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Confined space rescue

September 1, 2012

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How do I properly train my workers for confined space rescue? If I have an in-house confined space rescue team, do I still need to use non-entry rescue?


Responding is Jim Hutter, senior training specialist, Capital Safety, Red Wing, MN.

When it comes to worker rescue, there are two types: non-entry and industrial entry teams. In most cases, non-entry rescue is preferred. But for many confined space rescue situations – which are often complex and dangerous – entry rescue teams are the only option.

Unlike non-entry rescue, which often can be performed by the entry attendant with minimal training, emergency service teams have more in-depth training and use specialized equipment to save the worker trapped in the confined space.

On any jobsite that might require a confined space rescue, the employer is required to take the necessary steps to ensure the rescue team meets all OSHA requirements. According to OSHA 1910.146(k)(2), employers with workers designated to provide confined space rescue and emergency services must take the following measures:

  • Provide rescuers with personal protective equipment and training so they are proficient in use of the PPE, all at no cost to the worker.
  • Ensure rescuers successfully complete the training required to establish proficiency as an authorized entrant, as defined by OSHA.
  • Train rescuers in basic first aid and CPR, ensuring at least one member of the team has a current certification.
  • Ensure rescuers practice confined space rescue techniques at least once every 12 months by means of simulated rescue operations using an actual person or dummy. Practice runs must simulate the types of spaces in which rescue is to be performed.

In addition, rescuers must be familiar with the areas of rescue, as well as potential hazards and exposures. An aspect often overlooked when choosing a rescue team in an industrial setting is the physical conditioning of the team members. Although this can be a sensitive subject, it is something that must be considered. Actual confined space rescues are stressful, dangerous and physically demanding. OSHA requires employers to evaluate the rescue team’s abilities and proficiency in rescue-related tasks.

Many people think that if they have a skilled confined space rescue team onsite, they do not need to use non-entry rescue. This couldn’t be further from the truth. An in-house rescue team does not relieve the employer’s responsibility to fulfill OSHA 1910.146(k)(3), which discusses non-entry rescue. Confined spaces often contain unique hazards, including oxygen-deficient air, toxic and/or flammable gasses, difficult entry and escape, and potential for engulfment. The only time an entry rescue should be performed is when non-entry rescue poses a greater hazard to the employee. At that time, the rescue would be the sole responsibility of the entry rescue team. Make sure your company takes the necessary steps to comply with OSHA requirements for confined space rescue to ensure the safety of your workers.

Editor’s Note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as National Safety Council endorsements.

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