It has always fascinated me that whilst most appear to be aware of the dangers of working in confined spaces, injury and loss of life due to working in confined spaces across the globe continues to increase.
As we continue to raise awareness of the significant dangers that confined spaces can pose to the health and safety of workers, we must also focus on strengthening all controls used to prevent injury and death as a result of working in confined spaces. Although confined space entry planning and preparation should control all risks associated with a confined space entry, history tells us that is not the case.
Rescue of an occupant is our last line of defence and the protection of rescuers is essential. Not only are we obligated to ensure that rescuers are not exposed to uncontrolled hazards – we also need to acknowledge that if a rescuer is incapacitated by injury (or worse), the initial victim then also remains in need of urgent life-saving assistance.
For our last line of defence to be effective, effective preparation and planning is critical. Confined Space Rescue is a specialist task needing to be performed by certified and trained rescuers using compliant and fit-for-purpose rescue equipment.
Perhaps most important of all – All rescue operations must and should be rehearsed prior to any entrant occupying a confined space.
Here are 6 steps to managing your Confined Space Rescue:
1. Pre-Incident Preparation
Preparation for a confined space rescue operation should include:
- Identifying the personnel who will make up the rescue crew and ensuring that they are appropriately trained
- Considering and documenting the most likely rescue scenarios
- Outlining the equipment required for each scenario and ensuring each item is accessible and in service
2. Crucial Consideration
At the scene, atmospheric conditions should be continuously monitored and all associated paperwork should be assessed and modified according to the exact set of circumstances observed by the rescue crew. By now, emergency service attendance should have been requested.
3. Locate and Communicate
The rescue crew should locate the victim, establish their condition and maintain ongoing communication.
After accessing and assessing the victim, remove them from the confined space (noting that they may be in need of breathable air and urgent medical care)
Pass the victim on to professional medical care (and provide as much information as possible to the paramedics).
6. Debrief and Conclude
The rescue crew should finalise their documentation (which will likely need to be provided to WorkSafe for investigatory purposes), complete any and all post-incident reports and discuss any opportunities for improvement.
Whilst the dangers of working in confined spaces seem to be well known and understood, a lack of planning and preparation for rescue leads to undesired outcomes. So you should ask yourself:
- Have I recently completed or reviewed risk assessments for my confined spaces?
- Is my confined space entry crew appropriately trained?
- Do I have appropriate supervision of the task?
- Have I planned for the worst-case scenarios?
- Do I have the right rescue equipment?
- Are there suitably trained and competent personnel on-the-ready should the need arise?
And perhaps most importantly:
- Can I put my hand on my heart and say everyone in my team is going home safely to their families on my watch?
We encourage you and will continue to work with you, to keep you and your families safe.
If you require further information or assistance, please call our office on 1800 143 343.
All the best,
WAM Training (RTO 22054)