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Confined Space Rescue: Non-entry or Entry Rescue?

Monday, April 14, 2014

The following article was featured on the cover of the March 2014 issue of ISHN, and authored by Roco's own Chief Instructor Pat Furr.

It’s a Saturday night December 21st and the plant is running on a skeleton crew. Operations wants to get a head start on annual preventative maintenance and decides to knock out several permit required confined space entries before the majority of the work is to be done when the regular shifts return after the New Year. Randy has just finished the third of five vessels that are identical in configuration. His authorized attendant and good friend Hector have been working together for over 15 years and they both know the drill. They have changed out the stainless steel bolt sets on the agitator blades of these vessels every year at about this same time. The entry supervisor just closed out the permit for the third vessel and after reviewing the permit for the fourth vessel and helping with the pre-entry atmospheric monitoring; he signs the permit authorizing entry.

Hector checks Randy’s harness and the attachment of the non-entry rescue retrieval cable to his dorsal D-ring, and double checks the davit arm and the mounting point of the self-retracting lifeline with the built in retrieval winch. As Randy climbs 25 feet down the rope ladder to access the bottom of the vessel, all is going according to plan. As he steps off the ladder and begins to loosen the first bolt set, he slips on the concave floor of the stainless steel vessel. Before he can react, he strikes his head on the agitator blade which causes a 5 inch gash to his left temple and knocks him unconscious. He falls between two of the agitator blades and then slides to the bottom of the vessel with his retrieval line wrapped over one of the blades and under another. Hector tries to winch his friend out of the space only to find that Randy’s limp body gets wedged under the agitator blade. You can probably guess what happened next.

Realizing there is no entry rescue capability on this shift; Hector’s gut reaction is to enter the space to help his friend. In his rush, he slips from the rope ladder and falls 20 feet to his death. When the entry supervisor arrives 30 minutes later to close the permit and initiate the last entry, he sees two bodies at the bottom of the space.

Understand OSHA rescue requirements  

Are there permit required confined spaces at your worksite? Are employees allowed to enter these spaces? If you answered yes to these two questions, it is critically important to understand the OSHA requirements for rescue. As part of a written permit space program, the employer 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”.

When considering what methods should be used for rescuing authorized entrants, the safety of the rescuer(s) should be considered as important as the effectiveness of the rescue technique. If it is possible to perform non-entry rescue of the entrant(s), that should always be the first choice. It’s always a given – keep additional personnel (even rescuers) out of the space unless absolutely necessary. It is important to consider potential scenarios that could arise when determining if non-entry (or retrieval) rescue is sufficient.

Non-entry rescue

What are the requirements for non-entry rescue? OSHA 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.”

Let’s examine this further. What conditions would preclude the use of non-entry retrieval systems? Here are some guidelines that OSHA will use to make this determination:

• A permit space with obstructions or turns that prevent pull on the retrieval line from being transmitted to the entrant does not require the use of a retrieval system.
• A permit space from which an employee being rescued with the retrieval system would be injured because of forceful contact with projections in the space does not require the use of a retrieval system.
• A permit space that was entered by an entrant using an air supplied respirator does not require the use of a retrieval system if the retrieval line could not be controlled so as to prevent entanglement hazards with the air line.


Assess the space

The ONLY way to determine if a non-entry retrieval system will provide adequate safety for entrants and satisfy OSHA’s requirement is to perform an honest and thorough assessment. This assessment should provide careful consideration for the capabilities and limitations of the retrieval system for any planned or unplanned condition that may arise during entry. We have all heard of “Murphy’s Law” and most of us have experienced the effects of that particular law. I encourage you to remember that Murphy is always lurking close by.

So when evaluating these spaces to determine if non-entry or entry rescue is the appropriate choice, always ask yourself “what if?” For the fictitious accident that opened this article, the plan was to do all the work on the near side of the agitator blade directly below the top portal. In that case, it would have been safe to assume non-entry retrieval was the only plan needed for rescue. Enter Murphy…… Was the rescue plan developed with the assumption that the planned work activities would always ensure the successful use of the retrieval system, but failed to consider the “what ifs”? Some might say that we can “what if” things to death. Let’s turn that around; we SHOULD “what if” these questions in an effort to PREVENT death.

When evaluating permit spaces to determine the appropriate rescue capability, please explore those “what ifs”. This is not to say that in the case cited above that the only option would have been entry rescue. That may not be necessary and if the non-entry retrieval system would have worked, then there is no need to expose rescuers to the hazards of entering the permit space. But there was a potential for the condition to change, and it sure did. So recognizing that potential, an entry rescue capability should have been planned in the event that the change in conditions rendered the non-entry rescue system ineffective.

Backup plan

The point of this article is to consider non-entry rescue as the default for assisted permit space rescue unless the conditions cited by OSHA are present. At that point, entry rescue must be planned. But this isn’t necessarily a one or the other choice. As we can see from this story, it is sometimes best to plan for non-entry rescue as the primary technique, but if there is any reasonable potential for an unplanned change in conditions, then an entry rescue capability must be in place as a back-up.


About the Author:
Pat Furr is a chief instructor and technical consultant for Roco Rescue, Inc. As a chief instructor, Pat teaches a wide variety of technical rescue classes including Confined Space Rescue, Rope Access, Tower Work/Rescue, Fall Protection, and Suspended Worker Rescue. In his role as technical consultant, he is involved in research and development, writing articles, and presenting at national conferences. He is also a member of the NFPA 1006 Technical Rescuer Professional Qualifications Standard. Prior to joining Roco in 2000, Pat served 20 years in the US Air Force as a Pararescueman (PJ).
 

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Register NOW for Roco's Fast-Track 80™ ProBoard/IFSAC Course!

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Sign up now for Roco's first ProBoard course, Fast-Track 80™ . The course will be held on February 20-22 & 24-28, 2014 at the Roco Training Facility (RTC) in Baton Rouge, LA. There is an additional charge of $100.00 per student, and advance registration is required. Call us at (800) 647-7626 to register and reserve spaces or get more information.

This year Roco has a ProBoard/IFSAC option for select Roco courses conducted by the Carrol L. Herring Fire & Emergency Training Institute at the RTC in Baton Rouge. Students choosing the ProBoard option will complete both a written and skills exam. Upon successful completion of this certification process, they are then eligible to be entered into the ProBoard’s certification registry.

The ProBoard is an internationally recognized professional organization that represents the fire service and related emergency response fields. The ProBoard accredits organizations, such as Carrol L. Herring Fire & Emergency Training Institute, that provide certification testing to the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) professional qualification standards. The International Fire Service Accreditation Congress (IFSAC) is a peer driven, self-governing system that accredits both public fire service certification programs and higher education fire-related degree programs.

 

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Input Deadline for NFPA 350 Fast Approaching!

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

 Deadline: January 3, 2014. There's only about 30 days left to submit your input on the proposed NFPA 350 Best Practices Guide for Safe Confined Space Entry and Work. If you are involved in any kind of confined space work or rescue (municipal or industrial), now is the time to offer your comments. While it is currently listed as a “Best Practices Guide,” that does not mean that at some point in the future it won’t possibly become an NFPA Standard. So, whether you agree or disagree, the time to offer your input is NOW!

Public comment will be accepted online until January 3, 2014. Go to www.nfpa.org/350. In order to comment you must log in with your email and password - or you can quickly create an account.

Click here to download the PDF version. (Note: Download may take up to 3 minutes depending on your computer.)

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Industrial Rescuers Share Challenge Experience

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Each scenario presented at Challenge focuses on a realistic confined space emergency that industrial rescue teams may face. Once the hazards, patient’s conditions and rescue requirements are outlined, the rescue team goes to work. When the rescue operation is complete, the Evaluator, normally a Roco Chief Instructor, debriefs team members, pointing out techniques, best practices, oversights and potential improvements that can be made. This is where the hands-on learning really pays off.

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Roco Rescue Challenge '13 a Great Success!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Roco Rescue Challenge 2013 came to a close on Thursday, October 10 with a great sense of camaraderie. Teams benefited by sharing techniques, strategies and accomplishments. All seven participating teams did an extraordinary job. Congratulations to each and every one of you!

Director of Training, Dennis O’Connell summed Rescue Challenge up eloquently. “Hope you never run into a scenario in real life as hard as the ones you've had at Challenge ’13,” he chuckled as he gave the closing remarks.




Make sure to check out our Facebook page to see photos from Rescue Challenge 2013!

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