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The Clock's Ticking on Timely Response

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

By Dennis O'Connell, Roco Director of Training & Chief Instructor

As Director of Training, I get many questions about rescue techniques and regulations from our students and readers. In the past month alone, I have received three inquiries about "timely response for rescue teams" regarding permit required confined spaces (PRCS). So, let's break it down and try to clear the air on this subject. For clarification, we will refer to the General Industry Standard 1910.146; the Construction Standard 1926-1211; and the Respiratory Standard 1910.134.

In 1910.146, OSHA provides guidance on timely response in Subpart K (Rescue and Emergency Services) and again in Non-Mandatory Appendix F (Rescue Team or Rescue Services Evaluation Criteria). Subpart (k)(1)(i) states: "Evaluate a prospective rescuer's ability to respond to a rescue summons in a timely manner, considering the hazard(s) identified."

This one sentence actually says volumes about response times. The first question to be answered is, "Can the rescue service respond in a timely manner?" It then gives a hint as to what a timely manner should be based on. The second part of the sentence refers to "considering the hazard(s) identified." What this so eloquently says is the response time must be determined based on the possible hazard(s). This means the "known and potential hazard(s)" must be identified for each space to be entered. The hazards discovered -- based on severity, type, how rapidly the hazard could become IDLH or injure the worker, how quickly the need to treat the injury, or how quickly hazards might interfere with the ability to escape the space unaided -- would then be used to determine an acceptable response time. This is why OSHA only alludes to response times and does not set hard and fast times to follow -- it depends on the hazards of that particular space.

Another aspect we need to consider is that "response time" begins when the call for help goes out, not once the team is on scene. It ends when the team is set-up and ready to perform the rescue. So, how long will it take your team to be notified, respond and set-up is a big portion of that acceptable response time calculation. For example, a dedicated onsite fire/rescue team would be able to respond faster than workers who have other responsibilities and need to meet at the firehouse before responding. Or, more quickly than an outside service, such as a municipal department, that would have to respond to the facility, get through the gate, and be led to the scene.

In the note to paragraph (k)(1)(i), it adds: What will be considered timely will vary according to the specific hazards involved in each entry. For example, OSHA 1910.134, Respiratory Protection, requires that employers provide a standby person or persons capable of immediate action to rescue employee(s) wearing respiratory protection while in work areas defined as IDLH atmospheres.

Here we see OSHA better defining an acceptable response time for IDLH atmospheres -- i.e., immediate action! However, it's important to note this doesn't just refer to low O2...depending on the type of contaminant in the atmosphere, other respiratory equipment such as half- or full-face APRs could be used. It may include a dusty environment where the entrant wears a mask and visibility is less than 5 feet. Technically, that would be considered an IDLH environment. Many people get hung up on the use of SAR/SCBA as the trigger for a standby team, and that is just not the case.

For an IDLH atmosphere where respiratory protection is needed, an adequate number of persons (rescuers) is required to perform a rescue from the type of space involved - ready, trained, equipped and standing by at the space -- ready to take immediate action should an emergency occur. So, when dealing with possible IDLH atmospheres, we are looking at "hands-on" the patient in 3-4 minutes as possibly being an appropriate response time. Basically, this is about how long an entrant can survive without air. The only way to safely make rescue entry in that time frame is to have rescuers standing by, suited up and ready to go!

So, if dealing with an IDLH atmosphere, we revert back to 1910.134. Many people think that that is the only time we need a team standing by ready to take immediate action. I pose the question, "If the hazard is a liquid (engulfment hazard), what would be a reasonable response time?" If the victim is Tarzan or Johnny Weissmuller (okay, Michael Phelps, for you younger people), we may have a longer stay-afloat time. But if a non-swimmer, or in an aerated solution or other engulfment hazard, immediate action may be their only chance of survival! And, what about radiation (time, distance, shielding)? I am sure you can think of a few more possibilities.

And, while OSHA referred to an IDLH atmosphere in this example, it's important to consider other IDLH hazards as well. Here's where we note that the definition of IDLH in the Respiratory Standard (1910.134) differs slightly in Permit-Required Confined Spaces (1910.146). The Respiratory standard specifically refers to an IDLH "atmosphere" while the PRCS standard states the following: Immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH) means any condition that poses an immediate or delayed threat to life or that would cause irreversible adverse health effects or that would interfere with an individual's ability to escape unaided from a permit space. This includes more than simply atmospheric hazards! 

OSHA NOTE: Some materials -- hydrogen fluoride gas and cadmium vapor, for example -- may produce immediate transient effects that, even if severe, may pass without medical attention, but are followed by sudden, possibly fatal collapse 12-72 hours after exposure. The victim feels "normal" until collapse. Such materials in hazardous quantities are considered to be "immediately" dangerous to life or health.

In Non-Mandatory Appendix F (I hate that non-mandatory language), OSHA gives guidance on evaluating response times under Section A - Initial Evaluation. What are the needs of the employer with regard to response time (time for the rescue service to receive notification, arrive at the scene, and set up and be ready for entry)? For example, if entry is to be made into an IDLH atmosphere, or into a space that can quickly develop into an IDLH atmosphere (if ventilation fails or for other reasons), the rescue team or service would need to be standing by at the permit space. On the other hand, if the danger to entrants is restricted to mechanical hazards that would cause injuries (e.g., broken bones, abrasions) a response time of 10 or 15 minutes might be adequate.

Not a bad paragraph for a non-mandatory section of the standard! Here they explain what they are looking for in regards to response times. They even take the OSHA 1910.134 IDLH atmosphere requirement for a team standing by at the space a little further by adding "or into a space that can quickly develop into an IDLH atmosphere." It also states if the hazard is mechanical in nature, 10-15 minutes might be adequate. That’s right, "might" not will be, but might be. Again, it depends on the hazard.

Paragraphs 2-7 in Appendix F goes on to describe other conditions that should be considered when determining response times such as traffic, team location, onsite vs. offsite teams, communications, etc. If you have not done so, I highly recommend that you review the not-so-Non-Mandatory Appendix F. It is also important to note that while it's not mandatory to follow the exact methods described in Appendix F, meeting the requirements are! OSHA also uses the word "should" in Appendix F, not following the OSHA recommendations could certainly lead to some hard questions post incident.

OSHA 1926 Subpart AA Confined Spaces in Construction closely mirrors 1910.146. In this relatively new standard, they simplified the definition of timely response and omitted Non-Mandatory Appendix F, which helps to eliminate the confusion of the "non-mandatory" language, and included the requirements right in the standard, which is good. However, 1910.146 really gives you a better idea of what timely would be for different situations through the notes in Section (k) and Appendix F.

Section 1926.1211 of the Construction Standard for Rescue and Emergency Services (a)(1) states: Evaluate a prospective rescuer’s ability to respond to a rescue summons in a timely manner, considering the hazard(s) identified. This is immediately followed by: Note to paragraph 1926.1211(a)(1). What will be considered timely will vary according to the specific hazards involved in each entry. For example, OSHA1926.103, Respiratory Protection (for construction) requires that employers provide a standby person or persons capable of immediate action to rescue employee(s) wearing respiratory protection while in work areas defined as IDLH atmospheres.

In closing, these regulations are driving you in the same direction for identifying what a timely response would be...THERE IS NO SET TIME FRAME! Each space must be evaluated based on potential hazards and how quickly rescue would need to take place. I hope this will make you take a closer look at "how and what" you consider a timely response. An employer's PRCS program must identify and evaluate the rescue resources to be used. It is then up to the entry supervisor to make sure the identified rescue service is available to respond in a timely manner, which can literally mean life or death for the entrants.

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OSHA Civil Penalties Set to Increase in August

Friday, July 08, 2016

OSHA’s maximum penalty for serious violations will increase from $7,000 to $12,471. The agency’s top penalty for willful or repeated violations will jump from $70,000 to $124,709. OSHA’s maximum penalties have not increased since 1990.

“Civil penalties should be a credible deterrent that influences behavior far and wide,” Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said in a press release. “Adjusting our penalties to keep pace with the cost of living can lead to significant benefits for workers and can level the playing field [for] responsible employers who should not have to compete with those who don’t follow the law.”

OSHA's new penalty levels are scheduled to take effect after August 1, 2016. Any citations issued after this date will be subject to the new penalties if the related violations occurred after November 2, 2015. The interim final rules were announced June 30. Comments on the interim final rules will be due 45 days after the rules are published in the Federal Register. (Source: National Safety Council.)

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Roco's New RescueTalk™ Podcast

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

RescueTalk™ Podcasts explore critical topics for technical, industrial and municipal rescue professionals, emergency responders and safety personnel. Learn about confined space rescue, OSHA compliance, NFPA standards, fall protection, trench rescue, off-shore considerations, rescue equipment, training and more. Get it now.
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New from OSHA: Is 911 your Confined Space Rescue Plan?

Monday, May 16, 2016

OSHA has a new Fact Sheet for “Confined Spaces in Construction” that is designed to keep workers and emergency responders safe in permit-required confined spaces.

The new document from OSHA stresses that employers must select a service that has the ability to respond and conduct rescue in a timely manner based on site conditions and potential hazards specific to the space. It also states that “an employer who relies on local emergency services for assistance is required to meet the requirements of 1926.1211-Rescue and emergency services.”

This Fact Sheet includes information for emergency response providers along with key questions to consider before making a commitment to respond. It also emphasizes the importance of preplanning while encouraging service providers to work closely with employers in order to be properly prepared for the challenges they may face.

Click here to download OSHA Fact Sheet.

“Permit-required confined spaces can present conditions that are immediately dangerous to workers’ lives or health if not properly identified, evaluated, tested and controlled.”

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New CS Types Chart & Compliance Guide

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

This helpful new guide provides information for evaluating your rescue team or prospective rescue service based on the requirements of OSHA 1910.146 and 1926 Subpart AA. It includes a Rescue Team Evaluation Checklist from Appendix F and illustrates Confined Space Types 1-6, which is based on criteria from OSHA 1910.146. Roco’s method of categorizing confined spaces by various types can be useful in establishing practice requirements for your rescue service.

Responding in a safe, effective and timely manner to the various types of permit-required confined spaces at your facility is required by OSHA regulations 1910.146 (PRCS) and 1926 Subpart AA Confined Spaces in Construction.
An effective response by your rescue service is crucial to the safety of workers who are tasked with entering confined spaces to perform their job duties.

In order to be prepared, rescue teams can use this chart to plan their practice drills to include all of the various types of confined spaces. Appendix F of 1910.146 states that rescuers may practice in representative spaces that are considered “worst case” or most restrictive with respect to internal configuration, elevation and portal size. This illustrated guide will serve as a reminder to be prepared for the unexpected when planning for confined space emergencies for the safety of the rescuers and the entrants.

Register to Receive Your Free Confined Space Rescue Types Chart & Compliance Guide

Just give us your info, and Roco will mail you a copy.


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What is a Competent Person?

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Many OSHA standards, especially in construction, require a “competent person” to be designated at the jobsite. Filling this role requires proper training, relevant experience to the work being performed and adequate knowledge of the associated regulations. 

The competent person should be able to recognize critical hazards as well as have the authority to take the action needed to mitigate hazards. It’s much more than just picking someone to fill a slot.

A previous article, "What is a Competent Person?" found in the National Safety Council's Safety+Health publication, talks about how the term is often taken too lightly. Again, it's much more than just selecting a body to fill a role or attending one 10-hour training class covering all the various standards. Competency must be considered and evaluated for this important role. 

At a minimum, your designated competent person should meet the following minimum qualifications:
(1)    A high level of understanding of the types of hazards typically encountered in that area of work;
(2)    A solid review of applicable standards relating to that type of work; and,
(3)    A thorough understanding of types of solutions to control or eliminate the hazards
.

To assist in preparing your competent person in fall protection, we encourage you to register for Roco's Fall Protection
Competent Person - April 4-5, 2016 course in Baton Rouge. This course will provide practical experience in recognizing fall hazards and developing appropriate measures for reducing or eliminating those hazards. 

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New World of Worker Safety: DOL & DOJ Reach Agreement

Monday, February 22, 2016

Source: Safety+Health Magazine February 2016

Washington – A recent agreement between the Departments of Labor and Justice will launch a “new world of worker safety” by holding managers and supervisors criminally accountable for violations of the law, agency officials announced Dec. 17.

The two departments signed a memorandum of understanding that pools their resources toward the prosecution of individuals who willfully disregard labor and environmental statutes, according to John Cruden, assistant attorney general for the DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, who spoke at a press conference moments after the memo was signed.

For the past several years, OSHA and DOJ have worked with each other on certain cases, but the new agreement formalizes that relationship.

This cooperation could lead to hefty fines and prison terms for employers and individuals convicted of violating a number of related laws. For example, a roofing contractor recently pleaded guilty to violating an OSHA law, lying to inspectors and attempting to cover up his crime; he could be sentenced up to 25 years in prison.

“Strong criminal sanctions are a powerful tool to ensure employers comply with the law and protect the lives, limbs and lungs of our nation’s workers,” OSHA administrator David Michaels told reporters at the press conference.

Deborah Harris, DOJ’s Environmental Crimes Section chief, said prosecutions would be open to “the ones making the decisions that lead to the deaths of others,” which could include people in the corporate office, as well as managers and supervisors.

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NFPA Issues New Guide for Confined Spaces

Thursday, January 07, 2016
“Up until now, requesting or researching OSHA Letters of Interpretation or checking with other safety professionals was the means to get a clearer picture of ‘how’ to accomplish safe and compliant confined space entry. NFPA's Guide for Safe Confined Space Entry (NFPA350) helps to bridge that area from regulation to compliance. It is a ‘must have’ resource for safety professionals, confined space owners/workers and rescuers as well,”  states, Dennis O'Connell, Director of Training for Roco Rescue, who served as an alternate committee member for NFPA 350.

Here's more from NFPA on their new guide...

Every year, confined space incidents result in worker deaths, injuries, and serious illnesses. The danger is widespread because all facilities can have confined spaces - from commercial buildings and hospitals to public works, utilities, and chemical/industrial facilities. By U.S. law, employees must comply with applicable regulations such as OSHA's 29 CFR 1910.146 and 29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA to ensure personnel safety. However, these regulations tell you 'what' to do, not 'how' to identify, evaluate, and control confined space hazards or conduct rescue response.

NFPA has just introduced NFPA 350: Guide for Safe Confined Space Entry and Work. This all-new guide is essential for anyone who enters confined spaces, along with facility managers, code officials, and safety personnel. NFPA 350 explains how to protect workers who enter into confined spaces for inspection or testing, or to perform associated work. Provisions address the full range of special hazards, including those present in water treatment, petrochemical, and agricultural facilities. It provides information to assist companies that need to comply with OSHA's Permit-Rquired Confined Spaces (29 CFR 1910.146) among other standards. In addition, NFPA 350 helps fire service and emergency services personnel develop and evaluate plans for confined space rescue in conjunction with NFPA 1670: Standard on Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents.

This guide will help you be prepared to recognize, evaluate, and control confined space entry hazards. Follow practices developed by experts for: 

    • • Identification of Confined Spaces
    • • Evaluation of Hazards
    • • Atmospheric Monitoring
    • • Hazard Elimination and Control
    • • Ventilation
    • • Rescue and Rescue Planning
    • • Confined Space Personnel Duties, Responsibilities, and Competencies
    • • Pre-Entry Evaluation Forms and Permits
    • • Management of Change
    • • Prevention Through Design
    • • OSHA Alternate Entry Procedures and Reclassification (Annex C)

As an added note, NFPA 350 looks at all confined spaces from a different prospective- i.e., all spaces are treated as "permit required" until it is proven that entry is safe or the proper precautions have been taken. This guide's impact in confined space work and rescue will be significant in reducing risk and meeting compliance issues. For more information, visit NFPA.org.

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Worth the Wait...OSHA’s Confined Space Standard for Construction

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

In our opinion, the new OSHA regulation for Confined Spaces in Construction (Subpart AA of 1926) was worth the wait! This new standard is well thought out and includes some significant as well as subtle differences from the General Industry Permit Required Confined Space Standard 1910.146.

In this article, we will point out additional requirements for compliance for construction activities involving confined spaces. With the exception of residential construction, the final rule became fully enforceable as of October 2, 2015.   

These additional requirements instituted by OSHA are due to the dynamic nature of the construction environment. Dynamic in terms of the continuously evolving configuration of the workplace, and also in the diverse and ever-changing makeup of employers and employees depending on the phase of construction. We feel the most significant differences are not complete shifts in an administrative or operational approach to conducting safe permit required confined space operations, but more of an increased emphasis and clarification of the requirements that were already in place in the General Industry regulations.

“We believe the new standard offers an increased emphasis and clarification of the requirements that were already in place in the General Industry regulations.”

Please pay particular attention and review 1926 Subpart AA for requirements to ensure clear communication and coordination between the varied entities that work in or adjacent to the construction areas that have confined spaces. The lack of accurate communication and coordination continues to be a cause of confined space fatalities.

The need to communicate with the controlling contractor and entry employers regarding any operations that may have introduced a hazard into a confined space is of paramount importance. The failure to do so has repeatedly led to disaster for unsuspecting follow-on entrants into those confined spaces. Likewise, understanding and communicating the types of operations adjacent to, or in the proximity of confined spaces that may negatively affect that entry operation, must be coordinated and communicated.

Also, several new roles and responsibilities have been added to the confined space regulations. One of the most important new roles is that of the “competent person” for confined spaces.

Having a dedicated individual (Competent Person) who has the expertise and background to perform this critical function will undoubtedly result in lives saved.

OSHA has also added clarification to the need to ensure that the designated confined space rescue service is not only available at the time entry operations commence, but also that rescue service must now agree to notify the entry employer if a situation arises that renders them unable to respond to an emergency.


So let’s take a look at some of the particulars of these new requirements and clarifications.

1. Allows an Entry Permit to be suspended, instead of cancelled in the event of changes from the entry conditions list. Ref: 1926.1205(e)(2)

This differs from 1910.146(e)(5) which requires an employer to terminate entry and cancel the entry permit. This change has specific requirements and limits. Suspending a permit is only allowed when a condition that is not allowed under the entry permit arises in or near the permit space and that condition is: (a) temporary in nature; (b) does not change the configuration of the space; and/or, (c) does not create any new hazards within it.

The first action of the entry supervisor must be to terminate entry and ensure all authorized entrants have safely evacuated the space. At that point, the entry supervisor can suspend or cancel the entry permit. Prior to authorizing reentry, the entry supervisor must fully reassess the space before allowing reentry.

2. Includes more detailed provisions requiring coordinated activities when there are multiple employers at the worksite.

This is an important difference compared to the General Industry regulation. It is required due to the ever-changing makeup of the construction workforce and most especially when the need for workers from multiple employers must enter permit spaces at the same time, or perform work activities in the vicinity of the permit space – thus, the potential to introduce new hazards to the space that all employers on site must be aware of and prepare for.

This final provision differs from 1910.146(d)(11) by specifically addressing the need to coordinate work activities through the controlling contractor, as well as with employers working outside the permit space when their work could foreseeably affect conditions within a confined space. The new construction industry standard goes far beyond by outlining the need for coordinated activities between multiple employers by identifying specific roles – host employer, controlling contractor and the entry employer. (Refer to Chart.)

OSHA 1926.1203 General Requirements paragraph (h) includes specific communication and coordination requirements between the various employers and contractors. The host employer must provide certain information they may have about confined spaces to the controlling contractor.

Required information includes items such as:
(a) The location of known permit spaces;
(b) The nature of hazards in those identified permit spaces;
(c) The reason for classifying the space as permit required; and,
(d) Any additional precautions that the host employer, any other controlling contractor, or entry employer have previously employed to protect their employees must be provided.

It is also incumbent upon the controlling contractor to obtain information from the host employer regarding the hazards associated with the permit spaces and any information on previous entry operations into that permit space.

The controlling contractor is responsible for passing information to any entry employer that may authorize entry into that permit space as well to any other entity at the worksite that could foreseeably create a hazard that may affect that confined space.

The entry employer must obtain from the controlling contractor all the information regarding the particular permit space hazards and entry operation information. Additionally, the entry employer must inform the controlling contractor of the provisions of their permit required confined space program and any hazards they expect to confront or create during their entry operations.

It is also very important that the controlling contractor and all entry employers coordinate their activities when multiple entry employers have entrants in the same space, or when other activities around the permit space may create a hazard that affects the confined space entry operation.

At the completion of entry operations, it is equally important that all entities including entry employers and controlling contractors communicate information regarding the particulars of any given entry. This information must include the permit space program followed during the entry operation as well as any hazards confronted or created during entry. Of particular importance is to communicate any hazards created within the confined space that may still be in place. The controlling contractor in turn communicates all of this information to the host employer.

3. Requires a Competent Person to evaluate the work site and identify confined spaces, including permit spaces.

Along with the increased need for strong communications and coordination, the addition of the role of competent person for confined spaces may be one of the most important differences between the general industry standard and the construction standard.

It may seem to be a subtle difference in the two standards’ requirements, but now there is a specific role, or an identified position for conducting an evaluation of the worksite to determine the presence of confined spaces, a determination of the known or potential hazards associated with those confined spaces, and that has the authority to eliminate the identified hazards.

The competent person for confined spaces must have a high degree of expertise in identifying confined spaces and to make an accurate determination of the nature of any known or potential hazards associated with the confined space that would trigger it to be classified a permit space. In the event that the configuration or use of a non-permit required confined space changes, or a new hazard is introduced, the entry employer must have the competent person reevaluate that space to determine if it has become a permit required confined space. This is also true for any confined space that may not have initially been adequately evaluated to identify any known or potential hazards that would require that space to be classified a permit required confined space.

4. Designated rescue service must agree to notify the entry employer immediately if it becomes unavailable.

Although it has always been implied in the general industry standard that the entry supervisor would ensure the designated rescue service is available during entry operations, 1926.1211 explicitly requires an employer to designate a rescue service – in turn, the rescue service agrees to notify the entry employer immediately if they become unavailable to respond.

5. Provide an early warning system for non-isolated engulfment hazards.

This is primarily for sanitary and storm drain entry operations, but is equally important for any entry operations of a similar nature. The type of early warning systems can be as simple as posting an individual as an “upstream watch” to more complex systems such as electronic sensors or camera systems. Whatever system is used to detect an impending engulfment hazard, it must include a means of communications to provide advanced warning to the downstream entrants in time to safely evacuate the space.

We encourage our readers to spend time studying the new regulation, and in particular understanding the points we have highlighted in this article as well as in our downloadable Confined Spaces in Construction Safety Poster. If you have questions, or if we may be of service, please contact us at 800-647-7626.

 

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