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What Does NFPA Have to Say about Confined Spaces? (Part 2)

Tuesday, November 14, 2023

NFPA 350 Cover

A How-To Guide for Selecting a Rescue Service

In the first article in this series, we provided a high-level overview of NFPA 350 Guide for Safe Confined Space Entry and Work. We discussed the expanded roles on a confined space entry team with the inclusion of positions such as the Ventilation Specialist, Gas Tester, Standby Worker, etc. We also delved into the standard’s tiered response time and capability requirements for rescue, based on the hazards of the space.

In this article, we will focus on the rescue section of the standard. It provides broad coverage of the topic and if you have not read the standard, we highly recommend that you do so. It takes the “safe” part of its title very seriously, not only as it pertains to rescue, but across the board in everything related to confined space entry.

This article will focus on what the standard has to say about how an organization should select a rescue services provider if they are not going to perform rescue with in-house personnel. Roco Rescue thinks this of particular importance because there are many companies on the market that offer rescue services for confined space entry, and with any open market, there are vast differences in the quality of services they provide.

For safety managers who determined to ensure that they select a quality rescue provider, NFPA 350 provides an excellent framework for making that decision. If the safety manager rigorously applies the guidelines for auditing rescue programs contained in NFPA 350, they can rest assured that they are making an informed decision when selecting a Confined Space Rescue Service.

The need to evaluate rescue service providers is not new or limited to NFPA 350. OSHA 1910.146 requires employers to “evaluate a prospective rescuer's ability to respond to a rescue summons in a timely manner, considering the hazard(s) identified.” They shall “evaluate a prospective rescue service's ability, in terms of proficiency with rescue-related tasks and equipment, [and] to function appropriately while rescuing entrants from the particular permit space or types of permit spaces identified.” Further, employers shall “select a rescue team or service from those evaluated that has the capability to reach the victim(s) within a time frame that is appropriate for the permit space hazard(s) identified, [and] is equipped for and proficient in performing the needed rescue services.”

The mandate for due diligence is there, but the standard is a bit vague and subject to broad interpretation. NFPA 350 on the other hand, does a really good job of filling in the voids and eliminating gray areas.

The first thing NFPA 350 requires is that the rescue provider ”should meet all requirements of the technician level confined space rescue chapter in NFPA 1670” Standard on Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents. Technician level training from a reputable company is a significant investment in both time and money. This will effectively eliminate companies that want to simply have someone standing by at a tripod winch and consider them the “rescuer.”

The mandate for due diligence is there, but the standard is a bit vague and subject to broad interpretation. NFPA 350 on the other hand, does a really good job of filling in the voids and eliminating gray areas.

For those services that meet that first requirement, this is where the standard really gets interesting. The standard then calls for an audit of the prospective rescue provider by a designated person or team. Those conducting the audit should be “persons trained in or familiar with rescue operations and medical provisions at a level commensurate with the recommendations of this guide [NFPA 350] for rescue team members.” What the standard basically says is that the person or team conducting the audit should know what they are looking at from a rescue perspective.

The audit recommended by NFPA 350 is thorough. It should include, but is not limited to, an evaluation of the rescue service’s:

Tier graphic 2

In addition to the audit of plans and records, NFPA 350 recommends that the prospective provider submit to a performance evaluation and declares that it is the “principal means of deciding who is qualified among a group of prospective rescue service providers.”

The performance evaluation suggested by NFPA 350 goes far beyond knot tying and equipment usage. The evaluation should involve simulated rescues with manikins removed from actual representative spaces. Further, the teams being evaluated should be the actual teams that will be on standby in all staffing combinations. The standard acknowledges that “this may require multiple evaluations to ensure that all team member compositions will provide the appropriate capability for confined space rescue.”

Once a rescue service is selected, the evaluation does not stop there. The standard calls for annual evaluations, or whenever there are changes to operations or regulatory requirements.

In addition to evaluating rescue capabilities, the performance evaluation should also take into account patient care. The prospective service should demonstrate their ability to address both life-threatening and non-life-threatening conditions and maintain effective treatment until the patient is turned over to definitive care providers.

Once a rescue service is selected, the evaluation does not stop there. The standard calls for annual evaluations, or whenever there are changes to operations or regulatory requirements.

Following NFPA 350’s guidelines is the surefire way to select a rescue services provider. Are these requirements rigorous? You bet. To borrow a saying, this method separates the wheat from the chaff. At the end of the day, it ensures that should an emergency occur, your confined space rescue provider will give the injured entrant the best chance possible for a positive outcome.

NFPA 350 serves as a comprehensive guide for safe practices related to confined space entry, work, and rescue. It provides procedures and best practices for safely entering and working in confined spaces. It also includes guidelines for confined space rescue operations, which are critical for the safety of entrants.It provides a dependable template for selecting a qualified rescue service. Everyone involved in confined space operations should consider NFPA 350 a “must-have” resource.


Additional Resources

OSHA Cites Contractor for Excavation Hazards After Deaths of Two Workers at JFK Airport

Thursday, November 2, 2023

NEW YORK – Two employees of a Bronx water and sewer line construction contractor were fatally injured in a trench at a construction site at John F. Kennedy International Airport in Queens on April 3, 2023. These fatalities could have been prevented if their employer had ensured proper safeguards, a federal investigation found.

trenchThe two employees were attempting to remove soil from below a concrete slab located within a trench when the slab broke apart and collapsed, fatally crushing both workers. OSHA inspectors found that the company failed to:

  • Support the concrete slab, exposing both employees to the danger of a collapse.
  • Instruct employees on safe methods to remove the slab and provide supervision to ensure those methods were followed.
  • Construct the excavation's protective system based on designs in accordance with OSHA standards.

“Working in excavations is inherently dangerous. Demolition of existing structures must be carefully planned, and shoring systems must be built according to their design. Employers are obligated to make a good faith effort to recognize, evaluate and control workplace hazards throughout the course of the work and as conditions change,” said Kevin Sullivan, OSHA's Long Island and Queens area director.

“Diligent oversite and management of changing worksite conditions could have helped prevent this tragedy from happening.”

Learn more about OSHA and protecting workers against trenching and excavation hazards.



Tips for Getting the Most From Your Rescue Training

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Training time is precious; make sure it’s productive for you and your team. Here are a few suggestions:

  •  Take care of your gear. Inventory control and routine inspections are a never-ending process. Knowing that your rescue equipment is ready to go at a moment’s notice, not just prior to the training, is the first key to a successful training program. Any equipment that is damaged or out of manufacturer’s recommended life span should have already been replaced.
  • Fitness matters, both emotional and physical. We get so much more from our rescue training program when it includes attention to mental and physical health. Confirm that all personnel are medically able to perform the physically strenuous tasks involved in rescue training. Team members should be briefed on the types of activities that will be performed as well as possible effects from participating in the training (i.e., lifting, stretching, pulling, wearing a harness, being suspended in a harness or litter, inverting while suspended, etc.).
  •  rescue training class 2023Get everyone involved. The best leaders know how to get everyone excited and wanting to participate. Stress the importance of each person being actively involved and willing to participate in the training exercise. Each team member must be fully committed to the team’s overall mission; and training is perhaps the most vital component.
  • Provide focused training sessions. Identifying team deficiencies is an often-difficult process. Taking a good hard look at your team’s strengths and weaknesses can provide a clear map for your training.
  •  Train at new and different locations. While not always convenient, the benefits are endless. New locations offer new challenges. New challenges require new solutions.

Training is the foundational building block that every good rescue team is built upon. Real rescues should be easy… if your training has been realistic and hard. Make sure you make the most of it!   


Additional Resources:


Petzl Call For Inspection

Wednesday, October 25, 2023



This morning, Petzl issued a Call for Inspection on certain models of their Astro and Canyon-Guide harnesses. If your equipment cache includes either of these harnesses, follow this link to determine if you are impacted and how to proceed.

If you need assistance with inspecting your harnesses, Roco Rescue will be happy to help, please call 800-647-7626.

Always remember to inspect your gear before each use. Stay safe!

Roco Rescue Challenge 2023

Tuesday, October 24, 2023


This year marked our 30th anniversary of Roco Rescue Challenge – one of the longest-running rescue events in North America! Roco Challenge has always intended to be more than a competition with the primary purpose of learning and sharing ideas. And that was achieved this year with teams from both industrial and municipal sectors participating in the two-day event at the Roco Training Center in Baton Rouge, LA.

Confined space and high-angle environments pose many risks; and yes, challenges, for rescue teams. Roco Challenge recognizes these risks and takes them head-on. During this year’s event teams had to deal with six high-angle and confined space rescue scenarios found in industrial and urban environments. Teams faced off head-to-head in the Team Performance Evaluation (TPE). Finally, team members showed off their skills in the Individual Performance Evaluation (IPE).

Challenge scenarios are designed with the goal of teams facing new problems that require out-of-the-box rescue and rigging skills. They included simulated IDLH rescue entries with the use of SAR and SCBA equipment. Also included were single-person and multi-casualty scenarios with a mix of manikins and live victims as patients.

Our congratulations to all the teams who stepped up to the challenges presented by this year's event. Training and practice gained from Rescue Challenge 2023 will result in safer workforces and communities that these teams serve, making everyone's job safer.

Challenge 2023 Participants:

Baton Rouge Fire Department – Baton Rouge, LA

CF Industries – Donaldsonville, LA

Exxon BRPO – Baton Rouge, LA

Frisco Fire Department – Frisco, TX

Placid Refining – Port Allen, LA


In addition to the participating teams, many observers attended from various industries and agencies around the region.

Some of the exceptional performances this year included:
“Top Team” Overall Highest Average for All Scenarios – CF Industries of Donaldsonville, LA.
1st Place Individual Performance Evaluation Station (IPE) – Baton Rouge Fire Department.
1st Place Team Performance Evaluation “Yellow Brick Road” Station – CF Industries of Donaldsonville, LA.

If you missed this year’s Rescue Challenge, join us next year on October 16-17, 2024, at the Roco Training Center in Baton Rouge. Every year our instructors devise new “surprise obstacles” to challenge teams with hurdles never before tackled.

Rescue Challenge is an outstanding motivational event for rescuers giving them a goal to work towards as well as an incredible, hands-on learning event for all teams.

Is your team ready for the CHALLENGE 2024? (And, if not, our instructors can get them ready!)





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