Rescue Tips for Using Roco’s Confined Space Types Chart


Confined Space Rope Rescue

Confined Space Rope Rescue is a legitimate concern for industry

Is your rescue service (in-house team or outsourced service) truly capable of rescuing workers from the various types of confined spaces on your site? What about the contractor who’s working on your site with personnel entering permit spaces? As a rescue team, have you considered all the angles in preparing for confined space rescue?

Refineries, plants and manufacturing facilities have a wide range of confined spaces – some having only a few, where others may have hundreds. In OSHA’s 1910.146, a big consideration is allowing rescue teams the opportunity to practice and plan for the various types of confined spaces they may be required to respond for rescue. Obviously, it would be impossible to practice in each and every one of the spaces – from a time standpoint as well as most times the spaces are operating and functioning units within the plant. That’s why section (k) of 1910.146 also allows practice from “representative” spaces.

OSHA 1910.146 (k) allows practice from “representative” spaces

Using OSHA’s guidelines for determining representative spaces, Roco’s Confined Space Types Chart was developed to assist rescue teams in planning and preparing for the various types of spaces in their response area. Our CS Types Chart allows you to categorize permit spaces into one of six types – which can be used to prepare rescue plans, determine rescue requirements and practice drills or evaluate a prospective rescue service.

While there may be hundreds of permit spaces on site, many of them will fit into one of these six types and require the same (or similar) rescue plan. Of course, there are always unique situations in addition to physical characteristics, such as space-specific hazards or specialized PPE requirements, but we feel this chart is a valuable tool that can be used for critical planning and preparation for confined space rescue operations.

Over the decades here at Roco, we have seen just about every type of confined space configuration there is. We’ve also learned that it is imperative to understand the physical limitations of the space access and internal configuration and how this affects the choice of equipment and techniques in order to provide a viable, safe rescue capability.

During an emergency is NOT the time to learn that your backboard or litter will not fit through the portal once the patient is packaged. By referring to the Types Chart and practicing simulated rescues from the relevant types of spaces will help identify these limitations in a controlled setting instead of during the heat of an emergency.

Here’s an example…

Most backboards are 16 to 20-inches wide. With an 18-inch round portal, the backboard will only fit through the “widest” part (or diameter) of the opening. In effect, this cuts the size of the opening in half (see illustration). If the thickness of the backboard is approximately 1-inch, then you only have about 7 or 8-inches of space remaining to clear the patient. This is one example where all the rescue equipment components may fit into the space but cannot be removed once the patient is packaged.

On the Roco Types Chart, you will note that there are six (6) general types identified, which are based on portal opening size and position of portal. For example, Types 1 and 2 are “side entries”; Types 3 and 4 are “top entries”; and Types 5 and 6 are “bottom entries.” There are two types of each due to portal size as discussed above. Openings greater than 24-inches will allow packaged patients on rigid litters or rescuers using SCBA to negotiate the opening. Spaces less than 24-inches will require a higher level of expertise and different packaging and patient movement techniques.

Confined Space Portal Types defined by OSHA

Confined Space Types Quick Reference Chart

Because OSHA 1910.146 requires employers to allow access for rescue planning and practice purposes, here’s an opportunity to be better prepared and practiced on the types of spaces in the response area. So, get out your clipboard, tape measure, some sketch paper, and a flashlight (if safe to do so) in order to view as much of the interior of the space as you can. Gaining access to architectural or engineering drawings may also be helpful in determining the internal configuration of the space for the times that actual entry is not feasible. Armed with this information, it is time to “type” the spaces in your response area using the Roco CS Types Chart.

Once this is completed, pay particular attention to spaces that have been identified as Types 1, 3, or 5. These spaces have restrictive portals (24-inches or less) and are considered “worst case” regarding entry and escape in terms of portal size. As mentioned, this is very important because it will greatly influence the types of patient packaging equipment and rescuer PPE that can be used in the space.

Another critical consideration is accessibility to the space – or “elevation” of the portal. While the rescue service may practice rescues from Top, Side and Bottom portals – if it’s from ground level, that’s very different from a portal that’s at a 100-ft elevation. Here’s where high angle or elevated rescue techniques normally are required for getting the patient lowered to ground level. This is important! Rescue practice from a representative space needs to be a “true” representation of the kind of rescue that may be required in an emergency.

In Appendix F, OSHA offers guidelines for determining Representative Spaces for Rescue Practice. OSHA adds that “teams may practice in representative spaces that are ‘worst case’ or most restrictive with respect to internal configuration, elevation, and portal size.” These characteristics, according to OSHA, should be considered when deciding whether a space is truly representative of an actual permit space.

Roco Note: Practice in portals that are greater than 24-inches is also important so that rescuers can practice using all proper patient packaging protocols that may be allowed with larger size openings.

REPRESENTATIVE SPACES FOR RESCUE PRACTICE (1910.146 App F)

Teams may practice in representative spaces that are “worst case” or most restrictive with respect to internal configuration, elevation, and portal size.

(1) Internal Configuration – If the interior of the space is congested with utilities or other structural components that may hinder movement or the ability to efficiently package a patient, it must be addressed in training. For example, will the use of entrant rescuer retrieval lines be feasible? After one or two 90 degree turns around corners or around structural members, the ability to provide external retrieval of the entrant rescuer is probably forfeited. For vertical rescue, if there are offset platforms or passageways, there may be a need for directional pulleys or intermediate haul systems that are operated inside the space.

What about rescues while on emergency breathing air? If the internal configuration is so congested that the time required to complete patient packaging exceeds the duration of a backpack SCBA, then the team should consider using SAR. Will the internal configuration hinder or prevent visual monitoring and communications with the entrant rescuers? If so, it may be advisable to use an “internal hole watch” to provide a communication link between the entrant rescuers and personnel outside the space.

What if the internal configuration is such that complete patient packaging is not possible inside the space? This may dictate a “load and go” type rescue that provides minimal patient packaging while providing as much stabilization as feasible through the use of extrication-type short spine boards as an example.

(2) Elevation – If the portal is 4 feet or greater above grade, the rescue team must be capable of providing an effective and safe high angle lower of the victim; and, if needed, an attendant rescuer. This may require additional training and equipment. For these situations, it is important to identify high-point anchors that may be suitable for use, or plan for portable high-point anchors, such as a “knuckle lift” or some other device.

(3) Portal Size – The magic number is 24 inches or less* in diameter for round portals or in the smallest dimension for non-round portals. It is a common mistake for a rescue team to “test drive” their 22-to-23-inch wide litter or backboard on a 24-inch portal without a victim loaded and discover that it just barely fits. The problem arises when a victim is loaded into the litter. The only way the litter or backboard will fit is at the “equator” of the round portal. This will most likely not leave enough room between the rigid litter or backboard and the victim’s chest, except for our more petite victims.

And, it’s already difficult to negotiate a portal while wearing a backpack SCBA. For portals of 24 inches or less, it is nearly impossible. DO NOT under any circumstances remove your backpack SCBA in order gain access to a confined space through a restricted portal or passageway. If the backpack SCBA will not fit, it is time to consider an airline respirator and emergency escape harness/bottle instead.

By using the Roco Types Chart in preplanning these “worst case” portals and the spaces that fall into the type 1, 3, or 5 categories, the rescue team will be able to determine in advance that different equipment or techniques may be required in order to effect rescue through these type portals.

*ROCO NOTE: In Appendix F, OSHA uses “less than 24-inches” in Section B (#8); however, in (3) Portal Size (a) Restricted, it uses “24-inches or less,” which we are using in our Types Chart.

(4) Space Access – Horizontal vs. Vertical? Most rescuers regard horizontal retrievals as easier than vertical. This is not always the case. If there are floor projections, pipe work or other utilities, or just a grated floor surface, it may create an incredible amount of friction or an absolute impediment to the horizontal movement of an inert victim. In this case, the entrant rescuers may have to rely on old-fashioned arm and leg strength to maneuver the victim. Once the victim is moved to the portal, it may become an incredibly difficult task to lift a harnessed victim up and over the lower edge of the portal. Even if the portal is as little as three feet above the level of the victim, it is very difficult to lift a victim’s dead weight up and over the portal lower edge. Sometimes using a long backboard as an internal ramp may do the trick. For vertical access, there may be a need for additional training or equipment to provide the lifting or lowering capability for both the victim and the entrant rescuer.

Appropriate rescue pre-plans and realistic rescue practice can be one of the best ways to be prepared for confined space rescues – and allow rescuers to operate more safely and effectively in an emergency situation. Roco CS Types Chart can be used as a quick reference when doing an initial assessment of confined spaces and permit-required confined spaces. It helps in designing rescue training and practice drills that will truly prepare rescuers for the particular spaces on site. The information can also be used when conducting performance evaluations for your team, a contracted stand-by rescue service, a local off-site response team, or a contractor who supplies their own rescue services while working in your plant.

In section (k), OSHA requires employers to evaluate the prospective rescue service to determine proficiency in terms of rescue-related tasks and proper equipment. If you are relying on a contracted rescue service or if an on-site contractor is providing their own rescue capabilities, we encourage you to have them perform a simulated rescue from a representative type space. Otherwise, if an incident occurs and the “rescuers” you are depending on are not capable of safely performing a rescue, your company could be culpable.

About Rescue Talk

Rescue Talk is a group of seasoned rescue professionals and communicators providing relevant content to the rescue community, primarily through Roco Rescue OnLine. Rescue Talk and Roco Rescue OnLine are owned by Roco Rescue, Inc. These assets have been created as a resource for sharing insightful information, news, views and commentary for our students and other rescuers.
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