Confined space work is potentially a lethal environment for many reasons; engulfment, drowning and hostile gaseous environments. Careful and thorough risk assessment and hazard identification is paramount when considering this type of work. Every potential threat must be covered when planning the access and confined space rescue procedures.
Regular training practice and updates is essential. This ensures that when required, the access and rescue team can respond quickly and efficiently to an emergency situation.
The importance of this was recently demonstrated when Height Dynamics were called upon to provide confined space access and rescue to a large client involved in surveying and mapping defects in one of the large storm water drains running under the city.
There was only one known entry/exit point available. This significantly increased the risk to personnel accessing the drain. Height Dynamics sent an exploratory team in prior to commencement of work to identify any additional hazards. They also located a ‘safe zone’ and other points of entry/exit. Once this was completed a re-assessment of the SWMS and rescue procedure occurred. All workers on site then attended a toolbox meeting to communicate the changes.
Work progressed in the drain over a period of 2 days without incident until a large pipe began dumping water directly into the main entry point. The water level in the main drain rising to knee level in a matter of minutes.
Due to the careful planning and procedures that were put in place the rescue team were able to move the surveyors to a safe zone. This gave the team the ability to exit the drain if required. Fortunately the water subsided quickly and work was recommenced without major disruption.
Careful and thorough risk assessment and hazard identification is paramount when considering confined spce entry.
The incident was investigated by the customers WH&S team including a review of all Height Dynamics documentation and interviews with all key personnel. Outcomes of the investigation found that due to Heights Dynamics thorough hazard identification, risk assessment, planning and rescue procedures combined to achieve the best possible outcome in a potentially life threatening situation and we were praised for providing such a high level of service to our client.