Industrial Rescue FAQ

When does OSHA require a company to have an industrial rescue capability?

Almost every employer is obligated to develop emergency response plans. The need to provide rescue as part of these plans commonly occurs when companies send workers into permit spaces or the workers are using fall protection equipment. Utility linemen must also be trained to perform poletop rescues and must practice these rescues at least once per year. There are also requirements for rescue if employees use supplied air to enter dangerous atmospheres.
OSHA has prepared a document listing all the standards that reference emergency response requirements. That document can be found here.

How long does it take to train a team?

That depends on the types of rescues the team may be called upon to perform and the skills and abilities of the employees who will be trained. In our experience most locations require three days (24 hours) of training to become proficient in developing pre-plans, sizing up conditions, rigging the rope systems, and providing patient care. If the rescue will only involves retrieval (low angle operations where you are pulling/sliding but not lifting the patient using ropes) then the training will require about eight hours.

How much does the equipment cost?

It depends on the size of the team and any special situations the team must confront. To equip a six to ten member team for industrial rescue usually costs about $6000. This would include ropes, harnesses, hardware, and helmets. You'll want to budget about $750 to $1000 a year for replacement equipment.

Can you rely on the local fire department?

There are some locations that rely on off-site emergency responders. These companies have a formal agreement with these agencies which ensures that the the response times and availability will meet the intent of the standards. Without this type of coordination, employers should not rely on outside help.

How often do we need to retrain?

The team needs to retrain often enough to ensure that they can perfrom if called upon. OSHA requirements are quite lax, requiring only one rescue drill per year in each space (or type of space). We recommend performing some type of rescue drill at least every quarter.

Can we do our own training?

Every drill or exercise the team conducts is a form of training, so yes, the team can train themselves once they have the requisite skills. We would not recommend teams training themselves initially given the special expertise required.

What level of rescue does my facility need?

That depends on the types of exposures faced by your employees. With respect to the permit space standard, most locations provide an Operations-level rescue capability as defined by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). These teams can perfrom basic rescues of individual patients from spaces in which the hazards are controlled and the rescuers can enter the space wearing needed personal protective equipment. If the rescuers must use supplied-air or set up complicated rope systems then they will require more advanced training.

Is it better to have your own team or contract with a standby rescue team?

Each have their advantages and disadvantages. An in-depth discussion of each approach can be found here.

Can anyone be on a rescue team?

We believe that almost anyone can contribute in some capacity to a rescue. However, active team members do need to have the right mix of skills, physical attributes, and mental attitudes. A consistent safety attitude is a must, as is the ability to work well on a team. There are limitations (both mental and physical) which would preclude some individuals from, say, entering a permit space or working at height, but there are still roles for these people to play on the team.

How much risk do members of the rescue team face?

Very little. In fact, all the rescue procedures are designed to minimize risk to the rescuers. For example, the rope systems, when used properly, expose the rescuers to far fewer fall hazards than traditional fall arrest equipment. The rigging is designed so that it requires relatively little muscle power to operate. It is also "fail safe." If all the team members let go of the ropes at the same time, the system will not allow the patient or rescuers to fall.

What kinds of employees make good rescuers?

We find that team members with good problem-solving skills, good teamwork skills, and a background in rigging generally make good rescuers. Those with firefighting or medical skills generally make good team members.

Mary Johnson May 29, 2013
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