Working in a confined space presents unique challenges and hazards to the employee. When an emergency occurs in a confined space or at heights, a timely response by a competent rescue team is essential to reduce the impact to employees and to property. One method for meeting OSHA's requirement is to establish an on-site confined space rescue team. An on-site team can be present directly beside the confined space or at the job site. This on-site team drastically reduces the response and rescue time you may experience from an outside rescue team such as local fire department.
How can you maintain your team's ability to respond?
OSHA requires that your rescue teams conduct rescue exercises annually. Confined space rescuers must also have access to the spaces, or representative spaces, to which they will be expected to enter. Any standby rescue team must also be informed of the hazards of the space and have the same training for entering a confined space.
According to the CDC, "rescue procedures should be practiced frequently enough to provide a level of proficiency that eliminates life-threatening rescue attempts and ensures an efficient and calm response to any emergency." Industrial rescues do not occur daily but injuries and fatalities do occur.
- From August 2009 to September 2013, there was an average of 42 deaths related to confined spaces each year (OSHA).
- Between October 2014 and October 2015, there were 48 catastrophic fatalities related to confined spaces (OSHA).
Meeting OSHA's requirements for rescue will keep your rescue team compliant but will one industrial rescue exercise a year keep your team proficient?
There is no prescribed standard in the U.S. for frequency of industrial rescue training. Technical rescue teams, fire departments, and standby rescue personnel train with varying frequencies--weekly, biweekly, monthly, or quarterly. While your confined space rescue team members may have additional production responsibilites within your day-to-day operation, it is important that they be highly proficient in various rescue methods to extract co-workers; don't let them become a group on paper who simply satisfies a permit requirement.
In its recommendations the fire service on the training of rescuing trapped firefighters, the National Fire Academy states that the physical, mental, and psychological stresses associated with rescue are immense (NFA). The most expertly conducted rescue operation may place team members under extreme stress. Deaths and serious injuries occur in confined spaces and encountering them is something your team must be prepared for.
Consider how these factors impact your employees if they are expected to perform a confined space rescue of a co-worker. For the worker needing rescue from a confined space, and for the worker who is part of the confined space rescue, time is of utmost importance. These additional stressors dictate that rescue teams train beyond the OSHA requirement.
If you are interested in establishing an industrial rescue training program for your facility, conducting annual rescue refresher training, or implementing an industrial rescue team at your facility, contact us today! Our highly trained staff can assist in team development and ongoing or new employee training.