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Relying on 911 for Permit-Required Confined Space Rescue?

a confined space that requires permit for entry

Permit-required confined space rescue situations can put workers’ lives or health in danger if not tested, evaluated, and controlled correctly. It is why OSHA has created a standard for Confined Spaces in Construction for spaces that are large enough for a worker to enter, are not designed for continuous occupancy, and have limited entry or exit space. 

One provision in this standard calls for employers to develop and implement procedures for summoning permit-required confined space rescue or emergency services. Any employer who relies on local emergency services needs to meet this OSHA requirement. But they need to be aware that not all rescue services or emergency responders are equipped or trained to conduct confined space rescues. When an employer calls an off-site rescue service, they need to ensure that they can protect their employees. Ideally, the emergency service should be aware of the site location, types of permit-required confined spaces in that location, and the equipment they will need for a successful rescue. 

Things for Employers to Remember

An employer needs a plan for calling emergency responders for rescue services in a permit-required confined space. It will ensure that the service is available and can enact a successful confined space rescue plan.

As a proactive step, an employer needs to evaluate prospective emergency responders based on the following factors:

  • The emergency service should have the required rescue equipment, such as extraction equipment, fall protection, atmospheric monitors, and self-contained breathing apparatus.
  • They must also be able to respond to a rescue call and go about the task timely by assessing the site condition and eliminating potential hazards or tackling them safely. These hazards might include chemical hazards, low oxygen, flammable vapors, electrocution, and more.
  • The rescue service must have the foresight to notify the employer if the rescue team becomes unavailable.

Moreover, employers also need to take other precautions and follow specific guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety. For instance, they need to inform the permit-required confined space rescue team of potential worksite hazards they might face when performing the rescue operation. They must also give the emergency responders access to the permit-required confined spaces by giving them route information and guiding them via landmarks, GPs coordinates, etc.

They must also ensure that they have the most effective and quick means of contacting emergency responders. An employer should also responsibly communicate changes to the project site conditions to the rescue service. Lastly, they should invite emergency responders to visit the site and conduct helpful training exercises with the employees.

Things Emergency Service Providers Should Remember

Emergency rescuers need to know about the hazards involved in a permit-required confined space rescue before attempting the rescue. As an emergency responder, one should also have answers to the employer’s questions regarding their capability, equipment availability, assessment of the site condition, safety knowledge, and more. Additionally, they should respond satisfactorily if the employer asks them whether they have the right gear, knowledge, and experience to handle the hazards involved in such a rescue operation.

Ideally, an emergency rescuer should have the required training to identify, respond to, and protect themselves from various hazards. For instance, they should have respiratory protection training and hazard communication or recognition training. Emergency rescuers should also have the skills and in-depth knowledge required to cope with the other hazards identified on the worksite. If they don’t already have solutions to counter these hazards, it’s pertinent for them to prepare for all such eventualities.

Moreover, the emergency service providers need to ask themselves the following questions:

  • Has the employer told you the exact location of the worksite? It should include information on possible landmarks, access routes, gates, GPS coordinates, and more.
  • Can I visit the site beforehand to hold a practice rescue?
  • Does the company have the best possible way to contact me in emergencies?
  • Does the company have the ability to actively communicate any changes to site conditions during the project?
  • Could group training or other emergency clashes prevent me from responding to the employer’s call, and if that happens, do I have a way to communicate my absence to the employer in advance?

OSHA encourages emergency service providers to collaborate and communicate freely with employers who request their services for permit-required confined space rescues. After all, they need to pre-plan the rescue, communicate proactively, and ensure seamless coordination of rescue activities to be fully prepared to handle a life-threatening incident at short notice.

Since OSHA covers all private sector commercial emergency service companies, they must comply with these instructions. Moreover, state and local government emergency providers in an OSHA-approved plan must also comply with the requirements. 

Workers’ Rights under OSHA

There is no denying that workers put their life at risk while working in confined spaces. With that said, they have certain rights to ensure their safety. For instance, a worker has a right to work in conditions that do not pose a severe risk of harm. They should also receive appropriate information and training regarding workplace hazards and how to prevent them. They should also be made aware of the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace.

Moreover, a worker has every right to review work-related illnesses and injuries records. They can also file a complaint to OSHA, requesting to inspect their workplace if they detect a severe hazard or an employee breaking OSHA’s rules. Naturally, OSHA will make sure to keep the worker’s identity who reaches out completely confidential. Lastly, all workers have the right to exercise their rights without any retaliation, especially regarding safety or health concerns and injuries. If workers receive retaliation in response to their complaint, they should file a complaint with OSHA right away or under 30 days past the incident.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to permit-required confined space rescue, every individual needs to play their part and act responsibly. If the worker, employer, and emergency rescuer are all responsible and well-trained, it will increase the chances of the rescue operation going without a hitch. 

If you’re looking for the necessary rescue apparatus, training opportunity, regulatory requirement documentation, and anything else you need to prepare for a rescue operation in permit-required confined spaces, get in touch with DCS today!