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Retrieval vs. Entry Rescue

Monday, October 25, 2010

There’s no doubt about it, confined space entry is risky business. A first consideration should always be to try and eliminate the known and potential hazards – or, even better, “engineer out” the need for entry when possible. If it’s not possible (or feasible), and entry must be made, then as part of OSHA’s Permit-Required Confined Space standard (1910.146), the employer must take action to protect its workers. This regulation requires employers to develop and implement procedures for summoning rescue and emergency services, for rescuing entrants from permit spaces, and for preventing unauthorized personnel from attempting a rescue.
Planning for rescue of the entrant should always be approached in a logical hierarchy. The first choice for rescue should always be “self-rescue.

However, there are too many lads named “Murphy” lurking about to be able to rely on this as the only means of rescue. That leads to the next option, which is “retrieval rescue.” This means that retrieval (or rescue) of the entrant(s) can be made without anyone else having to enter the space.

NOTE: It’s important to note that the hierarchy of rescue needs to be followed even when an “entry rescue team” is located on site. For example, when an entry is made into a simple vertical vault, a retrieval system must be used even if a trained rescue team is standing by – again, preventing rescuers from having to enter the space unless necessary.

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 retrieval system shall include 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 in such a way to present a small enough profile for successful removal of the entrant. In certain instances wristlets may be used. The retrieval line shall be attached to a fixed point outside the space or to a mechanical device. For vertical entries more than 5 feet in depth, a mechanical device such as a retrieval winch or mechanical advantage rope system shall be available.

Relying on non-entry retrieval rescue requires a thorough and honest assessment of the retrieval system’s ability to function as intended should the need arise. Are there any entanglement issues within the space that would cause the retrieval line to fail? If the entrant must travel around any 90 degree corners or between levels, will the retrieval line work? Any and all potential causes of retrieval system failure would require the need to plan for entry rescue.

One of the advantages of non-entry retrieval rescue is that oftentimes it can be performed by the attendant. Modern retrieval equipment may utilize powerful gear reductions or rope mechanical advantages and are usually quite easy for the attendant to learn to operate. It is encouraged and quite common for the attendant to be trained and capable of performing non-entry rescue. The attendant is prohibited, however, from entering the space to perform rescue unless properly trained and equipped for ”entry rescue,” which is the last option in the hierarchy of rescue.

NOTE: Even if the attendant is trained and equipped for entry rescue, he or she must be relieved by another authorized attendant before abandoning their attendant duties.

Entry rescue requires the rescuer(s) to enter the confined space, thus possibly exposing them to the same hazards as the victim. That’s why it is critical for rescuers to be trained and equipped with the proper PPE to protect themselves from the hazards involved. In fact, OSHA states that if you don’t have the proper PPE or training, DO NOT ATTEMPT THE RESCUE!

This warning is driven by the great number of “would be” rescuers dying in confined spaces while attempting to save a life. Safe, successful entry rescue requires sufficient training in the proper techniques, a proficiency in the use of the appropriate PPE and rescue equipment, and the ability to recognize and identify the hazards and potential hazards in confined spaces.

Again, it’s important to keep in mind that there are many permit required confined spaces where non-entry retrieval is a viable option – and it should be used whenever possible. Vertical utility vaults with no entanglement hazards, horizontal entries with no corners or elevation changes are just a few. The proper course is to always perform a thorough assessment of the space to determine which type of rescue will be needed and to make sure the appropriate rescue response is in place should the entrants need assistance.
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To Pre-rig, or not to Pre-rig?

Monday, September 27, 2010

We received an interesting question about pre-rigged systems from one of our subscribers. The TechPanel had some helpful comments to share, so we have re-posted the info here. It’s a great topic.

Here are some things to consider about leaving systems pre-rigged.First of all, whether to pre-rig systems or not depends a lot on the types of rescues you will be doing.

Pre-rigged systems make sense for most industrial and municipal teams who have rope equipment designated specifically for rescues. However, it makes less sense for climbers and wilderness personnel who will be using the same equipment for multiple uses and putting systems together based on a specific need. This also reduces the amount and weight of equipment they must carry, which is a big concern. However, it also requires a high level of proficiency in a variety of systems in order to build systems safely and in a timely manner.

Next, let’s clarify what we mean by “pre-rigged systems.”

“Plug-n-Play” – These are systems that come pre-built and seem to require little training to operate. These “Plug-n-Play” systems may work for a specific location or type of rescue but may not work in every situation. Training for these systems should address what to do if the device/system malfunctions, or if it will not work for the type of scenario you may be faced with.

“Customized Pre-rigged Systems” – These are customized pre-rigged systems that rescuers build for site-specific needs and their team’s needs using existing equipment and training.

Confined space and rope rescue can be broken down to three core tasks… (1) Lowering, (2) Safety line Belay, and (3) Mechanical Advantage/Retrieval systems. You can build pre-rigged systems that make sense for your specific needs. Many of the teams we work with have adopted a three bag system.

For example, one rope bag is designated for “Lowering” along with the typical equipment needed for a lowering system (i.e. descent control device, carabiners, anchor straps, padding). This will provide a pre-rigged system that will handle most of your lowering needs. You may decide to supplement that with another anchor strap and a pulley for a high-point directional, etc.

Your “Safety line/Belay” bag can be set up the same way with enough carabiners and shock absorbers attached to the rope bag to allow for at least two rescuers and a victim. The third bag of rope (“Mechanical Advantage/Retrieval”) with a simple, pre-built Block-n-Tackle hauling system and its own anchor straps will give your team an “immediate means of retrieval” for either the main line or a safety line retrieval. With a few additional pieces of hardware, you will be able handle the vast majority of urban rope/confined space rescue scenarios.

We find that for industrial rescue teams or municipal fire and police rescue squads, these pre-rigged systems make sense. They save set-up time and get a rescuer to the victim as quickly as possible, which is especially critical for an IDLH emergency.

Many times teams will arrange their equipment so that it’s easier to inventory rather than what’s the fastest way to deploy it. For example, if you have twenty carabiners, why not have them attached to a rapid deployment bag type system rather than in a hardware bag that a team member will have to go through and pick out what is needed?

Our best advice would be to look at your team’s response area and consider the types of rescues that may be needed. You can then customize and build pre-rigged systems that make sense for your team. “Plug-n-Play” systems may handle most of your rescue situations or they may be part of a larger pre-rigged rescue system like the one above. Using a “pre-rigged systems” approach saves time, cuts down on confusion, and uses equipment more efficiently – especially when the pressure is on.
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Firefighter and Worker Die in Confined Space Incident

Thursday, September 09, 2010

TARRYTOWN, NY (WABC) — A fire department official says oxygen levels were dangerously low in a manhole where a sewer worker and a firefighter died.

No cause of death has been established in Monday’s deaths of sewer worker Anthony Ruggiero and Tarrytown firefighter John Kelly. At firehouses throughout Tarrytown, there are the ceremonial displays that no department ever wants to have to put up: black and purple bunting and flags at half staff.

Inside the headquarters there’s a memorial for one of the fallen men, John Kelly. “Our prayers all go out to the families of these two men, who were doing their jobs,” Tarrytown Mayor Drew Fixell said. “One of them a firefighter, acting heroic and trying to save the other one.”

Ruggerio was trying to clear a backup of sewage as part of his full time job in the village’s Public Works Department. He was overcome by fumes and collapsed. Kelly had tried to save Ruggiero, but also the fumes overwhelmed him as well.

Assistant Fire Chief John McGee said Tuesday that a hazardous materials team measured the oxygen level at 14 percent. The normal amount of oxygen in air is about 21 percent. He said he did not know if other, deadly gases were detected. Those are life threatening conditions that may have taken the men by surprise.

Village Administrator Michael Blau said neither of the men who died had put on a protective masks before entering the manhole. He said autopsies were planned. The deaths were being investigated by federal, state and local agencies.

“It’s very, very sad,” resident Susie Poore said. “I’m speechless, because…I don’t know even what to say. I don’t know what to say, other than I must have said ‘Oh my God’ 100 times already.”

Both victims spent over 20 years as volunteer firefighters. Ruggerio was a supervisor in the DPW by trade. Kelly worked as a state Department of Transportation worker.
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Delayed Rescue Response Cited in Fatal Tunnel Fire

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Here’s another deadly reminder of the importance of a capable and timely response to confined space emergencies. Five people were killed in this fatal tunnel fire. According to OSHA, the case involving Xcel Energy and RPI Coating is not being tried until next year. After reading the official Chemical Safety Board report, here are some key findings…

    1. Did not have adequate technical rescue services standing by at the Permit Required Confined Space.       “911″ was listed on paperwork. Took the rescue team 1 hr and 15   mins to arrive at the site.
    2. Confined space was assessed as Non-PRCS even though the inability to self rescue and the introduction of MEK.
    3. RPI did not have an adequate confined space program.
    4. No hazard analysis was conducted.
    5. Not recognizing that 10% LEL or higher is an IDLH condition.
    6. Workers were located over 1400 ft away from where atmospheric monitoring was being performed.

Article below written by: P. Solomon Banda, Associated Press Writer

DENVER – The U.S. Chemical Safety Board slammed Xcel Energy Inc. on Monday for the company’s handling of the aftermath of a tunnel fire that killed five workers at a hydroelectric plant, as well as for a host of “troubling episodes.”

The board cited the electric and gas utility’s failure to cooperate in the agency’s probe and said that investigators had to turn to the U.S. Attorney’s Office Civil Division in Denver to compel the company to turn over information. “Xcel Energy believes it has always cooperated and acted responsibly and continues to be fully committed to safety as a core value and an operational priority,” the company said in a statement.

The board, an independent federal agency that investigates serious chemical accidents and makes safety recommendations, plans to release its final report and recommendations Wednesday. That report comes about two weeks after Xcel decided to release a draft version after initially trying to block it. The company feared it would be released close to the criminal trial in the case, possibly influencing jurors.

Xcel, contractor RPI Coating and RPI executives Philippe Goutagny and James Thompson each are charged with violating U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. They’re expected to go on trial next year. The safety board said the report wasn’t complete that it had instructed Xcel to keep the draft confidential. Xcel also said it wanted to release the draft report because the company wanted to show that the board excluded findings of a gap in OSHA standards.

Xcel and the board are at odds over whether OSHA regulations were sufficient or clear enough to ensure worker safety. The board says the utility should have had a specially trained rescue crew on-hand in emergencies, rather than calling 911 as directed by Xcel’s plan. The tunnel fire started when flammable vapors ignited on a machine that was being used to spray a coat of epoxy sealant on a portion of a 4,000-foot-long water pipe, trapping five of nine workers inside the pipe.

Specially trained rescue crews didn’t arrive until an hour and a half after the fire started. Donald Dejaynes, 43, Dupree Holt, 37, James St. Peters, 52, Gary Foster, 48, Anthony Aguirre, 18 – all from California – ultimately died from smoke inhalation.

In the letter sent Monday to Xcel CEO Richard Kelly, the board said Xcel’s “unprecedented” legal action to block the report delayed its release and diverted resources from other investigations. “In the wake of the corporate responsibility concerns raised by the Big Branch Mine accident in West Virginia and the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, I strongly urge Xcel to renew its focus on safety and to swiftly implement the CSB’s recommendations,” wrote Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso.

This link is from an online magazine:
http://www.hazardexonthenet.net/article.aspx?AreaID=2&ArticleID=36075

This link is the official 145 page CSB report:
http://extras.mnginteractive.com/live/media/site36/2010/0816/20100816_021722_Xcel%20Energy_Plant_Report.pdf
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How much training is needed for attendants on air monitoring equipment?

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Reader Jeff Machen had a question concerning how much training to give attendants on air monitoring equipment; especially when they may only be working a week long shut down? Here’s our reply from CSRT Manager Bryan Rogers.

When you’re dealing with temporary labor, it is difficult to ensure that they are well trained on something as complex as atmospheric monitoring. We checked with several equipment manufacturers, and they don’t set a specific amount of training required, but leave it up to the customer’s internal company policy and/or person(s) issuing the monitor.

We also spoke to a few of our instructors who work at different plants and refineries. The majority of these companies require a company employee to perform the initial monitoring and then again after a break in work greater than 30 minutes. In addition, they review with the attendant what to look for and what to do if there are changes in the readings or an alarm sounds. One company provides a four-hour PowerPoint presentation on monitoring and attendant responsibilities.

OSHA does not indicate a time frame for this training either. However, it does require that persons be capable of safely performing the tasks assigned. Therefore, I would say your best bet would be to cover as much of the manufacturer’s instructions as possible along with reviewing the most common problems such as…

    - Calibration conversions
    - Turning on the monitor (or “field zeroing”) in the presence of contaminates
    - Negative LEL or negative toxic readings
    - Contaminated sampling hoses
    - Clogged filters

Lastly, I would stress to the attendants the importance of contacting a supervisor if they have any questions or concerns - and, if they get any unusual results from the monitor… “Do not hesitate to have everyone exit the space while the results are investigated!”
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