Can you rely on your local fire department for Permit-Required Confined Space Rescue?

Per OSHA 1910.146, if you’re an employer who authorizes its employees to enter a permit-required confined space, you are responsible to “Develop and implement procedures for summoning rescue and emergency services, for rescuing entrants from permit spaces, for providing necessary emergency services to rescued employees, and for preventing unauthorized personnel from attempting a rescue.”

Call your Local Fire Department to Assess

Many facilities assume they can call the local fire department for confined space rescue and emergency services. Before making these assumptions, you should contact your local department to assess their training, equipment, and availability. If they are unable to service all your needs, a contractor must be called or put on standby.

When calling your local fire department about confined space rescue, here are a few questions you should ask:

  1. Do you have trained staff on-site for Confined Space Rescue?
  2. If so, what is your typical response time?
  3. Do you have the ability and equipment to extract an employee from the specific confined space at our facility?

Confined Space Rescue Training Varies by Department

Unfortunately, training for confined space rescue is not an option for most fire departments. According to the NFPA, 85% of fire departments are volunteer or part-paid personnel. Many full-time fire departments do not have personnel trained to handle confined space rescue either, and even fewer provide rescue standby services. Fire departments have personnel trained and equipped to handle lots of different emergencies. Confined space rescue, however, requires more specialized training.

Fire departments in large cities may have staff trained in confined space rescue or technical rope rescue, but they will have to be notified of any entries at your facility. If they are called out on a fire or other emergency during your confined space entry, your entry personnel will have to leave the space.

Remember – OSHA requires that the rescue service must be able to respond to a rescue summons in a timely manner (“timely” varies based on the hazards of the permit space) and be able and equipped to perform the rescue in the specific permit space at your facility.

After You’ve Assessed…Next Steps

If you decide your local fire department is equipped and able to perform your rescue, annual training must be performed at a typical confined space at your facility to determine their competency.

If you decide that the local emergency service is not an acceptable rescue strategy, you have two other options:

  1. Train your employees for Confined Space Rescue
  2. Hire a Confined Space Rescue Team

HazMat Solutions offers both customized Confined Space Rescue Training for your facility and Confined Space Rescue Standby services. If you’re not sure which you need, we’d be happy to walk you through it. Contact us with questions or request a quote!