Roco Rescue



​Confined Space Rescue…Always Seeking a Better, Safer Way!

Monday, June 01, 2015

When a student returns to one of our classes after a few years, we’ll often hear, “Wow, things sure have changed! There are a lot of new techniques and equipment since the last time I attended.” So, why do we change our courses on a regular basis? If it worked back then, why change it?

The answer is simple really… if there’s a better way or safer way to do something, we'll take the opportunity to incorporate it into our programs.

When deciding what techniques or equipment may be candidates, we typically look at three primary objectives: 

1.  Does it perform a function that is needed in order to accomplish the type of rescue that is being addressed?

2.  Does it perform in a safe, or even a safer manner, than previous equipment or techniques?

Once these requirements are met, we'll ask... 

3.  Does it add efficiency to the rescue effort? And, is it efficient in terms of time, manpower and equipment needed?   

When evaluating a new piece of equipment for our programs, we will also consider how versatile the item may be. 

To have one piece of equipment that performs multiple functions is a huge benefit to rescuers in that it saves time, money, weight and bulk. 

One example of a product that performs multiple functions is the Petzl ID. The ID can be used as the foundation of MA systems, it can also be used for short ascents, and the manufacturer now allows it to be used as a belay device.

Compliance with legislated regulations is also a big consideration. For performance-based regulations like 1910.146 (Permit-Required Confined Spaces), it’s all about creating a competent rescuer who is capable of safely and effectively in permit spaces. Other relevant OSHA regulations include Fall Protection, Respiratory Protection, Lock Out/Tag Out, and HAZMAT, just to name a few. We also refer to many different nationally recognized consensus standards as we build our programs. Probably the most visited we draw from are NFPA 1006 and 1983, which offer guidance on professional qualifications for rescuers and equipment standards for manufacturers. We also rely on ANSI, NATE, SPRAT and IRATA, as well as other standards that provide appropriate guidance for the type of program we are delivering.

But, where do we come up with the leading edge techniques and equipment that we are continuously adding to our courses? Well, this is where we take a lot of pride in how we operate internally as a business. 

Roco’s leadership has always encouraged our instructors and rescue personnel to identify needs in the rescue world and think of a way to satisfy that need…yes, to build a better mousetrap! 

We want our people to constantly be on the lookout for opportunities to evaluate new equipment or come up with a new technique that meets the three primary objectives that we identified earlier.

As an added benefit, Roco instructors and rescue team members come from a wide variety of backgrounds. This includes the fire service, law enforcement, U.S. military and private sector industrial emergency response teams. What’s more, some of our personnel enjoy sport climbing and even expedition mountaineering on their off time. In other words, we have a very diverse way of putting ropes and associated hardware to the test. Everyone is encouraged to share their ideas. 

Oftentimes this "free thinking" among our personnel leads to a great step forward in efficiency and allows us to keep our courses leading the way to a better rescuer.

It’s also exciting to see some of the emerging technologies that have come to market as far as rescue equipment is concerned. By encouraging our personnel to get their hands on these new pieces of kit and “ride them hard,” we are able to determine if it is something that needs to be incorporated into our scheme. Every once in a while, we’ll even discover a new way to use the equipment that is beyond what the manufacturer envisioned. Our people have come up with some very unique ways to meet some very specific rescue needs. But, it all comes back to those same three primary objectives. We need a piece of gear (or a technique) that will do the job we need it to do, and do it safely and efficiently.

Here's a great example...who would have thought that a technique used on glacier crevasse rescue would be a skill that comes in handy in an industrial environment? Fortunately, someone in our think tank did, and now it is a staple of our curricula. So, if it’s been a while since you have attended a Roco class, maybe it’s time to come see what we have been up to lately.

For the ultimate rope rescue experience, click on Roco's Fast-Track 120™

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It's Final-Confined Spaces in Construction-Effective 8/3/15!

Monday, May 04, 2015

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration today issued a final rule to increase protections for construction workers in confined spaces. 

Confined spaces rule (29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA) could protect nearly 800 construction workers a year from serious injuries and reduce life-threatening hazards…Construction protections now match those in manufacturing and general industry. 

Manholes, crawl spaces, tanks and other confined spaces are not intended for continuous occupancy. They are also difficult to exit in an emergency. People working in confined spaces face life-threatening hazards including toxic substances, electrocutions, explosions and asphyxiation.

Last year, two workers were asphyxiated while repairing leaks in a manhole, the second when he went down to save the first – which is not uncommon in cases of asphyxiation in confined spaces.

“In the construction industry, entering confined spaces is often necessary, but fatalities like these don’t have to happen,” said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “This new rule will significantly improve the safety of construction workers who enter confined spaces. In fact, we estimate that it will prevent about 780 serious injuries every year.”

The rule will provide construction workers with protections similar to those manufacturing and general industry workers have had for more than two decades, with some differences tailored to the construction industry. These include requirements to ensure that multiple employers share vital safety information and to continuously monitor hazards – a safety option made possible by technological advances after the manufacturing and general industry standards were created.

“This rule will save lives of construction workers,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “Unlike most general industry work sites, construction sites are continually evolving, with the number and characteristics of confined spaces changing as work progresses. This rule emphasizes training, continuous work site evaluation and communication requirements to further protect workers’ safety and health.”

On OSHA's website, it also states than an employer whose workers are engaged in both construction and general industry work in confined spaces will meet OSHA requirements [for 1910.146] if that employer meets the requirements of 29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA - Confined Spaces in Construction.

Five (5) key differences in the construction rule, and several areas where OSHA has clarified existing requirements:

  1. More detailed provisions requiring coordinated activities when there are multiple employers at the work site. This will ensure hazards are not introduced into a confined space by workers performing tasks outside the space. An example would be a generator running near the entrance of a confined space causing a buildup of carbon monoxide within the space.
  2. Requiring a competent person to evaluate the work site and identify confined spaces, including permit spaces.
  3. Requiring continuous atmospheric monitoring whenever possible.
  4. Requiring continuous monitoring of engulfment hazards. For example, when workers are performing work in a storm sewer, a storm upstream from the workers could cause flash flooding. An electronic sensor or observer posted upstream from the work site could alert workers in the space at the first sign of the hazard, giving the workers time to evacuate the space safely.
  5. Allowing for the suspension of a permit, instead of cancellation, in the event of changes from the entry conditions list on the permit or an unexpected event requiring evacuation of the space. The space must be returned to the entry conditions listed on the permit before re-entry.

OSHA has added provisions to the new rule that clarifies existing requirements in the General Industry standard. These include:

  1. Requiring that employers who direct workers to enter a space without using a complete permit system prevent workers’ exposure to physical hazards through elimination of the hazard or isolation methods such as lockout/tag out.
  2. Requiring that employers who are relying on local emergency services for emergency services arrange for responders to give the employer advance notice if they will be unable to respond for a period of time (because they are responding to another emergency, attending department-wide training, etc.).
  3. Requiring employers to provide training in a language and vocabulary that the worker understands.

Finally, several terms have been added to the definitions for the construction rule, such as "entry employer" to describe the employer who directs workers to enter a space, and "entry rescue", added to clarify the differences in the types of rescue employers can use.

Host Employers, Controlling Contractors, and Entry Supervisors

The rule makes the controlling contractor, rather than the host employer, the primary point of contact for information about permit spaces at the work site. The host employer must provide information it has about permit spaces at the work site to the controlling contractor, who then passes it on to the employers whose employees will enter the spaces (entry employers). Likewise, entry employers must give the controlling contractor information about their entry program and hazards they encounter in the space, and the controlling contractor passes that information on to other entry employers and back to the host. As mentioned above, the controlling contractor is also responsible for making sure employers outside a space know not to create hazards in the space, and that entry employers working in a space at the same time do not create hazards for one another’s workers.

Click for an update on this ruling

Download 29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA Confined Space in Construction Ruling


Frequently Asked Questions:

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WH Completes Review of OSHA's Confined Spaces in Construction

Friday, April 10, 2015

Washington – On April 3, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) completed its review of OSHA's Confined Spaces in Construction Standard, paving the way for the final rule to move forward. The rule (29 CFR 1926.36) has been in the works for more than a decade. An OIRA review is one of the last steps a federal agency must take before it can publish a final rule. According to OSHA's timetable, the confined spaces final rule was originally scheduled for publication in March.

In 1993, OSHA issued a general industry rule to protect employees who enter confined spaces while engaged in general industry work (29 CFR 1910.146). This standard has not been extended to cover employees entering confined spaces while engaged in construction work because of unique characteristics of construction work sites. Pursuant to discussions with the United Steel Workers of America that led to a settlement agreement regarding the general industry standard, OSHA agreed to issue a proposed rule to protect construction workers in confined spaces.

Source: Membership News Alert from National Safety Council

UPDATE: Roco is hearing that a final ruling will be released within the next 6 weeks. As soon as the information is provided, we will be sure to post for you!

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Dialing 911 for Confined Space Rescue

Thursday, March 19, 2015

By Pat Furr, Roco Chief Instructor/VPP Coordinator 

It is still happening out there, folks. Fatalities are still occurring during permit required confined space entries. Unfortunately, workers are dying because the permit space (or the entrant) was not properly prepared prior to entry. And, tragically, many of these fatalities are the would-be rescuers, who are trying to aid their co-workers! Most often, these would-be rescuers are authorized attendants or passersby that reacted improperly and took heroic, but inappropriate action. Or they may have been professional rescuers, who were not trained or equipped for this type of rescue.

In nearly every case, these fatalities are completely preventable - simply by properly preparing the permit space prior to entry by isolating or if needed, controlling all hazards. However, should an emergency arise, the rescue service must be prepared to respond to these types of emergencies. This includes proper training and equipment to ensure a successful rescue and that everyone involved goes home safe and sound.

Considering Rescue Service Options

In a previous article, we outlined the three primary ways that an employer can ensure there is a proper confined space rescue service in place as part of their written permit required confined space program. These options include:

(1) an in-house rescue team made up of host employees;

(2) a third party contracted rescue service, or

(3) relying on 911 emergency responders.

All three options have their benefits and their shortcomings. However, it is critically important that the employer focus on the entrant’s safety more than any other consideration, be it monetary, personnel, equipment, or any other resource when deciding what type of rescue service to employ.

I get around…(no, not the Beach Boys’ song). I travel extensively visiting a variety of private and governmental sector work sites, and I also do the trade show/lecture circuit. In my travels, I hear all sorts of variations to the “confined space rescue service” theme. Many employers use in-house rescue teams and accept the funding and time commitments required to keep this capability proficient in the needed skills. Some employers rely on a third party professional rescue service to meet this requirement. Sometimes these third party agreements are for the short term such as during turnarounds, or even for sustaining operations as imbedded contractors. Still other employers rely on 911 public safety responders for their confined space rescue needs.

All three options can and do work, but the one option that I hear having only a cursory vetting process in many cases is the 911 option. At times, I have asked an employer to describe the extent of the agreement between their facility and the 911 responders. That’s when I typically hear an answer such as, “Well, all our employees know the phone number to dial.” That’s when I offer to buy coffee so we can have a little chat. This article will focus on using 911 as your confined space program rescue service.

Before I go any further, I want to say that in my view, our 911 emergency responders are true heroes. And many times, I feel they are under-appreciated. Until a major national disaster hits, many of us are guilty of overlooking the risks that these men and women take on a regular basis. I also think it’s important for employers to understand the extensive set of skills, and wide variety of skills, that emergency responders are required to master in order to perform their primary job responsibilities.

Extensive Skill Requirements for Municipal Responders

For example, firefighters are required to maintain a wide variety of special skills, such as pump operations, ventilation, PPE, emergency vehicle driving, along with medical skills such as advanced airway management, pharmacology, advanced cardiac life support and…are you getting the picture? The skills and knowledge required to perform technical rope rescue is a specialty not typically included in a firefighter’s job description unless they are assigned to a heavy technical rescue (HTR) squad.

NFPA 1006 (2013 edition, with next one coming in 2017) lists all the specialty areas that a rescue service may be called on to master. The first set of requirements is established by the department’s authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) and may include such things as a minimum level of physical fitness, HAZMAT training, emergency medical care training, and several other requirements. Then, there is what used to be referred to as “core skills” now known as Job Performance Requirements. These requirements are extensive before even addressing any of the 19 different technical rescue specialty areas such as: swift water rescue, trench rescue, machinery rescue, structural collapse rescue, wilderness rescue, and the list goes on. Also included in this list is confined space rescue.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, where I live, we are fortunate to have a dedicated HTR squad within our fire department that is trained, equipped, and staffed 24/7. This team is called upon to respond to flash-flood rescues in our many arroyos, mountain rescue in the peaks east of the city, vehicle entrapments on two interstate highways as well as our surface streets, and may also be called to an employer’s work-site to perform a variety of rescues there. This could be anything from trench rescue to – you guessed it – confined space rescue.

CS Emergencies Require Special Skills and Equipment

It is fairly rare that municipal responders are provided the resources (including specialized training and equipment) to safely and effectively respond to confined space rescue emergencies. Rarer still, for these responders to have been afforded the opportunity to practice in the types of confined space rescues that may be required in their local industrial corridors. Any rescue service would need to be trained and equipped in advance to handle the many hazards and obstacles of permit required confined spaces.

It is the employer’s responsibility, both morally and legally, to engage with the 911 service that is being considered as their confined space rescue service.

Appendix F of 1910.146 is a very valuable means to ensure that both the rescuers and the employer know what the requirements are and that proper agreements are in place prior to confined space entry operations. 

Roco has provided a sample for you to download.

Any shortfalls must be addressed. This may include lack of training, equipment, staffing, or many other requirements necessary to ensure a response appropriate for the types and hazards of the spaces onsite.

OSHA states in section (d)(4) of 1910.146 that “the Employer shall provide rescue and emergency equipment needed to comply with paragraph (d)(9) of this section, except to the extent that the equipment is provided by rescue services…” This is where an employer and a public safety agency may enter a cooperative arrangement beyond what is already expected of the 911 responder's normal duties.

Funding through grants and other resources has become very lean in the last several years. As public safety budgets are trimmed down, both career and volunteer fire departments must make budgetary decisions that in many cases result in sacrificing emergency service capabilities beyond firefighting and emergency medical services. This would mean that many of the technical rescue capabilities outlined in NFPA 1006 are not within the means of many fire departments. The impact on an employer may be that they lose a previously established ability to rely on a 911 agency for their confined space rescue needs, or they may not be able to rely on that rescue service option during the development of their permit required confined space program.

However, we also understand that it is becoming more and more common for employers to provide rescue equipment and/or funding for rescue training specific to the needs of the employer’s confined space program. Various state and local requirements may differ, but generally this can be accomplished by having the employer set up a grant with monies being donated for specific training or equipment purchases. Depending on the local ordinances, equipment can be directly transferred from the employer to the 911 agency through a simple agreement that outlines its intended purpose and ownership. There may be tax advantages to the employer while benefiting the community as well. Bottom line...there are critical steps to take before relying solely on a local 911 agency.

Evaluating Rescue Response Capabilities

Appendix F of 1910.146 clearly explains the need for employers to evaluate a prospective rescue service before depending upon their services. It states,

Merely posting the service's number or planning to rely on the 911 emergency phone number to obtain these services at the time of a permit space emergency would not comply with paragraph (k)(1) of the standard.

Other critical factors include response time and availability. Response time is generally extended when relying on an offsite rescue service such as 911. According to OSHA, the response time must be appropriate for the types of known or potential hazards affecting the confined spaces at the employer’s facility. Relevant factors include:

(1) Location of the rescue team or service relative to the employer's workplace

(2) Quality of roads and highways to be traveled

(3)  Potential bottlenecks or traffic congestion that might be encountered in transit

(4) Reliability of the rescuer's vehicles, and the training and skill of its drivers

And, what about the availability of the rescue service? Is it unavailable at certain times of the day or in certain situations? What is the likelihood that key personnel of the rescue service might be unavailable at times? If the rescue service becomes unavailable while an entry is underway, does it have the capability of notifying the employer so that the entry operation can be aborted immediately?

In fact, these considerations also apply to any of the three means of providing a confined space rescue service, be it an in-house service, a contracted service, or a 911 emergency response. However, response times and availability are typically crucial limitations in relying on 911 for confined space rescue.

Careful Planning Required!

If you have identified 911 as the rescue service written into your confined space program, it is crucial that you take all the necessary steps to vet the agency as being a good fit to protect your employees. 

In addition to all requirements of Appendix F, it is of utmost importance to pay particular attention to the service’s ability to respond in a time appropriate for your needs, and to ensure that reliable two way communications are in place. The 911 dispatch will be notified when entry operations are to commence; and, just as importantly, the 911 dispatch will notify the employer when the service is not able to respond to an emergency so entry operations can be immediately aborted.

With careful planning, thorough communications, and proper training and equipment, relying on 911 response for confined space rescue can work. Unfortunately, in some instances, the outcome is tragic with loss of life not only to the entrants, but also to the unprepared 911 responders who had little clue as to what they were about to encounter. As an employer, it is your responsibility to make sure the rescue service is adequately prepared!

Additional OSHA References:

1910.146(d)(9) Develop and implement procedures for summoning rescue and emergency services, for rescuing entrants from permit spaces, for providing necessary emergency services to rescued employees, and for preventing unauthorized personnel from attempting a rescue;

1910.146(k)(1) An employer who designates rescue and emergency services, pursuant to paragraph (d)(9) of 1910.146(k)(1)(i). Evaluate a prospective rescuer's ability to respond to a rescue summons in a timely manner, considering the hazard(s) identified;

1910.146(k)(2)(i) Provide affected employees with the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed to conduct permit space rescues safely and train affected employees so they are proficient in the use of that PPE, at no cost to those employees;

1910.146(k)(2)(ii) Train affected employees to perform assigned rescue duties. The employer must ensure that such employees successfully complete the training required to establish proficiency as an authorized entrant, as provided by paragraphs (g) and (h) of this section;

1910.146(k)(2)(iii) Train affected employees in basic first-aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). The employer shall ensure that at least one member of the rescue team or service holding a current certification in first aid and CPR is available; and

1910.146(k)(2)(iv) Ensure that affected employees practice making permit space rescues at least once every 12 months, by means of simulated rescue operations in which they remove dummies, manikins, or actual persons from the actual permit spaces or from representative permit spaces. Representative permit spaces shall, with respect to opening size, configuration, and accessibility, simulate the types of permit spaces from which rescue is to be performed.

Note to paragraph (k)(l)(i): What will be considered timely will vary according to the specific hazards involved in each entry. For example, §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.

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Combustible Dust and Confined Spaces

Monday, January 05, 2015

In January 2004, an explosion at the West Pharmaceutical Company in Kingston, NC killed 6 workers and injured 34 others. Two firefighters were injured during the response to the incident.  One month later, an explosion and fire occurred at the CTA Acoustics manufacturing facility in Corbin, KY, killing 7 workers. In February 2008, an explosion at the Imperial Sugar Company facility in Wentworth, GA, killed 13 workers and injured 42 others. Three very different types of facilities with very different products, but with one thing in common—dust!

"A 'safe’ area can become a ticking bomb if ventilation results in the suspension of otherwise stable dust accumulations."

The Chemical Safety Board reported that there were 281 explosions of combustible dust in the United States between 1980 and 2005. These explosions resulted in 199 deaths and 718 injuries. And these are just the actual explosions. There are countless more combustible dust environments just waiting for the right (or wrong) conditions to align to become the next fatal explosion. The fact is that with the exception of silicon or sand, every kind of dust is potentially combustible to some degree.

Combustible dusts are measured on a “deflagration index,” (see box) which measures the relative explosion severity compared to other dusts. They range from such seemingly innocuous items such as dust from powdered milk and egg whites that can create “weak explosions,” to dusts from items such as magnesium and aluminum that can result in “very strong explosions.” But I think we can all agree that no explosion, even a “weak” explosion, is a good explosion—especially if it occurs during rescue operations. 

As rescuers, you should already be familiar with the “fire triangle.” To understand the danger of combustible dusts, you should also be familiar with the “dust explosion pentagon.” The dust explosion pentagon consists of the following:

-       Combustible Dust (Fuel)

-       Ignition Source

-       Oxygen

-       Dispersion of dust (suspension)

-       Containment of the dust in a confined or semi-confined area (Enclosures/Building/Confined Space)

Rescuers should be on the lookout for any appreciable accumulation of dust when sizing up a rescue situation. Keep in mind that your atmospheric monitor containing a sensor for combustible gases is not effective for detecting a hazard from combustible dust.  

Always remain aware that in a suspended state, dust becomes explosive. Dust explosions occur when combustible dust is present, forms a dust cloud in an enclosed environment, and is exposed to oxygen and an ignition source. The explosion occurs as a result of the rapid burning of the dust cloud, which creates a rapid pressure rise in the enclosed area or confined space. 

A dust pile that may burn while an ignition source is being applied, then go out immediately or shortly after the ignition source is removed, can become lethally explosive when scattered and suspended in the air. 

Always consider the potential for combustible dust in any rescue situation, particularly when ventilation of an enclosure, building, or confined space is considered. A “safe” area can become a ticking bomb if ventilation results in the suspension of otherwise stable dust accumulations.

This article was written by Robert Aguiluz, who is currently an Administrative Law Judge for the State of Louisiana. He is also an attorney who specializes in Occupational Safety and Health Law, and regulatory and compliance issues. He is a former Certified Safety Professional and Roco Rescue Instructor with over twenty years’ experience in both industrial and municipal emergency response and rescue.

Combustible Dust Considerations for Emergency Responders:

1.  Know your response area and the types of industry that may have the potential for combustible dust. If you are performing standby rescue duties, meet with the SH&E management team to learn about any combustible dust hazards at their facility.

2.  Become familiar with the “deflagration index” for various types of materials. See sample Chart below.

Examples of Kst Values for Different Types of Dust


3.  Consider the effect of ventilating a space that has accumulations of combustible dust.

        •  Will you cause the dust to become suspended?
        •  Will the suspended moving dust create a static charge/discharge and become a source of ignition?
        •  Can your ventilation equipment become a source of ignition?

4.  Is there information to review on the SDS (Safety Data Sheet) regarding the material’s potential to become combustible dust?


OSHA Quick Card: Prevent Dust Explosions

“Firefighting Precautions at Facilities with Combustible Dust”

“Hazardous Communication Guidance for Combustible Dust”

“Combustible Dust in Industry: Preventing and Mitigating the Effects of Fire and Explosions”

“NFPA 654: Standard for the Prevention of Fire and Dust Explosions”


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