Rescuers Down


We hear about it so often it’s hardly a surprise anymore. Someone in a confined space goes down. Wanting to rescue the person someone else climbs in to assist and goes down as well. Often times it’s multiple people who are killed trying to rescue co-workers, friends or family.

Did you know that 60% of confined space fatalities occur among would-be rescuers? Learn how to protect workers from such hazards: #MSAsafety

What’s Your Fall or Confined Space Rescue Plan?

You have a fall protection program. You have a confined space procedure, That’s all great and good but even the best laid plans of mice and men, as they say… So what’s your rescue plan? What’s going to happen when, despite all the training and preparations, something goes wrong?

All too often, as we call on customers we hear them answer that question with “We’ll call 911!”

Maybe it’s time to reexamine that rescue plan for a number of reasons:

  1. Are 911 emergency personnel going to be able to able to make it there in time? In a great many cases, unless you’re right next door the fire department response times are going to be high; to high to save the life or lives.
  2. Are 911 personnel trained in the kind of rescue that is necessary? Confined Space rescue and rescues after a fall aren’t normally among the training that 911 emergency personnel get. They might not be able to do a proper rescue.
  3. Do emergency personnel have the right equipment? Rescues from falls and confined space require specialized equipment. Don’t assume that your fire department or 911 emergency response team has this gear, especially in smaller towns where there isn’t a lot of funds.

OSHA requires you to have an emergency rescue procedure and plan in place. If you haven’t checked with your local 911 team to see if they can meet the above criteria, you’ll be held responsible, not them.

Start with proper training like the training available through convergence training but don’t stop there. Run through the scenario and have emergency drills. Mainly, make sure that you are equipped and prepared because once you’re in the middle of an emergency it’s too late to find out that your local 911 response team can’t handle the job.

At What Point in a Rescue Operation Should You Call 911?

When do you call 911 in case of emergency? In most cases it’s pretty obvious but in other instances it isn’t as cut and dry.

A perfect example is the court ruling that recently cost Dukane Precast, Inc. a $70,000 fine (not to mention the cost of the medical bills for the employee in question). Here’s what happened…

William Ortiz was in a sand storage bin outside Chicago Illinois when the sand beneath him shifted and trapped him with just his head above the sand line. Other workers in the area were able to free his arms and torso but his waist and legs remained trapped. Someone went and got the supervisor after 10 minutes and the supervisor ordered other workers to help free Ortiz but the sand kept shifting and they were unable to get him free.

After 90 minutes of being trapped and of trying to extract Ortiz, the supervisor finally called 911. It took emergency workers almost 4 hours to get him out of the sand and he was then taken to the hospital. He suffered damage to his lower back as well as a torn meniscus due to the pressure of the sand on his legs and lower back.

At issue is whether the supervisor should have immediately called 911 or whether or not he was justified in waiting till they had tried their own rescue attempts.

OSHA requirements for confined space state that a company is required 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.

While the first phase of this rescue plan seems to indicate that calling 911 is important, it also seems that an alternative is given in cases where they believe that they can safely do the rescue themselves.

Do you believe that Dukane was negligent? Should they have called 911 before attempting to free Ortiz? What it “negligence”?

Let me know what you think!

Four Rescued from Collapsed Scaffolding

In Fort Lauderdale, FL this past Monday, when a scaffold collapsed, 3 workers were left dangling and a 4th fell, buried under a pile of scaffolding.

Check out the video from the SunSentinel news website:


Incidentally, although the news report doesn’t mention it you can see the hanging worker standing in the trauma suspension strap to keep the blood flowing. That, in addition to the fire and rescue, also saved his life.

What happens after the fall?

You’ve got a bunch of workers in harnesses to protect them in the case of a fall because they are working from heights. That’s great! Got trained them on how to don the harness, where to tie off and all the other basics of your fall protection program. Awesome! You’re familiar with the ABCs of fall protection (Anchor, Body harness, Connector) and you’ve got a written fall protection program. All very good!

Stop a minute though and consider what happens when one of those workers does take a fall. The emergency isn’t over just because everything functioned as it should and the worker is alive and well and didn’t hit the ground. In fact, some would argue, the emergency has just begun.

Probably the single biggest flaw we consistently find in a companies’ fall protection program is the lack of an emergency rescue plan. When asked “What now?” about what will happen after the fall takes place, the most common answer we here is “We’ll call 911!”. Problem is that’s not an acceptable emergency rescue plan, firstly because OSHA mandates that you have more to it than that, and secondly because 911 personnel simply isn’t trained to do emergency fall protection rescue and finally, because every second after the fall counts.

If you don’t have an emergency rescue plan in place, here’s a great place to start:


This 41 minute video will walk you through every aspect of the emergency rescue plan that you need to have in place. (click on the image above or go to

A Guide for cold water survival from has just released a great “Guide for cold water survival” on their website.

The guide is intended for seafarers and provides guidance in the following areas:

  • An explanation of cold water hazards and their effects
  • Actions to take prior to abandoning ship into cold water
  • Action to take during the survival phase – both in the water and in survival craft
  • The rescue phase
  • Treatment of people recovered from cold water or from survival cradt
  • Treatment of the ‘apparently dead’

If you work anywhere around water, this is a must-have guide.

All 33 Chilean Miners are now free

By now you hardly need me to tell you that all of the miners trapped for 69 days (70 for some who were the last to be freed) have now been rescued. Most will stay in the hospital where all were taken shortly after being freed but a few, in a surprising turn, are in such good health that they have been released and sent home.

The miners are very pale and it has taken a long time for their eyes to adapt to the light again after being in the dark for so long.

With the release of the last miner, 33 colored balloons were released at the sight of mine shaft where the miners, in a 15 minute long ride in total darkness were brought to the surface. It took over 22 hours between the ascent of the first miner and the last.

To view a photo gallery of the rescue click here.

To view an animated visual of the accident and the rescue provided by BBC, click here.

Not surprisingly, the president of Chile Sebastian Pinera vows to revamp mine safety promising that never again will workers have to work in such inhuman conditions. Meanwhile, here at home, MSHA is trying to gleam what lessons it can from this accident in Chile.