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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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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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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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Is there a regulation requiring rescuers to use respiratory protection that is “one level higher” than that required for the entrants?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

To our knowledge, there is no regulatory requirement. However, we’ve heard this before and have used it as well when stressing the importance of proper PPE for rescuers, particularly when IDLH atmospheres may be involved. Here’s our thinking… if the entrant’s PPE did not provide adequate protection and he or she is now requiring rescue assistance, then using their “same level of protection” isn’t going to protect you either!

What triggers the use of a greater level of protection? This comes from the rescuer’s assessment of the hazards – including the use of an independent atmospheric monitor from that used by the entrant(s). That’s why it’s so important for the rescue team to provide their own atmospheric monitoring equipment. It also illustrates why written rescue preplans are so important – you need to preplan what equipment and techniques will be required well in advance of an emergency. It’s critical; the PPE selected must be adequate to protect the rescuers.

When preparing rescue preplans, you must also take into consideration any unusual hazards or circumstances that may arise from any work being done inside or near the space. For example, special cleaning solvents might be used or other hazards may be introduced into the space by the workers. Referencing and understanding the MSDS as well as “listening to what your monitor is telling you” are key factors in PPE determination.

OSHA does mention, however, if the atmospheric condition is unknown, then it should be considered IDLH and the use of positive pressure SCBA/SAR must be used. This will protect you from low O2 levels and other inhalation dangers; however, you must also consider LEL/LFL levels. Other factors include non-atmospheric conditions as well. For example, have you considered “skin absorption” hazards and what precautions must be taken?

So, the bottom line, the decision to go with breathing air for rescuers can be determined from your hazard assessment; or, in some cases, by company policy; and even required by OSHA when there’s an unknown atmosphere involved. Remember, it’s much better to be safe than sorry!
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