For employers whose operations include confined space entry, here are the confined space rescue team responsibilities explained.
A rescue team must not put their own safety at risk. It is also important to note that a confined space attendant isn't the same as a trained rescuer.
The confined space rescue team members aren't the only ones with responsibilities. Everyone must know, and do, their job. It's important to clarify all of the responsibilities to understand how the safety systems are supposed to work.
Management has the overall responsibility to ensure confined space systems are in place to ensure the safety of everyone. It needs to ensure there is an entry permit system set up, with a confined space rescue plan, and have a system in place so that confined space workers are trained according to their duties.
Management also needs to ensure all potential confined spaces have been identified, as well as the potential hazards on a hazard assessment. Using the hazard assessment, risks must be controlled as much as possible, and an emergency rescue plan developed. The confined space rescue plan must be communicated to all impacted workers.
Management also needs to provide required controls and PPE.
Supervisors must ensure all employees are trained and competent to do their specific role, and that they comply with requirements. They need to ensure pre-entry steps are being completed, and that a rescue service or workers are available. They ensure all procedures, systems, and paperwork are being completed to plan.
Attendants must remain just outside, and follow communication procedures with the worker inside, while controlling hazards and monitoring equipment and other conditions. They monitor to ensure atmospheric hazards do not arise. If a hazardous atmosphere is noted, the attendant must advise the entrant to leave the permit space, and initiate the emergency plan as necessary.
Breathing air attendants are responsible for equipment and ensure air supplies are not interrupted.
Entrants must be alert to any hazards encountered, use PPE but know its limitations, and identify any signs of issues or concerns of working in a confined space. They must leave immediately if directed to or if they notice poor or changing conditions.
For an on-site rescue team, although management is responsible for ensuring a risk assessment has been done for the specific confined space, according to the confined space program and specific rescue procedures have been detailed for the location, rescuers should refuse work unless these have been put in place.
Rescuers need to know and understand the roles of other members, and have successfully completed not only confined space training but also rescue training. They need to be familiar with confined space classifications, entry planning, and emergency and rescue plans, as well as to conduct these rescues safely and efficiently.
Rescue personnel must not enter if it will put their lives in immediate risk, they do not have appropriate training for the type of emergency, or if adequate rescue procedures are not in place prior to the incident.
Designated rescue team members must remain available and close to the area, so a confined space rescue can be completed immediately as necessary. They must be familiar with the structure and design of the permit-required confined space.
Rescue teams are responsible for ensuring that all necessary rescue equipment is available and in good condition, and appropriate for the type of confined space rescue needed for the specific conditions of the confined space. Rescue team members must ensure a different source of breathing air from the ones used by the entrants is available. Self-contained breathing apparatus or a supplied air respirator with an escape bottle should be used where possible.
If an emergency situation arises while confined space work is going on, the emergency response team coordinates the rescue of confined space workers if they cannot leave on their own. They will assume charge, and follow their training and the emergency response plan as required for the specific emergency situation.
The team will rescue the victims from outside of the confined space, if possible. They must only enter if necessary, and they are fully trained and equipped safely, with an attendant outside to monitor.
First aiders trained in CPR need to be available outside. This can be an attendant or rescue team member, as long as that member isn't assigned to perform entry rescues or have other duties that may impact this ability.
A confined space rescue team needs to be adequately trained. It's essential for them to know how to properly use rescue equipment, including safety harnesses, and perform a rescue plan safely.
It's important to note that confined space entry training is not sufficient for employees designated for rescues. Confined space deaths are more common for the confined space rescuers than the workers inside, so thorough safety is essential.
At TEAM-1 Academy, we conduct hands-on rescue training, to better prepare participants. Our rescue training course is comprehensive, covering all aspects of confined spaces to ensure an adequate grasp of the principles and risks involved. This includes developing a confined space rescue plan, hazard control, PPE, entry permit best practices, ventilation and testing of atmospheric conditions, as well as rescue equipment and techniques. Both non-entry rescue and entry rescue techniques are covered.