Do Confined Spaces need Emergency Procedures ?
Most organisations have emergency procedures ready for those life-threatening events which invariably happen quickly and normally at the most inconvenient hour. For work in confined spaces, it is absolutely necessary (and law) to have the work risk assessed and emergency procedures not only in place but regularly practised as well. Here are some tips and questions that may help in this endeavour.
Factors to Consider to Manage Confined Space Risks
When establishing emergency procedures, the following factors must be considered to manage risks associated with confined spaces:
- Whether the work can be carried out without the need to enter the confined space
- The nature of the confined space
- Any changes in hazards associated with the concentration of oxygen or the concentration of airborne contaminants in the confined space
- The work to be carried out in the confined space, the range of methods by which the work can be carried out and the proposed method of working
- The type of emergency and rescue procedures required.
Key Confined Space Questions to Consider:
Location of the confined space: What is the geographic location of the confined space, how accessible is it in an emergency and how far away is it from appropriate medical facilities?
Communications: How can workers working inside the space communicate to people outside in an emergency? Exactly how will the alarm be raised and by whom? Have mock exercises been undertaken to determine emergency readiness ?
Planning: Are there processes and procedures in place to ensure that rescue and emergency personnel can easily and quickly access the workplace during night shift, weekends and holiday periods ?
Rescue and resuscitation equipment: What kinds of emergencies are contemplated and anticipated ? The provision of suitable rescue and resuscitation equipment will depend on the potential emergencies identified. Selected rescue equipment should be kept in close proximity to the confined space so that it can be used immediately.
Capabilities of rescuers: Are rescuers properly trained, sufficiently fit to carry out their task and capable of using any equipment provided for rescue (e.g. breathing apparatus, lifelines and firefighting equipment)? Are they tested on a regular basis and via mock emergencies ?
Protection: How will rescuers be protected during the emergency operation? Is protection equipment in operable condition and ready to go ? Examples could be general and job-specific PPE, fire appliances, rescue hoists, remote cameras, etc.
First aid: is appropriate first aid available for immediate use? Are trained first aid personnel available 24/7 to make proper use of any necessary first aid equipment?
Local emergency services: if your local emergency services are part of your risk mitigation controls, can they be relied on for rescue how will the local emergency services (e.g. fire brigade) be notified of an incident? What information about the dangers in the confined space will be given to them on their arrival? Have prior arrangements been made with local emergency services to ensure they can respond in a reasonable time and have the specialist confined space retrieval equipment readily available? Do they know they are part of your risk controls ?
Helpful Confined Space Hints and Tips
First aid and rescue procedures must be rehearsed with relevant workers to ensure that they are efficient and effective. This includes contractors and anyone else who may frequent the area.
Rescue should be performed from outside the confined space if possible. Workers performing rescue must be adequately trained. Rescuers must be provided with and wear appropriate respiratory protective equipment if they enter a confined space in an emergency.
If a person inside a confined space has been overcome by lack of oxygen or airborne contaminants, it should always be assumed that entry for rescue is unsafe unless air-supplied respiratory protective equipment is used.
Potential problems with the size of entrances and exits must be addressed when developing emergency and rescue procedures (part of the risk assessment of the controls). Where openings are found to be inadequate, their size should be increased or an alternative safe means of entry and exit provided.
A great source of information is the Federal Register of Legislative Instruments F2011L02804 277:
Hazwatch Safety are specialists in the supply of Confined Space Sentry personnel and are available for Confined Space and skilled and semi-skilled labour hire for your shutdowns or for daily hire. We can provide the labour for the safe management of your confined spaces and also help with the development of your confined space emergency procedures. Contact Jodee on 0400 668 716 or email Hazwatch Safety via the Contact Us page for more information.