Roco Rescue



Confined Space Attendants Play a Crucial Role

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

The following article was featured in the July 2014 issue of ISHN, and authored by Roco's own Chief Instructor Pat Furr.

Have you ever wondered who that person is who hovers around the portal of a permit space while workers are in the space? What does a Confined Space Attendant (often referred to as the “Hole Watch”) do anyway? What may seem like a cushy job is actually a critical safety responsibility. Here’s why:

First, OSHA instituted regulations regarding Permit-Required Confined Spaces (1910.146) due to the high number of serious injuries and deaths in confined spaces. Entering these spaces is dangerous business, and the attendant serves as the “safety watchman” for entrants as well as those who may casually try to enter. This also applies in an emergency situation when others may be tempted (but unqualified) to enter the space to rescue a co-worker.

OSHA requires that the attendant be able to safely and effectively perform the duties required in Section (i) of 1910.146. (See “Duties of the Confined Space Attendant”) Once a permit is issued and work begins, the attendant needs to be aware of his or her surroundings and be diligent in monitoring the space and entrants at all times. This individual is not there to be a “gofer” for workers inside the space.

Get real

If entrants need assistance or an emergency situation develops inside (or outside) the space that requires entrants to be evacuated, the attendant is the “vital link”. Unfortunately, it is common practice to fill the Hole Watch position with the least experienced or greenest person on the crew. Many times, this person has no idea what is expected of them. They also may not be aware of potential hazards inside the space or hazards that may be introduced as work is performed. Often, these individuals are not experienced in industrial environments and are not properly trained in the OSHA-required duties. And, in most cases, they don’t realize how critical their duties could become in an emergency when split-second decisions are required.

Train your attendants

It is unrealistic to expect a new employee to perform these duties without receiving appropriate training and being granted the authority to take action as needed. In 1910.146(d)(8), OSHA is specific in its requirements for the various roles involved in conducting safe permit entry operations. Employers are required to provide adequate training and ensure that personnel are capable of performing their duties. At minimum, the regulation requires employers to ensure that each Hole Watch/Attendant knows and understands the following safety precautions:

(1) Hazards that may be faced during entry, including information on the mode, signs or symptoms, and consequences of exposure to those hazards;

(2) Possible behavioral effects of hazard exposure for the authorized entrants.

Additional duties and responsibilities include:

(1) Continuously maintaining an accurate count of entrants in the permit space.

(2) Performing non-entry rescues as specified by the employer’s rescue procedure.

One of the most critical duties of the attendant is to be able to effectively communicate with entrants and take appropriate actions in an emergency. Communications are required to monitor the status of the entrants and to ensure that there are no signs of exposure to hazards. The attendant must recognize this need and be able to order evacuation of the space. Most importantly, the confined space attendant can perform NO duties that might interfere with their primary duty to monitor and protect the entrants.

Prevent fatalities

Employers must ask themselves, “Will the person designated as the “Hole Watch” be able to react in an effective manner when the pressure is on? Will they be able to initiate a non-entry rescue in an emergency situation?” Again, we witness too many instances where the “Hole Watch” has little or no knowledge of the responsibilities assigned, while some have had virtually no training whatsoever. Sometimes it seems they are there for no other reason than to fill a square to meet an OSHA requirement.

Many times the lack of understanding regarding confined space hazards, combined with the lack of a clear understanding of emergency actions to be taken (as well as actions to avoid) can lead to confined space fatalities, both for the entrants as well as the attendant.

We urge employers to take a serious look at the selection and training of confined space attendants. These individuals must be capable, responsible and properly trained as spelled out in the OSHA standard. When things go wrong in a confined space, the actions (or inaction) of the attendant can be the difference between life and death for the entrants. They must have the knowledge, the tools and the experience to function as an effective, and ultimately safe, “Hole Watch.”

About the Author: Pat Furr is a chief instructor and technical consultant for Roco Rescue, Inc. Pat teaches a wide variety of technical rescue classes including Confined Space Rescue, Rope Access, Tower Work/Rescue, Fall Protection, and Suspended Worker Rescue. He is also involved in research and development, writing articles and presenting at national conferences. He is a member of the NFPA 1006 Technical Rescuer Professional Qualifications Standard.

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Quick-Connect Harness Buckle Safety

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Recently, we noticed a story in a leading safety and health magazine that questions the “two-piece, pass-through buckle” that is commonly used on many harnesses. The author, in fact, referred to it as a design flaw. However, we consider it more a matter of improper use than a design flaw. While he does identify some potential user failures, we feel his terming is not quite accurate. Here’s why...

As with any life support equipment, it is imperative to use the equipment in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions for use and receive the appropriate training as required. The author cites instances where he has observed the mating plate of the two-piece, pass-through buckle being improperly oriented which can lead to the buckle loosening and potentially disconnecting. He also suggests that the pass-through plate have some type of “visual indicator” to warn the user when the buckle is improperly connected. Of course, we’re always in favor of additional safety features!

While this may be viewed as a matter of semantics, consider the following analogy… almost every outboard motorboat has one or sometimes multiple drain plugs in the transom well to provide drainage once the boat is pulled out of the water. If the skipper forgets to re-install the drain plugs the next time the boat is launched, the transom well will fill with water, which could lead to swamping. So, is this a design flaw, or improper use? From an equipment designer/manufacturer’s point of view, the use of this terminology could be very significant.

With the many advances in life safety equipment, we have seen harnesses and other rescue/safety equipment become more convenient, lighter, multifunctional, and overall safer than earlier generations. As with many product advances and improvements, there may be compromise in one area but advances in many others. In this case, the speed and ease of donning and doffing a Class III rescue or fall protection harness by using some type of quick-connect buckle. Of course, the user must ensure that the buckle is used correctly.

The pass-through buckle has been around a very long time. In fact, a Croll sport climbing sit harness that I bought in 1981 had this type buckle. These buckles were also used in the past on the leg loops on Roco harnesses. There are minor variations on the design of the buckle with some having slots to ease the pass-through of the top plate, while others do not have this slot.

There are important requirements for the safe use of these buckles, which include:

1.  Make sure the buckle is adjusted tightly enough to ensure constant tension is applied to the top plate against the fixed plate.

2.  Be sure that the top plate is not inverted.

3.  Double check that the tail end of the webbing does not pass through the “fixed plate” but instead lays parallel with the anchored section of the webbing.

These three user points of performance are easily completed. Our extensive experience with this type of buckle tells us that it’s a convenient and safe buckle when used as it was designed. As always, carefully check and re-check your gear before life-loading!

Information from article by Robert Peterson published by OH&S Online -


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OSHA Seeks Input on Emergency Response Standard

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Prompted by the 2013 fire and explosion that killed 12 firefighters at a Texas fertilizer facility, as well as other recent incidents, OSHA is considering the development of a standard on emergency response and preparedness.

Stakeholders are invited to provide input at an informal OSHA meeting in Washington on July 30 and, if needed, on July 31. Attendees must register by July 2.

OSHA first sought public input on an emergency response and preparedness rulemaking in 2007, when the agency issued a Request for Information. In that request, OSHA noted that although several of its current standards address certain issues emergency responders face (including blood borne pathogens and confined spaces), some of those standards are decades old.

In 2012, 231 deaths occurred in the protective service industry, which includes firefighters and law enforcement personnel, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

Story from The National Safety Council


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Roco QUICK DRILL #3 - Knot Tying Challenge

Monday, June 09, 2014

A question that we often hear is, “How proficient should rescuers be with knot tying?” We recommend that rescuers be able to tie any of the knots used by their team without hesitation, or without even having to look at the knot as they are tying it.

As part of the skills requirement in our Roco certification courses, we require students to tie each knot (with safeties, as required) within 30 seconds. This gives us a good idea of the student’s proficiency in the basics of knot tying.

Here's a knot drill that we recommend: 

1.  Give each team member a length of rope and a piece of webbing. Note: Some knots will require an object to tie around.

2.  In a room capable of being darkened, call out the name of the knot to be tied and then turn off the lights. As each person finishes, have them shout “Completed.”

3.  Once all members have completed the knot, turn on the lights and check for accuracy.

Having the lights off during this drill forces rescuers to use their other senses in remembering how to tie the knots. It helps to reinforce their skills and is an excellent way to identify the individual knot(s) that may require more practice for increased proficiency. When the pressure is on – as in a real rescue – you need to be able to count on all your team members to tie the needed knot in a timely and accurate manner.


Download the Rescue Knots PDF




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