Confined Space Rescue
Consider the following "hypothetical" scenerio:
A property owner in the first due response area of a rather rural volunteer fire department has several confined spaces including several which are "Permit Required" spaces. The fire department then finds out that the property owner has designated the fire department as the "Rescue Organization" in accordance with the requirements of OSHA 29CFR1910.146.
Here's the "glitch", the fire department personnel are not trained (formally or informally) on confined space hazards or rescue techniques nor do they have any specialized confined space rescue equipment.
It seems like three choices are available:
1. Do not formally acknowledge designation as the "Rescue Organization" and if an event does occur, do what you can using equipment which you do have and are trained in use of (SCBA, Utility rope, etc.).
2. Accept/Acknowledge designation as "Rescue Organization", do some basic training (formal/informal) in entry, recovery, environmental monitoring, etc.
3. Accept/Acknowledge designation as "Rescue Organization" and qualify adequate number of personnel in confined space rescue techniques (formal training).
What are the "liabilities" associated with each option. I've heard some people actually recommend option # 1 (No Hear, No See, No Liability). Seems the least desired option to me.
Joe Pechacek, FPE
Hamilton Fire Department
Among other things, OSHA regulation 1910.146 states that an employer must, "provide the rescue team or service with access to all permit spaces from which rescue may be necessary so that the rescue service can develop appropriate rescue plans and practice rescue operations." Furthermore, it is the responsibility of the property owner to evaluate the capability of the rescue team.
I can understand why some people would choose option #1, but let's be honest, when people call 911, we go. Therefor, it's smart to learn all there is to know about the things that can hurt us.
In my opinion, option #2 is not realistic. To teach entry, you are talking about operations level. This is extremely expensive and time consuming.
Understanding the tremendous cost, in time as well as finances, I would always choose #3 if able.
I believe that you are either in or out with confined space rescue. You should inform these industries that you will not respond to this type of incident or get fully involved with certified training and proper equipment.
First off, the firefighters ought to be trained to at least recognize and understand the hazards of any confined space, not just the ones at the facility. In just about any community there are too many to list - sewers, trenches, septic tanks, untility vaults, empty/partailly empty below ground pools, etc....
The department needs trained in the recognition so they don't get killed.
By the numbers-
1. Don't formally acknowledge it...
If you don't formally accept it, you have to formally unaccept it by certified letter or whatever means necessary, cc'd to all the important people, city manager, plant manager, city/county attorneys, maybe the plant insurance carrier and lawyers. A lawyer will kill you on this one if you don't formally deny it.
2 & 3 combine them to be -
Get with all local industries that have you designated as the responder. Advise them you will not respond unless they provide for your equipment and your training (and maybe a little annual subsidy).
[This message has been edited by S. Cook (edited February 12, 2000).]
I like S. Cook's recommendation - at a minimum, learn the hazards, just like hazmat Right-To-Know or Awareness-level training. Then, work on having the industry put it's money where it's mouth is. Try to persuede them to put up the funding for training and equipment. It's pretty much an all-or-none proposition - you can't half-*** confined space rescue unless you want to become the next statistic. The reason that there are so many regulations on permit-entry confined spaces is over the years, more would-be rescuers became victims than the number of people who got into trouble in the first place. By simply not going in after someone who was down, fatalities could be cut by more than half. As far as not answering, you may be legally bound to answer a call by your state - "duty to respond". This does not mean you have to attempt a rescue for which you don't have the proper equipment or training for. In fact, that might get you into more hot water than anything (think about EMS - you would be ill advised to perform care above your level of training). You could respond and manage the scene, and call for a qualifed commercial or municipal confined space rescue team to handle the problem. If you arrived at an 8000 gallon tanker truck spill of diesel, you wouldn't suck up and dispose of the product yourself, you would call a cleanup contractor. Consider confined space the same way, unless you have the training and equipment. Nowhere is it written that you have to get yourself killed trying to save another. Stay safe.
R.A. Ricciuti, Firefighter
Mt. Lebanon Fire Department
I would go with #3 as well. But, if my department would become the facilities rescue organization I would make an agreement that that facility pay for equipment and training of the team.
Also, with this being a volunteer department in a rural setting, as a chief officer of the department per OSHA I have to devliver a level of service in a timely manner. so, I would train a partnership of half firefighter/rescuers and half facility employees. now my team's experience level has just increased to knowing alot more about the facility as well as rescue practices and EMS.
You can't just close your eyes and look the other way anymore. that facility will call 911 and you have to respond. instead of going in with blinders on, now your going in with eyes wide open and knowing what needs to be done safely and without any further injuries to your crew or to any other facility workers or the victim. You might even be able to make a save!!!!!
First off, to clarify. If the facility had truly designated you as their rescue unit "in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.146", they would have had to contact you first to ensure that you were capable of performing such tasks. By bypassing this one vital step, they have put themselves in a position of complete liability. The preferred method to do this would be to have a contractual agreement in writing, much like a mutual aid agreement. You have no liability to respond to a "known" confined space call, and even if you do, you have no duty to act once there. In fact, without training, if you do act you are in violation of OSHA mandates if you happen to be in an OSHA state. At this point, before an incident occurs, I would advise to send a registered letter to the company, indicating that you cannot be designated as their rescue team, becausse you are not trained or equipped to act as such.
Let's look at an option that has already been mentioned, and elaborate. I personally think this is an excellent opportunity to enhance the capabilities of your department in several ways which would benefit your community, with minimal expense. The company has to do something, they have the requirement by law and by regulation. There are probably other companies in the area with the same needs. Set up a dialogue between those companies and the fire department. Together they could purchase equipment, to be utilized by all for rescue efforts. (Coincidentally, much of this equipment is the same technical rescue equipment that you could use for a variety of rescue scenarios in your district) Then train personnel, funding can be done the same way. Train both FD and private sector personnel, and then train and work together to provide a service for the entire community. Kill two birds with one stone. The industries can deduct the expenses of equipment and training programs, your personnel are out the time to train. By including private sector in the response, you will be able to have a team large enough to mount an appropriate response when necessary.
Charles F. Dusha
Assistant Chief/ Paramedic
I also support #3. When doing your training, use that facility. Our department has agreements with the plants in our area where we train at these sites during the year. Have them make the plant personel most likely to be present in an emergency available for the training and treat it as a drill. Get the site maps out, find out where you can and can't do LOTO. Not only do you get great training, but practical training and pre-planning as well.
Captain - Forsyth Rescue
North Carolina Strike Force 1
An interesting thought I never considered - "By simply not going in after someone who was down, fatalities could be cut by more than half." Thanks rarciuiti, I'll have to use that in my next confined space (class credit to you of course).
Under 29 CFR 1910.146 the facility is required to let you practice in the spaces you will be called to respond to.
Also (and I hate to be sarcastic here but...) whether you are in or you're not in an OSHA state does not matter for several reasons that include but are not limited to:
- you will get killed just as quick in a confined space in either type of state
- the confined space does not know or care what type of state it's in
- a lawyer for the industry will cite OSHA as a defense reference in a non OSHA state
- a lawyer for the prosecution will cite it as prosecution reference in a non OSHA state
- it will be allowed as evidence in a non OSHA state
- a non OSHA state is rerquired to have safe work place requirements equal to or better than OSHA
- OSHA issues plenty of citations in non OSHA states
If the facilities choose not to work with you on training and equipment, advise them they can call a contract rescue team to standby team any time they need to enter a space.
Once they see the cost of that vs the cost of training and equiping you, they'll come around. If they don't, your department is better off.
[This message has been edited by S. Cook (edited February 29, 2000).]
Confined spaces are one of the deadliest things we respond to. The majority of people killed in them are not the initial victims but rescuers. Under law you havr the right of refusal. They just cant come in and say joe shmo is our rescue co. They must contact you. If you can't do it oh well, Don't tell them you can't and to go find somebody else. Also it's not like your losing a run if it's in your first due area your still going, You just probably won't be actually doing the rescue.
Keep your guys safe