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OSHA - Is 911 your confined space rescue plan?

image Joann Natarajan, Compliance Assistance Specialist, OSHA, Austin, TX

SAN ANTONIO - Permit-required confined spaces can present conditions that are immediately dangerous to workers’ lives or health if not properly identified, evaluated, tested and controlled.







    OSHA has developed a standard for Confined Spaces in Construction (29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA) for any space that meets all of the following criteria:
•  Is large enough for a worker to enter;
•  Has limited means of entry or exit; and
•  Is not designed for continuous occupancy.
    One provision of the standard requires employers to develop and implement procedures for summoning rescue or emergency services in permit-required confined spaces. An employer who relies on local emergency services for assistance is required to meet the requirements of §1926.1211 — Rescue and emergency services.
    OSHA recognizes that not all rescue services or emergency responders are trained and equipped to conduct confined space rescues. When employers identify an off-site rescue service, it is critical that the rescuers can protect their employees. The emergency services should be familiar with the exact site location, types of permit-required confined spaces and the necessary rescue equipment.
    Calling emergency responders to provide rescue services can be a suitable way of providing for rescues in a permit-required confined space. Preplanning will ensure that the emergency service is capable, available and prepared.
Prior to the start of the rescue work operation, employers must evaluate prospective emergency responders and select one that has adequate equipment for rescues, such as atmospheric monitors, fall protection, extraction equipment, and self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) for the particular permit-required confined spaces.
    The emergency responder must have the ability to respond and conduct a rescue in a timely manner based on the site conditions and is capable of conducting a rescue if faced with potential hazards specific to the space.  Such hazards may include atmospheric hazards (e.g., flammable vapors, low oxygen), electrocution (e.g., unprotected, energized wires), flooding or engulfment potential, poor lighting, fall hazards and chemical hazards.
Agreed to notify the employer in the event that the rescue team becomes unavailable.
    Employers must also inform the emergency responders of potential hazards when they are called to perform a rescue at the worksite; and provide emergency responders with access to all permit-required confined spaces. Emergency responders must be provided with information on access routes, gates or landmarks, a project site plan if necessary, and GPS coordinates if in a remote location.   Employers should ensure that the most efficient means to contact emergency responders is available, any changes to the project site conditions are communicated to the rescue service, and emergency responders are willing to visit the site and conduct a joint training exercise with the employer.
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