Do I need a rescue plan before entering a confined space?

Regulation 74 states:

A person conducting a business or undertaking must establish first aid and rescue procedures to be followed in an emergency and ensure those procedures are practised as necessary to ensure that they are efficient and effective. First aid and rescue procedures must be initiated from outside the confined space as soon as practicable in an emergency.

The person conducting a business or undertaking must also ensure that openings for entry and exit are of a sufficient size to allow emergency access; openings are not obstructed; and any plant, equipment and personal protective equipment provided for first aid or emergency rescue are maintained in good working order.

When establishing emergency procedures, the following factors must be taken into account to manage risks associated with confined spaces:

  1. whether the work can be carried out without the need to enter the confined space
  2. the nature of the confined space
  3. any changes in hazards associated with the concentration of oxygen or the concentration of airborne contaminants in the confined space
  4. 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
  5. the type of emergency and rescue procedures required.

Consideration should also be given to the following:

Location of the confined space – What is the geographic location of the space, how accessible is it in an emergency and how far away is it from appropriate medical facilities?

  1. 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?  Planning needs to ensure that rescue and emergency personnel can access the workplace during night shift, weekends and holiday periods.
  2. Rescue and resuscitation equipment – What kinds of emergencies are contemplated? The provision of suitable rescue and resuscitation equipment will depend on the potential emergencies identified.  Selected rescue equipment should be kept in the close proximity to the confined space so that it can be used immediately.
  3. Capabilities of rescuers – Are  rescuers properly trained, sufficiently fit to carry out their task and capable of using any equipment provided for rescue (eg breathing apparatus, lifelines, and fire-fighting equipment)?  How will rescuers be protected during the emergency operation?
  4. First aid – Is appropriate first aid available for immediate use?  Are trained first aid personnel available to make proper use of any necessary first aid equipment?
  5. Local emergency services –  if they are to be relied on for rescue – How will the local emergency services be notified of an incident?  What information about the particular dangers in the confined space will be given to them upon their arrival?  Have prior arrangements been made with local emergency services to ensure they are able to respond in a reasonable time and have the specialist confined space retrieval equipment readily available?

First aid and rescue procedures must be rehearsed with relevant workers to ensure that they are efficient and effective.

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. Where openings are found to be inadequate, their size should be increased, or an alternative safe means of entry and exit should be provided.

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