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Is relying on my local fire department in compliance with OSHA 1910.146?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Often the question comes up about using a local fire department for confined space rescue coverage in an industrial facility; and if it would be in compliance with OSHA 1910.146? In addition to the proper evaluation of the prospective rescue service, we always stress the need for “reciprocal communications” between the rescue service and the employer. For example, if the rescue service becomes unavailable at any time during a PRCS entry, the rescue service agrees to contact the employer so that the entry can be immediately suspended until the rescue service is once again available to respond in a timely manner.


The following is from an OSHA Letter of Interpretation dated 5/23/08.

Scenario: An employer evaluates and selects a local fire department using the guidance provided in Appendix F of the PRCS standard, Rescue Team or Rescue Service Evaluation Criteria (Non- mandatory). The employer has determined that the local fire department is adequately trained and equipped to perform permit space rescues of the kind needed at the facility. The employer has also made a performance evaluation of the service in which the employer has measured the performance of the team or service during an actual or practice rescue. However, the local fire department cannot guarantee that the rescue team will not be sent on another call during the employer’s permit-space entry operations. In other words, they have the ability to respond in a timely basis, unless another call prevents them from doing so.

Question: If the employer selects this local fire department as its off-site rescue service, would the employer be in compliance with 1910.146(k)(1)?

29 CFR 1910.146(k)(1) provides:

(1) An employer who designates rescue and emergency services, pursuant to paragraph (d)(9) of his section, shall:

(i) Evaluate a prospective rescuer’s ability to respond to a rescue summons in a timely manner, considering the hazard(s) identified;

Note to paragraph (k)(1)(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.

(ii) Evaluate a prospective rescue service’s ability, in terms of proficiency with rescue-related tasks and equipment, to function appropriately while rescuing entrants from the particular permit space or types of permit spaces identified;

(iii) Select a rescue team or service from those evaluated that:

(A) Has the capability to reach the victim(s) within a time frame that is appropriate for the permit space hazard(s) identified;

(B) Is equipped for and proficient in performing the needed rescue services;

(iv) Inform each rescue team or service of the hazards they may confront when called on to perform rescue at the site; and

(v) 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.

Note to paragraph (k)(1): Non-mandatory appendix F contains examples of criteria which employers can use in evaluating prospective rescuers as required by paragraph (k)(1) of this section.

The employer must evaluate and select an off-site rescue service that has the capability to respond in a timely manner to the particular hazards at issue and to the types of emergencies that may arise in the employer’s confined spaces. The criteria employers can use in evaluating and selecting a service include determining whether the service is unavailable at certain times of the day or in certain situations, the likelihood that key personnel of the rescue service might be unavailable at times, and, if the rescue service becomes unavailable while an entry is underway, whether the service has the capability of notifying the employer so that the employer can instruct the attendant to abort the entry immediately.

Compliance may require the employer to be in communication with the off-site rescue service prior to each permit space entry. In the scenario described, the employer must ensure close communication with the rescue service during entry operations so that if the rescue service becomes unavailable while an entry is underway, the employer can instruct the attendant to abort the entry immediately. Entry operations cannot resume until the entry supervisor verifies that the rescue service is once again able to respond in a timely manner.

ROCO COMMENTS:

It’s important to note that the off-site service must be willing to perform rescues at the employer’s workplace. As referenced in Appendix F (5)… For off-site services, is the service willing to perform rescues at the employer’s workplace? (An employer may not rely on a rescuer who declines, for whatever reason, to provide rescue services.)

Also, while a written agreement with the local agency is not necessarily required by the regulation, it certainly would make it easier to document that an agreement to respond was in place – and that the department had an understanding of the scope of services to be provided at the employer’s site (i.e., confined space rescue).
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Cleaning Your Rope…Here’s What the Experts Have to Say

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

We are often asked, “How should I maintain my rescue equipment – especially rope?”

So, we went to our friends at CMC and PMI for the answers.  Keep in mind, however, you should always follow your rope manufacturer’s care and cleaning instructions.

CMC offers their rope cleaning suggestions: Rinse off muddy or especially dirty rope or web with water. Scrub any tough spots with a nylon bristle brush. Soak the rope in a tub of water with a mild detergent.

Woolite or other mild detergents that are safe for nylon may also be used. The rope can be rinsed using a rope washer or placed directly into the washing machine. Washing rope and webbing in a top-loading washing machine is the easiest method. Run the empty machine through a cycle with plain water to rinse any harsh detergents from the machine before starting. Use cold water and the appropriate amount of detergent.

Double the rope (or web) and “daisy-chain” it. This keeps single lines from tangling or getting caught in the agitator. Put the rope in the machine and wash on the gentle cycle. If the rope bag needs washing, put it in with the rope. During the rinse cycle, add a small amount of Downy fabric softener. (No more than one ounce of Downy to 3 gallons of water.) The fabric softener replaces the lubricant the rope loses during use and washing.  Air dry the rope and webbing in a cool, shaded place. Do NOT dry nylon products in the sun because of the damaging effects on nylon from prolonged exposure to ultraviolet rays. If necessary, ropes can be stuffed into the bags wet. The ropes may mildew but this does not adversely affect the rope. Rope that has come into contact with blood or other body fluids can be cleaned using a chlorine bleach per your department’s protocols for contaminating equipment.

PMI offers special precautions about cleaning exposed rope:

In cases where equipment may be exposed to blood‐borne pathogens or other infectious substances, we’re often asked about appropriate methods for cleaning ropes. Certain authorities recommend specific concentrations of household bleach for disinfecting gear that has been exposed to certain contaminants, so naturally customers often wonder at what concentration their PMI rope will experience deterioration. While PMI cannot speak to the subject of infectious diseases, or what solution might neutralize a given hazardous substance, we are happy to provide at least some guidance regarding the effect of bleach on rope fibers.

Specifically, PMI has found that a mixture of 1 part household bleach (with active ingredient of Sodium hypochlorite at 5.25% concentration) with 9 parts room temperature tap water and a 10 minute or less exposure time, immediately followed by a thorough rinse of room temperature water appears not to cause any appreciable harm to nylon or polyester ropes. PMI cannot, however, speak to whether or not such a mixture will truly disinfect your rope from contaminants.

Precautionary Note:  PMI’s testing suggests that a “single disinfection” of ropes using the above recommended method will not cause appreciable harm to nylon or polyester ropes. However, if this process is repeated multiple times, the damage will inevitably become appreciable, and this damage is not necessarily detectable through visual inspection.

Remember, ropes are a critical element of the life safety system, and it can be difficult to make subjective decisions about the strength of rope without actually testing it to failure. The prudent course of action is to discard any rope about which there is any doubt.
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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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What about rescue response for fallen workers at height?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

We recently received a question about  what constitutes a prompt and capable rescue response for fallen workers at height suspended by their Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS).

Question:
  My question concerns guidance on the number of rescue/standby team members needed for response to “worker at heights” type incidents. We work in a chemical plant, so it’s basically areas such as columns, etc.

Answer:  OSHA guidance for rescue of fallen workers utilizing personal fall arrest systems (PFAS) is quite vague in that it calls for “prompt rescue.” For more definitive guidance on the subject, ANSI Z359.2 Para E6.1 recommends that contact with the rescue subject (communication or physical contact) should occur as soon as possible after the fall. The recommended goal for rescue subject contact should be less than six minutes. What constitutes “prompt rescue” can vary depending on the circumstances. The type of potential hazards identified in the Fall Hazard Survey report should determine rescue planning.

For example, if the work area exposes the worker to an IDLH condition such as energized equipment, then the Fall Hazard Survey should trigger the “Rescue Plan” to include a near immediate rescue provision because of the potential of worker electrocution leading to a fall and subsequently, a suspended victim. In a situation like this, it is imperative that prompt rescue would provide a means to have the rescue subject in a position that allows CPR in less than 6 minutes — and preferably much faster than that! The only way to respond this quickly is to have a “Stand-by Rescue” posture where the rescue system and personnel are pre-rigged and ready to initiate the rescue immediately.

For other situations, if communications with the rescue subject are established in six minutes or less, and it is determined that the victim is relatively unharmed (alert and oriented, good airway and breathing, and no signs of active bleeding) then the urgency is reduced and a more measured approach to the rescue could be employed. There is still the potential for suspension trauma to develop over a range of several minutes, so a “prompt” but measured rescue would still be necessary.

With this in mind, it is important for an employer with workers at height to complete a Fall Hazard Survey report to determine the most appropriate way to abate any fall hazards. If the use of PFAS is necessary, that triggers the need to complete fallen worker Rescue Preplans. The employer will need to identify the rescue assets and ensure they are available, equipped, and trained to perform safe and prompt rescue for any situation that they may be summoned to at the employer’s facility. For rescuers outside the employer’s workforce, it is important to thoroughly vet the prospective rescuers to make these assurances.

This information was provided by Pat Furr, Roco Chief Instructor and Technical Consultant. He regularly assists Roco customers in identifying opportunities to improve their fall protection programs and can guide safety professionals in the completion of Fall Hazard Survey reports. Roco can also assist in the development of fallen worker Rescue Preplans. For help with selecting the proper equipment or training, call us at 800-647-7626.
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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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