Working in Confined Space. What You Need to Know.

Sponsored Article by MSA

Unfortunately, it’s true—confined spaces can be dangerous. Asphyxiation, falls, entanglements, and other hazards could harm workers who must enter such places. but the fact of the matter is that mishaps can and do happen. Often, rescuers are injured as well as workers. So, when an accident occurs and workers need help, you don’t want to be caught by surprise, you want to be ready.

Readiness isn’t just being available to work at a moment’s notice. It also means preparedness—having a well-thought-out, well-practiced plan in place long before anyone enters a confined space.

Below are some of the necessary elements of a sound ready-to-rescue plan:

1. Must-Do: Evaluate your site with rescue in mind

Planning for confined space emergencies begins with assessing your site’s unique situation. You’ve already considered what your workers need to perform their jobs, now you want to take into consideration what it would take to get them out safely.

Ask these questions to help determine the type of rescue that may be needed:

  • Can a worker exit the danger zone without assistance?
  • Alternatively, if there is a potential issue, can an attendant retrieve the worker without entering the confined space?
  • Or does your scenario require an efficient, thoroughly trained rescue team, either on-call or on site?

2. Must-Do: Calculate response time and rescue time

A critical criterion for selecting your team is the length of time it will take them to respond to an emergency and evacuate the worker.

Michael Roop, CSP, an experienced rescue team trainer, advises calculating rescue team response time with a simple formula:

Response Time = Reaction Time + Contact Time + Travel Time + Assessment Time + Prep Time

  • How long will it take to recognize that the worker may need assistance?
  • How long will it take to inform the rescue team? How long will it take the team to arrive?
  • How long will the team need to strategize the rescue and set up equipment?

Roop’s formula for rescue time is as follows:

Rescue Time = Time to Reach + Treat + Package + Evacuate the Victim

According to Roop, the whole rescue process “can take approximately forty-five minutes to an hour.” A trained team, he adds, should be able to accomplish the rescue in less than an hour.

Must Do: Evaluate your prospective team

  • How will rescuers communicate with you, each other, and the worker?
  • Do rescuers have the necessary skills and equipment to meet your specific situation?
  • Are they authorized to respond immediately?
  • Who is in charge?

Must Do: Once You’ve Designated Your Rescue Team, Practice!

It goes without saying that practice can make the difference between chaotic, costly mistakes and calm, effective performance. Training for confined space rescue means—among other things—knowing how to use equipment and understanding potential complications.

Additionally, you must physically evaluate your team’s performance. “Test them,” advises Roop, “so you know you have a top-notch team.”

In sum, it’s the employer’s responsibility to ensure that workers in confined spaces can count on the quickest, most competent rescue attempt possible should things go wrong. Then, should an emergency occur, you’ll be ready to rescue!

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