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What’s the talk about individual retrieval lines?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Because it is important to keep our readers and students updated, we wanted to share the following information with you. Please note that this issue is not resolved as of this time, and we have a letter submitted to OSHA for clarification. However, we wanted to keep you in the loop so that you can make better decisions when it comes to your rescue preplanning and operations.

It has recently come to our attention that there is a pending OSHA Letter of Interpretation (LOI) regarding the requirement for an “individual retrieval line” for each entrant. This pending interpretation is different from our understanding of what’s required by the regulation (1910.146). While this particular technique is one option of providing external retrieval, there are other alternatives currently being used by rescuers.

As mentioned above, Roco has submitted a detailed letter to OSHA for a clarification, stating our position that the use of individual lines for entrants in all cases is problematic for a number of reasons. Although OSHA’s response in its letter of interpretation is ambiguous as to its applicability to entry rescue operations, in our commitment to follow the intent of all OSHA standards, Roco is assuming that OSHA’s response was intended to apply to all entries, including rescue entries. Therefore, we will teach and use “individual lines” for the time being until we get further clarification from OSHA.

Question to OSHA:
In a request for clarification, a gentleman from Maryland had asked this question, “Does OSHA 1910-146 (k)(3) require that each individual entrant, including workers and/or rescuers, entering into a confined space be provided with an independent retrieval line or can more than one entrant be connected to a single retrieval line?”

OSHA’s Response:
OSHA’s response in the LOI states, “OSHA 1910.146(k)(3)(i) requires that each authorized entrant into a permit-required confined space must have a chest or full-body harness attached to their ‘individual’ retrieval line or life line to ensure immediate rescue of the entrant.”

Roco Note: It is important to note that “individual” retrieval line is not used in (k)(3)(i); it simply refers to “a” retrieval line. The standard states, “Each authorized entrant shall use a chest or full body harness, with a retrieval line attached at the center of the entrant’s back near shoulder level, above the entrant’s head, or at another point….”

Additional Roco Comments:
First of all, OSHA’s Permit-Required Confined Spaces Standard is, for the most part, a “performance-based” standard, meaning that it generally provides a result that is to be met, but leaves the manner by which that result is to be obtained to the judgment of the employer. This is particularly true of the rescue and retrieval requirements, as the specific circumstances and conditions of each entry or rescue will dictate what equipment and techniques may be required. However, this pending Letter of Interpretation (LOI) regarding the use of retrieval lines in Confined Spaces crosses over into the area of specific equipment and techniques that must be used.

Consistent with the performance-based nature of the standard, Roco has taught for years a technique that uses a single retrieval line for multiple entrants as an option to reduce line entanglement hazards during a rescue. The use of this technique was based on testimony given to OSHA prior to the Permit Required Confined Spaces Standard (29CFR 1910.146) being published, and indeed our interpretation of the intent of the standard. The particular technique in question is a common practice for rescuers in which one retrieval line is used and multiple entrant/rescuers are attached at different intervals with butterfly knots to reduce entanglement hazards during a rescue (see example below.)


This pending interpretation would put restraints on techniques used by rescuers when entanglement issues could be a problem. It would result in the management of multiple retrieval lines in the space which could affect the effectiveness of the rescue or result in an increased danger to the entrants and/or rescuers. In effect, this OSHA interpretation could cause an “all or nothing” response regarding the use of retrieval lines for rescuers and entrants. This LOI would eliminate the opportunity of using an external rescue technique for certain situations.

Paragraph (k)(3)  allows entrants to forgo using a retrieval line in certain situations –
“To facilitate non-entry rescue, retrieval systems or methods shall be used whenever an authorized entrant enters a permit space, unless the retrieval equipment would increase the overall risk of entry or would not contribute to the rescue of the entrant.”

The technique in question is an option that falls between each individual having an “individual” retrieval line, and having to opt out of using a retrieval line at all, and it allows for external retrieval to still be an option in many cases. And, as most of you know from personal experience, for most confined space portals only one individual can pass through at a time anyway. Even with multiple retrieval lines, it is still a “one at a time” event.  A shared retrieval line allows the same to take place.

It is Roco’s position that the rescue and retrieval techniques used in rescue should be performance based to allow for the ever-changing conditions and problems that are unique to rescue. We also feel this pending LOI could affect the safety and ability of rescuers to adjust to these situations. However, until this issue is clarified, Roco will not teach or use the technique of having multiple rescuers/entrants attached to the same retrieval line in consecutive order using midline knots as their attachment points.
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1910.147 LOTO vs. 1910.146 Isolation

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Question:  If I close and Lockout/Tagout the main valve on the natural gas line supplying a boiler unit – does this satisfy OSHA’s requirement for eliminating the hazard of a permit required confined space?

Answer:  No, it does not. You are asking a question that we address quite often and it reveals some misconceptions regarding “eliminating” or “isolating” the permit space from hazards. Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) procedures are covered in OSHA’s 1910.147 “Control of Hazardous Energy (Lockout/Tagout).

” Many times this regulation is incorrectly referenced when addressing permit space hazards that are not covered by this regulation.
OSHA’s 1910.147 LOTO regulation applies to the control of electrical, mechanical, hydraulic, pneumatic, chemical, thermal, or other energy. It does not apply to engulfment hazards (liquid or flowable solids), flammable gasses, or other gasses that may be toxic or oxygen displacing.

It is important to understand this distinction because the use of isolation procedures appropriate for the hazards addressed in 1910.147 may not be effective in eliminating other hazards.  “Isolation,” as defined in the Permit Required Confined Space regulation (1910.146) spells out the various measures required to eliminate hazardous energies as covered in the LOTO regulation as well as the types of hazards that are not addressed in that regulation.  You will note that 1910.146 cites LOTO as a means to isolate all sources of energy (emphasis added), but outlines other methods used to isolate the other hazards such as hazardous materials. These isolation procedures include the process by which a permit space is “removed from service” and completely protected against the release of energy and material into the space by such means as: blanking or blinding; misaligning or removing sections of lines, pipes, or ducts; a double block and bleed system; lockout or tagout of all sources of energy; or blocking or disconnecting all mechanical linkages.

By closing and placing a LOTO device on a single valve of a natural gas feed line, you may have controlled the hazard but you have not eliminated it. To provide true isolation (elimination), you will have to employ such means as: blanking or blinding; misaligning or removing sections of lines, pipes, or ducts; or a double block and bleed system.

Download the LOTO tip sheet from NIOSH.
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How to Haul a Victim in Half the Time: Part 2

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Well, maybe not half the time, but certainly some fraction of the time.

In How to Haul a Victim in Half the Time: Part 1, we covered ways to reduce the time needed to haul a rescue package by taking advantage of changes of direction.

Here, we want to address OSHA and ANSI guidance regarding retrieval systems – specifically mechanical devices used for rescue.

OSHA 1910.146(k)(3) states “To facilitate non-entry rescue, retrieval systems or methods shall be used whenever an authorized entrant enters a permit space, unless the retrieval equipment would increase the overall risk of entry or would not contribute to the rescue of the entrant.

Additionally, OSHA follows the ANSI Z117-1-1989 approach that was in effect at the time of OSHA 1910.146 promulgation, which states, “A mechanical device shall be available to retrieve personnel from vertical type PRCS’s greater than 5 feet in depth.” It also adds, “In general, mechanical lifting devices should have a mechanical advantage adequate to safely rescue personnel.”

Subsequent revisions to ANSI Z117 included the recommendation that “The mechanical device used should be appropriate for rescue service.” The revised standard adds,“Mechanical lifting devices should have a mechanical advantage of at least four to one and the capacity to lift entrants including any attached tools and equipment.”

Two key points that must be considered: (1) OSHA follows the ANSI approach that was in effect at the time 1910.146 was promulgated which did not recommend a minimum mechanical advantage ratio; and, (2) The rule makers intended to leave a degree of latitude for the rescue service to select a lifting device that is most appropriate for the particular situation encountered.

Roco’s rule of thumb is… the mechanical device used should be appropriate for rescue service – and the employer should not use any mechanical device that could injure the entrant during rescue, which would include a mechanical device with too great a mechanical advantage (MA) for the number of people operating the system. Here’s a guideline we use for determining the proper number of rescuers for a particular system – it should take some effort to haul the victim, but not so much effort that it wears the rescuers completely out. And, it should not be too easy, or you won’t as readily feel if the victim gets hung-up.

Because 1910.146 is a performance-based regulation, it does not specify the rescue procedures that are most appropriate for any given PRCS. It leaves this to the responding rescue service based on their assessment of the PRCS in terms of configuration, depth, and anticipated rescue load. Current ANSI Z117 recommends that the MA “should” be at least four to one. Notice that it does not state “shall” and thus the discretion of the rescue service is taken into account. A generic recommendation of a 4:1 is a good start but should not be considered as a catch-all answer to the problem of lifting the load. Even a 4:1 may not be enough if the person doing the hauling is not strong enough and may require a greater M/A in order to remove the load from the space.

Must we always use a minimum MA of 4:1, or could there be justification in using an MA below the 4:1 ratio when there is a need to provide a faster means of hauling the rescue package? Consider the possibility of reducing the mechanical advantage ratio when there is plenty of haul team members. If you have 4 haul team members for a 250 pound rescue package, do you really need that 4:1 MA? Consider going with a 3:1 or even a 2:1, especially if the throw is short and the haul is long. However, keep in mind that the package will be traveling much faster by reducing the MA – so it is imperative that a “hole
watch” be assigned to monitor the rescue package and be ready to call an immediate “STOP” should the package become hung up.

Caution: If you’re using a piggyback system, make sure the haul team does not outpace the individual taking in the mainline slack through a ratchet device. Should a lot of slack build up in the mainline and the haul team lose control of the haul line, the resulting free-fall of the load could spell disaster. Of course we always encourage the use of a safety (belay) line, but on rare occasions the urgency of the rescue may warrant not using a safety line on the victim.

Ultimately it is the employer’s responsibility to evaluate the selected rescue service’s ability to provide prompt and effective rescue. If the rescue service is able to demonstrate their capability using an MA that is less than the current ANSI recommendation, then that would meet the performance-based nature of the standard. In reality, by using a reduced MA, the time required to extricate the rescue package can be cut by 1/3 to 1/2 depending on the situation. In certain emergencies, that saved time could very easily mean the difference between a successful rescue and a body recovery.
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How to Haul a Victim in Half the Time: Part 1

Thursday, May 12, 2011

As anyone who has ever been summoned to an industrial site for a confined space rescue, or has taken the opportunity to practice rescue drills in these facilities knows, sometimes the working area for the rescue team can be a tad cozy.  By “cozy” we mean cramped.  If there is the need for a haul of the rescuers or victim after a lower, these cramped conditions can cause multiple problems.  Consider it a challenge to overcome, and use your rope rescue know-how to come up with an efficient solution that will not only reduce congestion at the working area, but will most likely provide for a much faster haul of the rescue package.

First of all, if the space lends itself to a vertically mounted block and tackle, the problem is greatly reduced.  However, if there is no overhead anchor available and the use of a portable overhead anchor such as a tripod is not feasible then a “lane” for the haul team may be necessary.  At times, even the use of a vertically mounted block and tackle may require a solution to a congested working area.

Sometimes we are confronted with a very short throw between the mechanical advantage anchor point and the edge of the portal.  This may cause multiple resets of the haul system, be it a piggyback system or a Z-Rig.  These short throws with multiple resets will really slow down the progress of hauling the rescue package and can become a significant hazard when the need for rapid retrieval is needed.

If the opportunity presents itself, take advantage of a simple change of direction on the haul system.  At times, a single 90-degree change of direction can convert a short 3-4 foot throw into a throw many times longer.  We see this all the time on catwalks, yet it is often overlooked by our rescue teams when we throw scenario-based training evolutions at them.  Yes, it does require some extra equipment which typically amounts to a single sheave pulley, a carabiner, and a utility strap.  It also adds some frictional losses at that directional pulley, but the advantage gained by extending the throw from 3-4 feet to 20 or more feet, far outweighs the disadvantages of extra equipment, added friction, and time needed to make the change.

If a single change of direction doesn’t quite solve the short throw problem, consider two, or even more changes of direction in order to position the haul team in an area thatthey can “walk the haul” using their leg strength instead of being bunched up and using their arm strength only.  Of course, it gets to a point where too many changes of direction exhausts the equipment cache or creates so much friction that any advantage is lost.

As in any rescue situation, a good cohesive team is a great benefit.  If the situation causes the team to be bunched up on top of each other, remember to scan the area for an opportunity to open things up a bit.  Sometimes that change of direction does wonders for the ability of the team to take full advantage of their strength in numbers, and creates a situation where if needed, speed can be a lifesaver.

About the Author:
Patrick Furr, employed with Roco since 2000, has been actively involved with technical rescue since 1981. Pat is a Chief Instructor/Technical Consultant for Roco and currently resides in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He has also been an On-Site Safety Services Team Leader for Roco at a major semiconductor company in New Mexico for the past ten years. As a Chief Instructor, Pat teaches Confined Space Rescue, Rope Access, Tower Work/ Rescue and Fall Protection programs across North America. Prior to Roco, he served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force as a Pararescueman (PJ). His background includes eight years as a member of the 71st Pararescue team in Anchorage, Alaska, where he specialized in mountain and glacier rescue. Pat was a team leader of the 1986 and 1988 PJ teams that summited Mt. McKinley and augmented the National Park Service mountain rescue team. He also spent two tours of duty in Iceland where he put in multiple “first ascent” ice routes.
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Rescue Plans…What is required?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

We had a very interesting inquiry regarding OSHA’s requirements for rescue plans and wanted to share it with you.

Reader’s Question: Does OSHA 1910.146 (k)(1)(v) state that a plan must be developed by a rescue service before an entry can be made? Can entries be conducted with the understanding that a rescue service has the competence to rescue someone without seeing the space prior?


Section (k)(1)(v) of the regulation states that the employer shall…“Provide the rescue team or service selected with access to all permit spaces from which rescue may be necessary so that the rescue service can develop appropriate rescue plans and practice rescue operations.” [Emphasis added]

First of all, it’s important to note that the term “plan” as used in safety-related regulations and standards such as the Permit-Required Confined Space (PRCS) standard, can have a more general meaning than what rescuers typically think of when they refer to “rescue preplans.” When rescuers refer to “rescue preplans,” what usually comes to mind is a very specific, detailed plan for rescue from a particular space.

Although the regulations do not specifically state that a “plan must be developed by a rescue service before an entry can be made,” the regulation assumes that a properly selected (and evaluated) rescue team or service will develop appropriate rescue plans, and requires that rescuers be given access as necessary to develop those plans. OSHA makes it very clear, however, in Non-Mandatory Appendix F, the Preamble to the Final Rule, Summary and Explanation of the Final Rule, and its Compliance Directive on Permit-Required Confined Space, that it interprets the regulation to require rescue plans. [See links below.]

How specific a “rescue plan” must be in order to meet OSHA requirements can be determined by answering this question…“How detailed must the rescue plan be to enable me to safely perform a timely rescue from the permit-required confined space being entered?” Generally speaking, the simpler and more generic the space and the entry, the simpler and less detailed the plan must be. The more complex the space and the hazards, the more specific and detailed the plan must be. And, the more likely the rescue service should see the space and/or a representative space in advance.

As such, the degree and content of the rescue plan should be determined by the rescue service – and it must be provided access to do so. Ultimately, however, it is the employer’s responsibility to perform an adequate evaluation of the prospective rescue service. The viability of the rescue plan should be demonstrated; therefore, proving that the rescue service is staffed, equipped, available, and proficient in performing timely rescue from that particular space (or representative space). The employer must be confident that the rescue service can “Talk the talk, and walk the walk.”

When evaluating the capabilities of a rescue service, Non-Mandatory Appendix F provides guidelines for doing so and specifically references “rescue plans” for the types of spaces involved. It is also important for employers to note that while it is “not mandatory” that the evaluation is performed in exactly the same way; you still have to reach the same result. In other words, it is a non-mandatory means of meeting the mandatory requirements.

Section B (1) of Appendix F asks…
Does the rescue service have a plan for each of the kinds of permit space rescue operations at the facility?

Is the plan adequate for all types of rescue operations that may be needed at the facility?

Note: Teams may practice in representative spaces, or in spaces that are ‘worst-case’ or most restrictive with respect to internal configuration, elevation, and portal size.

Appendix F also offers recommendations for determining whether a space is “truly” representative of an actual space. [See link below.]

You can also refer to Roco’s Confined Space Types Chart (click here to download) which illustrates various confined space types for rescue practice and planning purposes.

In summary, prior to permit required entry operations, the employer must afford the selected rescue service access to the permit spaces they may respond to for the purposes of rescue planning.  The degree and content of the rescue plan should be determined by the rescue service. The rescue service must be prepared and proficient in rescue from the “same type(s) of confined spaces” in terms of configuration, access, and hazards.

IMPORTANT: The information in Roco Rescue Online is provided as a complimentary service for emergency response personnel. It is a general information resource and is not intended as legal advice. Because standards and regulations relating to this topic are typically performance based, and compliance with those standards and regulation is often dependent on the specific circumstances and conditions at hand, it is always important to carefully review all relevant standards and regulations, and to follow the proper protocols specific to your company or agency.

ONLINE REFERENCES:


OSHA 1910.146 Appendix F.

OSHA CPL 02-00-100, 5/5/1995, Application of the Permit-Required Confined Spaces (PRCS) Standards, 29 CFR 1910.146  Appendix D, V. Rescue, D. Combinations: 1. a.

OSHA 1910.146 Permit-Required Confined Spaces, Section: 2, II. Summary and Explanation of the Final Rule
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