Can I conduct a confined space rescue without any specialized equipment?

Presented by: Honeywell Industrial Safety


Q:

Can I conduct a confined space rescue without any specialized equipment?

A:

The atmospheric and physical hazards of a confined space, along with its limited means of access and egress, complicate the logistics of a rescue. When planning and executing a confined space rescue, you will need a series of PPE and rescue equipment to ensure not only a successful extraction of the victim but also that the rescuers do not become victims themselves.

This is especially the case when conducting rescues in permit-required confined spaces, as defined by OSHA 1910.146. The conditions in these spaces are considered by OSHA to be immediately dangerous to the health and life of the worker and, as such, any delay in intervention increases the risk for the victim.

(Learn 5 Myths About What Defines a Confined Space.)

Non-entry rescues are the recommended rescue method according to 1910.146(k)(3). The rescue equipment for these types of procedures generally consists of a tripod (or a davit arm), a self-retracting lanyard with retrieval capability (SRL-Rs), or a rescue winch and a fall protection harness (usually with shoulder D-rings for easier retrieval). To comply with 1910.146(k)(3)(ii) and make the intervention response almost instantaneous, the equipment for a confined space rescue should be installed and connected to the confined space worker from the beginning of the work and the co-workers should be trained in how to perform the rescue, or a specialized rescue team should be on hand for the duration of the work. Not having this equipment already in place would dramatically increase the response time and this could mean the difference between life and death.

(Find out How to Safely Rescue Someone from a Confined Space.)

This kind of setup is dictated by 1910.146(k)(3), which 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.”

Using this equipment requires knowledge of how to install and use it properly. New worker orientation or site-specific orientations are not adequate. 1910.146(k)(2) requires the employer to properly train the employees in the confined space entry procedures and to execute confined space drills every 12 months.

To answer the question more directly, specialized equipment (and training in its use) is required for a confined space rescue. It is required by OSHA and just makes sense given the hazards inherent in confined space entry.

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Written by Karoly Ban Matei
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Karoly has worked at a senior level (both as an employee and a contractor) for organizations in the construction and manufacturing industries. He has a passion for developing and improving health and safety programs.

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