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Are safety lines required in an actual rescue?

Friday, September 24, 2010

This question was submitted by Thomas Vitti from the Chevron Fire Dept. in Salt Lake City, Utah.

In the event of an actual rescue is a safety line necessary?

Good question… the answer is YES and NO. This question falls into somewhat of a gray area. Much depends on what type of rescue you’re doing; who the safety line is for; and, most importantly, the function of the safety line. Here, we’ve put together our ideas in relation to OSHA regulations, interpretations and our own rescue experience. Then, of course, there’s our motto… “There’s a safe way and a SAFER way,” which we always keep in mind.

Most of the time, the answer for rescuers is YES. Again, one of the most important questions in determining the answer is the function of the safety line during the particular rescue. In most instances, the safety line functions as fall protection, and OSHA requires that all employees be protected from fall hazards. That includes employees performing rescue.

As a rescuer, it is expected that you would be capable of designing a rescue system that maintains two points of contact and meets all fall protection requirements. For example, if you (the rescuer) are being lowered into or out of a space, you would be on a single system (one point of contact) and will therefore need another point of contact (safety line) to act as your second point of contact and fall protection. In this instance, your safety line functions as your fall protection. Once you’ve been lowered to the bottom of a confined space, and you move away from the portal, your safety line then functions as an external retrieval line. However, if it will not contribute to your rescue (or will make it more hazardous), according to OSHA 1910.146, the line is not necessary.

Is a safety line required for the person being rescued (i.e., the victim)? For the most part, YES – it should be part of the preplan for that particular type of rescue. While OSHA requires that all employees be protected from fall hazards, if the patient’s condition is critical (heart attack, suspended unconscious, IDLH atmosphere, etc.) and set-up time for the safety line would cause a delay in getting the proper medical treatment, the rescue team may be justified in not using a safety line for the victim/patient. Additionally, certain circumstances may not require the application of a safety line system for the victim. For instance, if an employee falls and is suspended by a fall arrest system, you don’t need to add another safety line to do the rescue.

Roco’s recommendation…  YES, a safety line is always required for a rescuer – even in a confined space,  where it can also be used for communication purposes. Safety lines for the victim/patient are also highly recommended when the victim will be suspended. But we also realize that there may be life or death circumstances when “quickness of rescue” is more important than the added precaution of using a safety line on the patient. Because Fed OSHA does not specifically address this issue, in certain circumstances, it may be justifiable not to do so.

It is understood that there are unexpected emergency events with many possible mitigating factors to deal with – making it impossible to regulate every potential scenario. So, this leaves some room for judgment based on the circumstances. But if your “justification” is that you did not have sufficiently trained personnel or sufficient equipment to employ a safety line (fall protection) system, OSHA is likely to conclude that you were not properly prepared to perform rescue for your particular work environment.

OSHA does not dictate how a rescue is to be performed. OSHA’s only performance standard for a rescue team is that they are capable of performing rescues in a safe, efficient and timely manner. That’s why we emphasize preplanning, preparing and practicing for the most likely scenarios at your site. Rescue preplans allow teams to plan for safe, effective rescue systems that would include fall protection as part of the plan – in fact, the safety line system could be pre-rigged, bagged and ready to go. The importance of preplanning for rescue is also addressed in OSHA 1910.146(k)(1)(v), which refers to providing 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. (Of course, “representative spaces” are also acceptable.)

As a final note, where OSHA does not have a specific regulation that addresses a particular hazard or means of protection, it may cite an employer for violating the General Duty clause – which requires an employer to provide a workplace free of recognized hazards. In citing under the General Duty clause, OSHA can reference national consensus standards, such as ANSI and NFPA, to establish a recognized hazard and acceptable means of protection. These consensus standards can also be invaluable resources for compliance guidance.

Note: It is always important to follow your company’s policies and procedures concerning emergency response operations as well as all relevant standards and regulations for your industry.
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Myths and Misunderstandings

Thursday, July 01, 2010

How often have you heard the statement “I will just call 911 if we have a confined space emergency”?  Let’s dispel some common myths and misunderstandings regarding confined space rescue compliance.

In accordance with OSHA 1910.146 (d)(9) an employer that will have personnel entering Permit Required Confined Spaces at their workplace must “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.

Meeting this requirement can be accomplished in several ways…

    - Develop an in-house rescue team made up of host employees.
    - Contract with an outside third party rescue team.
    - Coordinate with local emergency services (“911”).

Whatever way an employer chooses, there are specific evaluation criteria that must be met according to 1910.146 (k)…

The rescue team must be capable of responding in a timely manner and reaching the victim(s) within an appropriate amount of time based on the hazards of the confined space.  On-site teams (in-house or third party contracted teams) are generally better able to meet this requirement.

The team must be equipped and proficient in performing the type(s) of rescue that may be encountered.  Can they walk the walk, or just talk the talk?

The employer shall ensure at least one member of the rescue team is currently certified in CPR/First Aid.

The employer shall also ensure that the designated rescue team practices making permit space rescues at least once every 12 months from the actual spaces or representative spaces in regards to opening size, configuration, and accessibility. Representative spaces shall simulate the types of permit spaces from which rescue is to be performed.

Non-Mandatory Appendix F – Rescue Team/Rescue Service Evaluation Criteria

These are some but not all of the requirements of an initial and periodic performance evaluation of the rescue team:

At a minimum, if an offsite rescue team is being considered, the employer must contact the service to plan and coordinate the evaluation of the team based on 1910.146 (k).  Merely posting the service’s phone number or planning to rely on “911” to obtain these services at the time of a permit space emergency would not comply with paragraph (k)(1) of the standard.

Can the rescue team respond in an appropriate amount of time based on the hazards of the space?  For known IDLH hazards or hazards that can quickly develop into IDLH conditions, on scene rescue standby is required.  For non- IDLH hazards, a response time of 10-15 minutes may be adequate.

Will the offsite rescue team be available to respond to a confined space incident or is there a potential they will be out of service on a separate incident and unable to respond?

If necessary, can the rescue service properly package and retrieve victims from a permit space that has a limited size opening (less than 24 inches in diameter) or from a space that has internal obstacles or hazards? Does the service have the capability to provide rescue from an elevated location using high angle rescue techniques?

About the Author:
Patrick Furr, employed with Roco since 2000, has been actively involved with technical rescue since 1981. He is a Roco Chief Instructor as well as a Team Leader for our on-site safety services in New Mexico. Pat teaches Confined Space Rescue, Rope Access, Tower Work/Rescue and Fall Protection programs across North America. He is a retired U.S. Air Force MSgt/Pararescueman.
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Obama issues increase budget request for compliance officers

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

According to the latest “OSHA Up To Date” newsletter from the National Safety Council, OSHA plans to step up enforcement by increasing the number of inspections for 2011. President Obama has issued a budget request of $573 million which is a 14% increase over FY 2010. 100 more compliance officers will be hired in order to reach OSHA’s goal of conducting 42,250 inspections next year.

The Department of Labor is also instituting “high-priority performance goals” among them is reducing deaths from common causes such as falls or trench collapses by 2 percent. The President’s budget still has to go through Congress which could change the budget before being sent back to the White House. According to Hilda L. Solis, Secretary of Labor more enforcement and regulations “are sending a strong message throughout industry that we will not tolerate the endangerment of workers”.

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What’s New with NFPA 1006?

Monday, May 03, 2010

Some subtle and not so subtle changes to NFPA 1006 are included in the most current edition. The 2008 edition is now titled “Standard for Technical Rescuer Professional Qualifications”. Today we’ll address some of the changes that have been made to Chapter 4 and Chapter 5 “Job Performance Requirements” which some folks call “core” requirements. We will also cover some of the changes to the Rope Rescue and Confined Space Rescue specialty areas.

Chapter 4, Technical Rescuer

As in the past, a technical rescuer must perform all of the job performance requirements of chapter 5, and at least one of the technician levels of at least one specialty area. This is analogous to the core plus one concept of previous additions. The change has to do with the new technician levels. For each specialty area there are two levels of qualification.

Level I:  An individual who can identify hazards, use equipment, and can apply limited techniques as identified in this standard.

Level II:   An individual who can identify hazards, use equipment, and can apply advanced techniques as identified in this standard.

As an example, an individual could be a level II technician for Confined Space Rescue and a Level I technician for Cave Rescue.

Chapter 5, Job Performance Requirements

A recurring theme first shows up in chapter 5, and it has to do with including specific criteria in terms of distance traveled or minimum height of certain operations.  For example, paragraph 5.5.5 and 5.5.6 have to do with directing a mechanical advantage team in the movement of a load.  The minimum distance of load travel is 3 meters, or 10 feet for those of us who struggle with metric conversion.  In addition, it is required to perform this in both a low angle (5.5.5) and high angle (5.5.6) environment.

Paragraph 5.5.7 now requires the performance as a litter tender in a low angle environment for a load haul or lower distance of 6.1 meters (20 feet).

It is now required to direct a lower in both a low angle environment (5.5.9) and a high angle environment (5.5.10), with a minimum load travel distance of 3 meters.

Paragraphs 5.5.12 requires the operation of a belay during a haul or lower of 10 feet in a high angle environment and 5.5.13 requires the belay of a falling load in a high angle environment.

Chapter 6, Rope Rescue Specialty Area

The Specialty areas include knowledge and performance criteria for Level I Technicians, and additional criteria for Level II Technicians.

Here are some of the changes and additions for level I Technicians

Paragraph 6.1.4 now specifies the compound mechanical advantage operation must be directed in a high angle environment with a load haul distance of at least 6.1 meters or 20 feet.

This next one may be the most significant for some of us.  Paragraph 6.1.5 now requires a minimum rope ascent distance of 20 feet in a high angle environment.

The descent of a fixed rope now specifies that it is to be performed in a high angle environment with a travel distance of at least 6.1 meters.

Level II Rope Rescue Technicians must perform all the Level I requirements and the following additional requirements.

Paragraph 6.2.1 requires the completion of an assignment while suspended from a rope rescue system in a high angle environment at a height of at least 20 feet.

6.2.2 requires the movement of a victim in a high angle environment at least 6.1 meters.

A couple of significant additions include the requirements to perform as a litter tender during a haul or lower in a high angle environment over a minimum 20 foot distance which is outlined in 6.2.3.   And to direct a team in the removal of a victim suspended from rope or webbing in a high angle environment (6.2.4).

Directing a team in the construction and operation of a highline system requires a minimum span of 20 feet.

Chapter 7, Confined Space Rescue Specialty Area

There are only a couple minor changes to this chapter.  First off it is now Chapter 7.  The only other significant changes are the pre-plan and assessment of a confined space incident and the control of hazards is a Level II requirement only.

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