Do you encounter confined spaces? OSHA regulations require employers maintain a site plan identifying all confined spaces on their property, including a listing of all the hazards within each space. Employers must ensure employees are trained to understand the definition of a confined space, the hazards associated with a given space, and how to eliminate or control those hazards. If an employee is expected to work within confined spaces, they must first receive Confined Space Entrant, Attendant, Supervisor/Competent Person training. Unfortunately, another critical confined space step is often missed—emergency rescue planning.

Why do you need a rescue plan? On average, 100 workers die in confined spaces annually in the United States. Of those 100 deaths, more than 60% of the documented fatalities are would-be rescuers.

Where do rescue plans fail? According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (NIOSH), approximately 2.1 million Unites States workers enter confined spaces annually. Findings from a NIOSH investigation of 100 confined space fatality incidents showed:

  • 85% of the time a supervisor was present
  • 29% of the dead were supervisors
  • 31% had written procedures, yet none followed them
  • 15% had confined space training
  • 95% were authorized by a supervisor
  • 0% of the spaces were tested prior to entry
  • 0% used ventilation equipment
  • 0% had a rescue plan.

What should you consider as part of your rescue plan? When developing and preparing a rescue plan, many factors need to be considered:

  • Are your employees properly trained and qualified to perform the task?
  • Do your employees have all the necessary and required personal protective equipment to enter the confined space?
  • Do you have a written program and procedures in place for confined space entry work?
  • Have you identified all hazards associated with the confined space, are adequate hazard controls available, and have the controls been tested and found effective?
  • Do you have a rescue plan, and is it relevant to your confined space?

Selecting the best rescue plan

External Rescue – No one enters the space to remove an entrant in need of rescue. All confined space entry equipment is used from outside the space and includes:

  • A tripod or fixed anchor point
  • A mechanical retrieval device (winch)
  • A full-body fall rescue harness
  • A connector device (lifeline) that connects the harness d-ring to the mechanical retrieval device (winch).

On-Site Internal Rescue – Trained, qualified, and properly equipped entry rescue personnel are available and onsite during entry activities. Internal rescue teams need:

  • All necessary equipment
  • At least one person trained in First Aid/CPR
  • To perform annual rescue drills within similar spaces.

Off-Site Rescue Services – Notify the service prior to entering a confined space and ensure they are available to respond in a reasonable timeframe. When selecting an off-site rescuer consider:

  • Can they respond in a reasonable time? Any rescue service must be able to reach the victim in a timeframe commiserate with the confined space hazards.
  • Rescue services must inform the entry team if their services are unavailable or response time is hindered.
  • Employers must verify internal rescue services are available before using 911 as a rescue option. Before choosing this option, call the local fire department or county call center.

Regardless of the challenges associated with your confined space, RETTEW’s Safety Consulting professionals can assist you with facility confined space audits, consultation, training, evaluation, personal protective equipment, program and rescue plan development, and even serve as your rescue service. Contact Kelly Kramer, CECD, HEM, at 800.738.8395 to schedule a consultation.

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