply to decisions involving the use of cranes for rescue.  For rescuers, a crane is just another tool in the toolbox – one that can serve as temporary, stationary high-point making the rescue operation an easier task.

However, once again, using a crane that will require some movement while the rescue load is suspended would be a “last resort” option! There are just too many potential downfalls and concerns associated with using cranes in rescue. This also applies to fire department aerial ladders, which are essentially the same thing. Rescuers must consider the manufacturer’s recommendation for use, who knows their equipment best. What does the manufacturer say about human loads? And, what about the attachment of human loads to different parts of the crane or aerial?

So, to answer the question, Can I include the use of a crane as part of my written rescue preplan?”

Well, it’s yes and no. The use of any powered load movement will most likely be an OSHA violation, the question is, will it be considered a “de minimis" violation if used during a rescue? Most likely, it will depend on the specifics of the incident. However, you can be sure that OSHA will be looking for justification as to why using a crane in motion was considered to be the least hazardous choice.

Municipal Emergency Responders

This article was primarily directed toward private employers who control permit-required confined spaces and have Authorized Persons working-at-height while using fall arrest systems. When an employer fails to ensure that rescue preplans have been completed, or fails to inform a municipal agency that has agreed to provide rescue service to their facility about the types of rescues they may be summoned to, it places the municipal responders in a very difficult position. If municipal responders have not had the opportunity to complete a rescue plan ahead of time, they will have to do a “real time” size-up once on scene. Due to difficult access, victim condition, and/or available equipment and personnel resources, it may be determined that using a crane to move rescuers and victims is the best course of action. Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the employer to ensure that rescue plans are completed ahead of time. Planning before the emergency will go a long way in providing options that may provide fewer risks to all involved.

NOTE: Stay tuned for Part II of this story where we will talk more about the use of aerial fire apparatus as high-point anchors in rescue operations.

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