Do you have a fear of confined spaces?
Well, whether you do or not, you should have a healthy concern for the dangers that confined spaces can create. If you’re on a team that works with and around these areas, you should know the risks involved.
And once you know these risks, you can put together competent confined space rescue plans. Too many people assume local emergency services can handle these dangers, without really thinking about the timing and necessary preparation. You can avoid this by setting up a plan that has a better chance of success.
We’ll walk you through what you need to know.
What is Confined Space Rescue?
Confined spaces can be storage tanks, ductwork, pits, or any other spot that’s narrow and difficult to get to. You might not think twice about working near a small space like this, but you need to think about the dangers of someone getting trapped in these places.
Unexpected things happen—even if your team isn’t working directly over the confined space, people who work around confined spaces are still putting themselves at several risks.
For example, there’s the danger of injury if someone falls from a certain height into a confined space. While this danger might be present whether or not the space is narrow, confined spaces carry more risk because you might not be able to assist the person until you can get them out safely.
Then there are other dangers, like loss of air, extreme temperatures, and the risk of being engulfed by a substance.
Confined space rescue is the operation of saving someone from an emergency in a confined space. If you’re not already thinking about a rescue plan, now’s the time to start.
When Should You Think About Confined Space Rescue?
Well, the short answer is: before it happens.
You should put together a confined space rescue plan in most construction and civil infrastructure situations. You might not think of your project as “confined” if it’s a large public endeavor, but there may be confined spaces you’re not thinking of.
Keep in mind that these rescue plans are for emergency situations. Rather than thinking of what will likely take place, this is the time to think about what could possibly take place. You don’t want to find your team in need of a confined space rescue without having prepared a comprehensive plan.
Relying on Fire Departments for Confined Space Rescue Plans
You might think you can rely on first responders like the local fire department for confined space rescue. It’s a good instinct to think of these emergency services, but the facts are that these services often don’t come in time to make an effective confined space rescue.
If you are thinking about relying on your local fire department for a confined space rescue, at the very least, you should call them to ask whether they’re prepared and willing to respond to these kinds of situations. Ask the department members relevant questions like their expected response time and what equipment they have that could be used for your specific location.
You might be required to complete a confined space rescue plan to meet OSHA guidelines for your project. In this case, you should keep in mind that OSHA requires a rescue service that can respond in a timely manner.
As you’ll read in the next section, timing is extremely important when it comes to confined spaces. If your local fire department can’t respond in a crucial window of time, you won’t be adequately meeting the OSHA requirements. And more importantly, you could be putting people in unnecessary danger.
The Timing of Rescue
Timing is everything when planning how to respond to future confined space rescue situations.
Carrying the weight of a person from a confined space is already difficult, but it’s not the most pressing part of the operation. The dangers of being trapped in confined spaces are high, meaning survival might be the first thing to think about.
For example, asphyxiation is one of the risks of getting trapped in a confined space. A rescue service might be able to get the victim out of the space, but they also need to do so before these health dangers set in. Every minute is precious.
When you’re coming up with a rescue plan, make sure to ask: realistically, can this plan be carried out in enough time to save a life?
Establishing a Risk Profile
Before you come up with a rescue plan for confined spaces, it’s a good idea to put together a risk profile of the situation. This means you should take the time to assess all possible dangers.
You start by doing an in-person walkthrough of the space, as well as consulting the layout plans. Then you can think through how many workers are using the space and whether you’ll be collaborating with a specialized rescue team.
Other important things to think about include training and communication. Knowing how your team will react to dangerous situations will help you figure out what the rescue might look like.
Coming Up With a Solid Rescue Plan
Your best bet may be to build a relationship with an experienced rescue company.
Rescue teams like ours are specifically trained in confined space rescues. We use ropes and other emergency equipment, allowing us to work with a variety of angles. We’re also equipped for multiple kinds of locations, including water rescues.
Our team builds the risk profile into the planning itself. This is not a situation where you call an emergency service to help out in a place they’ve never been before. Working with us means we’ll start with an assessment of the space and keep that knowledge handy if danger arises.
Expand Your Thinking
The space you’re working with is already confined—your thought process shouldn’t be. Take the time to consider all the risks involved at your work site.
Confined space rescue plans shouldn’t be an afterthought. If you and your teammates understand the value of rescue planning, you’ll be much better prepared in an emergency.
Have questions about what our services can do for you? Just drop us a line, and we’ll be happy to hear from you.
Stay safe out there!