Is Your Narrow-Space Rescue Plan Sound?

For human safety and legal liability, your rescue plan for a confined space emergency needs to be comprehensive and documented.

If your work involves a confined area, you have to be fully prepared to respond should any type of emergency arise. Workers in that space could find themselves in trouble at any time, and as the employer, you are responsible for their safety and must have a sound rescue plan that contains, at the very least, the following fundamental elements.

Site evaluation with rescue at the forefront

Proper planning for a closed-in space emergency starts with the assessment of the site itself. You’ve already established what your employees need to do their work, so now you have to think about what getting them out safely in an emergency would entail. Ask yourself whether workers could leave the space without help, and if not, whether another person could rescue them without having to enter the space. Last but not least, determine whether any of your potential disaster scenarios calls for an expertly trained rescue team that’s either on site or on call.

Calculate rescue and response times

If you decide that your situation will likely require a professional rescue team in the event of an emergency, part of your team selection process needs to be how long it would take for a team to respond and rescue the worker. One simple formula you can use, where all the values are times, is “Prep + Assessment + Travel + Contact + Reaction = Response.” You will need to estimate how long it could take for someone to realize a worker in the space needs help and for the time to arrive. In addition, you will have to weigh how long it could take a team to form a plan and set up its equipment. For rescue time, another simple formula with all times values you can use is “Evacuation + Package + Treat + Time Need to Reach = Rescue”. Generally speaking, many enclosed space rescues take around 45 minutes to an hour, with most professional teams able to do it under an hour.

Designate key staff members

You must have clear responsibilities set for staff members on how work in small spaces is completed to begin with, and this should include someone designated as being responsible for overseeing work for signs that a situation is developing and a rescue may be needed in the immediate future. The sooner the need for a rescue is realized and your plan is set into motion, the better chance you’ll have of getting staff out of the space without serious injuries or even worse, loss of life.

Your staff’s safety is largely in your hands any time they enter a confined space in the course of their work. To leave nothing to chance, be sure to contact an experienced confined space rescue company for help with your plan, your potential rescue needs and staff training on rescues and procedures.