Confined Spaces. Nobody really loves going in them, and strangely enough the junior guy always seems to lose the game of Rock-Paper-Senority, and ends up inside.
Unfortunately and all too often, veterans and juniors alike find themselves in trouble in confined spaces. Despite great advances in technology and worker/employer awareness of the dangers involved, far too many people are killed every year. The US Centre for Disease Control along with NIOSH track work related deaths and currently say on their website that on average 92 people are killed every year in confined spaces in the US. Canadian statistics indicate that about half of these deaths in Canada are due to low oxygen, and that in almost all cases, no gas testing was done in those incidents. Here in British Columbia we haven't had a death (thankfully!) since 2008, however in confined space incidents, it's not uncommon for more than one worker to be killed at the same time. As one of our directors is fond of saying, "confined spaces just lure rescuers in." Clearly there's a lot of work left to do.
One of the challenges with any rescue operation is striking a balance between safe rescue methods that workers can learn and remember when needed and a plan that covers and addresses every aspect of risk. How do you keep the rescuers safe, while making sure the rescue plan isn't so complicated that it takes 3 hours to make entry?
A great new option to show up in the last few years aims to address that problem directly. Called the SureClip, this handy tool is the Go-Go-Gadget-Arm of confined space rescue. Why send rescuers into the deadly space and atmosphere if we're able to "reach" in and grab our patient?
The SureClip is an extendable fibreglass pole, with a clever attachment at the end which allows you to hook a carabiner and safety line onto a fallen worker. It's not unusual for a collapsed worker to be within sight of the entry opening, but out of arms reach. The SureClip lets rescuers stay safe outside while attaching a line onto their co-worker. The spring-loaded end attachment holds the carabiner open and attached to the safety line. Once clipped onto the fallen worker, the spring releases, allowing the carabiner to snap shut, locking closed and the pole can be removed. Now we just need to pull our patient out of the dangerous area.
Obviously the SureClip doesn't solve all the confined space rescue problems, but it's a fantastic tool to have available. It's hard not to conceive of scenarios where the SureClip is exactly the right tool - keeping rescuers safely outside while securing a line inside.
I should note that it also puts the onus on the worker inside the space to do things like keep your harness on! The SureClip is pretty useless if we're picking up your harness and you're not in it. Less serious, maybe, is the fact that it'll be mighty uncomfortable as you're being raised out of a space if you didn't do up your harness properly.
All around, the SureClip is a great option for any rescue team to have. You can't replace the importance of things like proper air monitoring, hazard assessments, line blanking, or ventilation, but when accidents happen and a worker is in trouble, let's keep our rescue teams safe too!
- The Dynamic Rescue Team