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Standby Rescue: How Many Team Members?

Monday, April 4, 2022

We’re often asked, “How many team members should be on a standby rescue team?”

While there is no definitive answer, we wanted to share some practical guidelines that we use here at Roco. We will offer some key points for consideration as well as address relevant standards and regulations. The safety procedures and internal policies for your organization must also be given priority consideration.

In assessing the number of personnel needed, we normally start with the various “types of confined spaces” that are applicable to the site. Other factors include elevation of the space; internal obstructions; and the potential for hazardous atmospheres. In addition, access into and out of the space; size and shape of opening; internal configuration; communications; hazard types and sources; and required PPE. Consideration must also be given to the types of injuries that may occur, which will dictate patient care and movement limitations inside the space.

ISHNaprilcover-02 As an example, to rescue an entrant from a 24-inch round horizontal portal that is 3-feet off the ground would require fewer personnel than one that is 80-feet off the ground, or if it has an IDLH environment. This is a much different story! Careful consideration must be given to the various factors involved so that rescuers can be adequately prepared to take the appropriate action when needed.

From a regulations standpoint

OSHA’s Permit-Required Confined Space Regulation (29 CFR 1910.146) is our primary reference for this topic. However, this regulation is “performance-based” – and does not provide a specific number of personnel required for stand-by operations. It simply requires that the team or service gets the job done in a safe and timely manner.

Section (d)(9) of the regulation states the requirement to “Develop and implement procedures for summoning rescue and emergency services, for rescuing entrants from permit spaces, for providing necessary emergency services to rescued employees…”. However, the number of team members is left up to the employer or agency.

Section (k) provides more details regarding rescue and emergency services but again does not include a specific number of team members required. It’s all based on the rescue service’s ability to perform rescue from the types of confined spaces to which they may respond. OSHA’s Confined Spaces in Construction (1926 Subpart AA) standard echoes 1910.146 with a few additional requirements, but again offers no specific numbers on rescuers needed for standby operations.

Next, the Respiratory Standard (1910.134), section (g)(3)(i) states that “One employee or, when needed, more than one employee is located outside the IDLH atmosphere;” and Section (g)(3)(iii) adds that…“The employee(s) located outside the IDLH atmosphere are trained and equipped to provide effective emergency rescue” – however, once again, we are given no set number of personnel.

NFPA 1670, Standard on Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents, (2017 Ed) Chapter 7.3.2.1, states that “The role of a confined space rescue service is intended to include entry into the space to perform a rescue and, as a minimum, shall be staffed to provide sufficient members with the following exclusive functions:

  1. Rescue entrant/entry team of sufficient size and capability to perform the rescue…
  2. Backup rescue entrants of a sufficient number to provide immediate assistance…
  3. Rescue attendant…
  4. Rescue team leader (supervisor)…”

Still, no definitive number of personnel, but at least it offers some guidance on the positions that should be taken into consideration. If you dig a little deeper into the Appendix of 1670, you can find in A.7.3.2.1, “In general, confined space rescue teams are composed of no less than six members to perform all the required functions listed. However, the size and capability of a team required to perform a specific rescue will depend on many factors, including the condition of the patient, the size and shape of the space, size of the access opening, and the hazards present...”.

How Roco’s stand-by rescue services would typically handle

So, how many team members does it take? We’ll give you an idea of how we address this with Roco’s stand-by rescue services. Our typical Confined Space Rescue Team consists of three personnel including a Crew Chief and two Rescue Technicians. Keep in mind, however, these individuals are experienced, professional emergency responders, who perform stand-by rescue operations and/or train on a regular basis.

Our teams also have the benefit of preplanning the rescue and setting up equipment in advance. Considerable effort goes into rescue planning by Roco teams prior to an entry. Preplanning precautions include:  

  1. Analyze, identify and eliminate hazards in and around the confined space.
  2. Ensure appropriate administrative and work practice controls are being used and followed.
  3. Hazard-specific PPE is provided and correctly used by all personnel involved.
  4. Communication methods are defined, verified and implemented (written and verbal).

Also, with our standby teams, the Crew Chief is responsible for filling two roles during an actual emergency… (1) the rescue team leader and (2) either the rescue attendant or the backup rescuer. One Rescue Technician fills the role the Crew Chief didn’t, and the other Rescue Technician becomes the rescue entrant.

This has proven to be an effective and efficient team when providing standby rescue services. Again, we have the benefit of being onsite while the entries are occurring and the opportunity to preplan the rescue. In addition, the job circumstances and scope of work are carefully evaluated prior to committing to a specific number of personnel.

As an example, we typically require a four-person team for jobs involving inert entries and other types of IDLH environments, unusual space configurations (i.e., long distances, entanglement hazards or complex obstructions), or any other high hazard condition. In certain instances, even a two-person team may be appropriate. This would include when there is no potential for atmospheric hazards; large and easily assessable openings; no secondary lowering operations; strictly horizontal movement, etc.

In closing, we must emphasize that employers are required to ensure that adequate rescue capabilities are readily available. OSHA 1910.146 is a performance-based standard that requires a safe and timely rescue response for confined space incidents. This is one reason it is so important to evaluate the rescue service you are depending upon to provide emergency services (i.e., is the team trained and equipped to provide confined space and elevated rescue appropriate to your needs?). Appendix F of 1910.146 provides a valuable tool for conducting rescue performance evaluations. It is critically important to know in advance that your rescue service is prepared, capable and ready to perform an emergency rescue. Confined Space Rescue Chart

Additional Resources

Blog originally posted in March 2011.

OSHA Confined Space Incident Log

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Confined spaces continue to present fatal hazards to workers, and OSHA continues to take notice. While OSHA lists fewer confined space accidents in 2021 than in 2020, 100% of them involved fatalities. the following summaries are from OSHA News Releases. These tragedies serve as reminders to employers and rescuers of the inherent dangers involved in confined space entry. Don't take chances when confined spaces are involved – the cost is simply too high.

8/2/2021 Dallas – Initiative to Protect Workers from Confined Space Dangers1

OSHA Regional Emphasis will target the transportation tank cleaning industry in Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana.

This special initiative is designed to focus on industries involving tank cleaning activities, including trucking, rail and road transportation, remediation services, material recovery and waste management services. Transportation tanks on trucks, trailers or railcars require cleaning and inspecting before they are refilled for transport. The workers who clean these tanks risk exposure to toxic vapors from chemicals, decaying crops, waste and other substances, and to asphyxiation, fires and explosions.

The agency reported that a worker cleaning the inside of a tank trailer in Pasadena, Texas, in December 2019 fell victim to hazardous vapors, as did a co-worker who attempted rescue. Then, in August 2020, two workers entered a natural gas tanker on a railcar in Hugo, Oklahoma, and fell victim to its vapors (see the 2/10 release below). Due to these incidents, four lives were lost in the tank cleaning industry in less than a year – a troubling trend of preventable workplace deaths in the region.

“Too often, employers allow workers to enter tanks without testing atmospheric conditions, completing confined space entry permits or providing adequate respiratory protection,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Eric Harbin.

8/2/2021 Chicago – Initiative to Protect Workers in Tank Cleaning Industry from Atmospheric, Confined Space Hazards2

OSHA Regional Emphasis was issued for the Midwest after multiple deaths occurred in tank trucks. The report listed two examples of instances:

  • A worker tasked with cleaning a chemical tank trailer collapsed upon entering the tank. Hearing the employee’s call for help, a nearby truck driver entered the tank. Both succumbed to fatal toxic fumes.
  • A worker opened the lid of a tanker trailer containing toluene and was found a short time later lying across the open dome and unresponsive. He survived after being treated at a local hospital for respiratory failure and cardiac arrest.

OSHA Chicago reported that 23 deaths and 97 incidents have occurred in the region since 2016. The most common violations included the failure to prevent inhalation of harmful substances and to follow procedures for permit-required confined spaces.

7/23/2021 Georgia – Six Preventable Confined Space Deaths at Poultry Processing Plant3

On January 28, 2021, six workers went to work at a poultry processing plant unaware that they would not be returning home. Just after their shift began, a freezer malfunctioned, releasing colorless, odorless liquid nitrogen that displaced the oxygen in the room.

Three maintenance workers entered the freezer room without precautions – never trained on the deadly effects of nitrogen exposure – and were overcome immediately. Three other workers entered the room and were also overcome. Five of the workers died immediately, a sixth died on the way to the hospital. At least a dozen other workers needed hospital care.

Of the numerous violations, the company failed to perform a hazard assessment for exposure to liquid nitrogen and also failed to implement a permit-required confined space program for workers who entered the freezer. In addition, they did not notify contractors who are required to work inside the liquid nitrogen freezer that it was a permit-required confined space.

3/29/2021 Ohio – Production Facility Cited for Exposing Employees to Dangerous Confined Spaces and other Hazards4

A January 2021 investigation found that machine operators and maintenance employees entered powder-coated ovens routinely without testing atmospheric conditions or securing natural gas lines and operating machine parts. The company also exposed workers to multiple safety and health hazards by failing to designate the ovens as permit-required confined spaces. The employer also failed to isolate natural gas lines and mechanical energy, i.e., lockout/tagout.

“Confined spaces often expose workers to atmospheric and mechanical hazards,” said OSHA Area Director Ken Montgomery. “OSHA has specific regulations for implementing required training and safety procedures to protect workers who must enter confined spaces, including atmospheric testing and ensuring equipment and energy sources are disabled before workers enter these spaces.”

2/10/2021 Oklahoma – Two Confined Space Deaths at Railcar Company5

Here is additional information concerning a railcar incident that was mentioned in the August release above.

A worker entered a natural gas railcar for cleaning on August 12, 2020. He became unresponsive shortly after entering the tank. A second employee entered the space and was also overcome in an attempt to rescue the fallen worker. Both workers were eventually recovered and later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

OSHA found that the company failed to require a permit to allow entry into the railcar, ventilate the space, monitor hazards inside the space and complete entry permits for work inside a confined space. The company was cited for 11 serious violations and two willful violations.

“Work inside confined spaces is a dangerous job and federal workplace safety standards must be followed to avoid disaster,” said OSHA Area Director Steven Kirby. “As is the case here, failing to follow OSHA standards can be the difference between life and death.”

Roco Rescue CS Attendant Requirements

Additional Resources

 

 

So You’re the Confined Space Hole Watch…Now What?

Friday, September 17, 2021
Safe Entry Team graphic 2018

First of all, don’t let the jargon “hole watch” fool you. The attendant’s role is key to the safety of the entry operation, and especially for the entrants inside the space. Lives are literally on the line – including the attendant’s if a bad decision is made to enter the space.

As you can see from the graphic, the hole watch (attendant) is the “eyes and ears of safety” and a crucial part of the Safe Entry Team. This position is critical to watching out for the entrants and recognizing the need for calling emergency services – and, of course, the quicker the better. One more reason the position of hole watch cannot be taken lightly.

It is also the responsibility of the employer or entry supervisor to make sure that the attendant receives adequate training prior to the entry. The attendant needs to be capable of monitoring the entrants and reacting properly in an emergency. This may include the operation of retrieval systems should evacuation become necessary.

entrant-monitoring

If there are any changes to the entry operations, the attendant may require additional training depending on the hazards. Re-training is also required if there are any deviations from the permit space procedures – or if the employer feels the attendant is inadequately prepared.

Hole Watch is critical for entrant safety and knowing when to call emergency services–and, of course, the quicker the better.

As a reminder, employers or entry supervisors are required to…

  • Provide the support that attendants need to fulfill their role.
  • Provide informational resources concerning the hazards or potential hazards.
  • Provide the necessary equipment and training as required.
  • Determine if the attendant will be authorized to perform non-entry rescue (retrieval) and clearly communicate this to the attendant.

“Do’s and Don’ts” for the Confined Space Hole Watch

Diligence is critical for the hole watch or attendant. It’s a very important position. Pay attention and know your job! Here are a few “Do’s” and “Don’ts” to remember if you’re assigned the task of hole watch.

"Do's" for the Confined Space Attendant:

  • Remain alert – lives are on the line.
  • Take the initiative to learn everything you need to know as well as how to operate any equipment as required.
  • Review the permit and understand the prohibited conditions.
  • Know the hazards (or potential hazards) of the entry.
  • Seek resources for more information (SDS, LOTO schedules, baseline assessments, etc.)
  • Learn the mode of entry.
  • Know the signs, symptoms and behavioral effects of exposure.
  • Know the consequences of exposure.
  • Keep track of entrants – know who is inside the space at all times. Use a tracking system (such as a roster) when there are multiple entrants. Do not rely on memory alone!
  • Inform entry supervisor and entrants if unauthorized persons have entered the space.
  • Use appropriate PPE for the area and ensure that basic needs are met (water, shade, etc.)
  • Learn the proper operation of any required equipment including air monitoring, communications, non-entry rescue, etc.
  • Conduct and log periodic air monitoring, as required. Note: Continuous air monitoring may be required based on Construction 1926 Subpart AA.
  • Make sure that you have a reliable means to communicate with the entrants – and test it!
  • Perform non-entry rescue (retrieval) as needed and if authorized to do so.
  • Inspect retrieval equipment pre-entry and practice using it – don’t wait until there is an emergency to try and figure it out.
  • Know how to contact rescue services (in advance) should the need arise.
  • Summon the rescue service as soon as you determine that entrants may need assistance.

“Don’ts” for the Confined Space Attendant:

  • Don’t accept the assignment as Hole Watch until you have been briefed on all planned activities both inside and outside the space.
  • Don’t take your responsibilities lightly.
  • Don’t leave the area outside the space unless relieved by another attendant.
  • Don’t perform any duties that would distract or interfere with attendant duties.
  • Don’t allow unauthorized persons to approach or enter the permit space – inform the entry supervisor as needed.
  • Don’t wait until a suspected prohibited condition becomes obvious or worsens prior to ordering the entrants to evacuate the space. It’s better to err on the safe side vs. not evacuating the entrants soon enough!
  • Don’t forget to keep a watch for hazards outside the space – such as unexpected airflows; heavy lifts in the area; and use of chemicals (or spills).
  • Don’t enter the space to investigate, and don’t attempt an entry rescue unless you are authorized, trained and equipped to do so. Even then, you must first be relieved by another qualified attendant.
  • Don’t allow the entry supervisor to close out a permit until 100% of entrants are accounted for and out of the space!

Hole Watch: A Crucial Connection

Once again, we can’t overemphasize the importance of the attendant or hole watch. Don’t take this position lightly. These individuals are the first line of protection for those inside the space. When selecting an attendant, make sure they are capable of handling the responsibilities of the job. They should be trained and prepared to act in an emergency. The timeliness of their response is crucial to the safety of the entrants. Failure to properly perform these duties has led to multiple fatalities – both for the entrants and the attendants themselves.

Roco Rescue CS Attendant Requirements

Additional Resources

 

 

Confined Space Fatalities…an updated look at the numbers

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Ten years ago we published a review of the statistics from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries in confined spaces. How have the stats changed over the years?

We were surprised to find that confined space fatalities have increased in recent years.

Annual CS Falalities_2011-18The 2011 to 2018 average was 128 deaths per year, up from 96 in 2005-2009, and the trend was a consistent increase from 2013 through 2017. Only one state (Rhode Island) experienced no confined space fatalities during this period. This is yet another notable increase, as only 28 states recorded fatalities in 2005-2009.

CS Fatalities by Activity_2011-18The construction industry again took the lead for most fatalities, but it’s important to note that more fatalities occurred during repairs and maintenance than during construction or dismantling (226 vs 193).

In a repeat from our prior analysis, atmospheric hazards were not the biggest cause of fatalities. It was again the Physical Hazards that topped the chart, with “Contact with Objects and Equipment” being the largest set of causes.

CS Fatalities by Event_2011-18This Physical Hazards area includes:

  • Struck by = 106
    • 61 of those were falling objects
  • Caught in = 82
  • Collapses = 294
    • 168 of those were Trench/Excavation fatalities, 135 being in the private construction industry

In comparison, there were 165 deaths from inhalation of a harmful substance and/or oxygen deficiency (excluding drownings) and another 165 deaths from falls. This means that these three hazards account for almost half of the 1,030 deaths during this 8-year period.

Trench Collapses, Atmospheric Hazards, and Falls account for half of all Confined Space* related fatalities from 2011-2018.

These numbers serve to remind us of how important safety precautions and training are when working around confined spaces. As rescuers, we routinely focus on atmospheric hazards. However, these statistics show we must be aware of the many physical hazards that confined spaces so often include.

*Note that CFOI’s definition of a confined space may differ from the OSHA definition.

Data and images are excerpts from Roco Rescue’s presentation at the VPPPA 2021 Safety+ National Symposium by Chris Carlsen, Director of Training and Tim Robson, Chief Instructor and Regional CSRT Manager. Download the presentation’s slide deck

HierarchyofFallProPoster

Additional Resources

 

 

Confined Space Rescue Planning: Key Considerations

Monday, March 2, 2020

Do you have a rescue plan for your permit-required confined space entry work? One that has been practiced regularly and revised if necessary? If you can't emphatically say "yes" to these questions, consider this sobering statistic: Over 60% of confined-space fatalities in multifatality confined-space incidents involve the would-be rescuer. This is often due to poor and/or quick decision-making when things go wrong... in other words, not sticking to the plan (if one exists). Having a plan in place that accounts for all the "what-ifs" can prevent these fatalities from happening.

What elements should a permit-required confined space rescue plan include? Roco Rescue Safety Officer Pat Furr outlines these in an article in Safety + Health (the official magazine of the National Safety Council).

Read the article in its entirety and download our Confined Space Entry Quick Reference Checklist.

CS Preplan Checklist

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