The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Heath Administration defines a “confined space” as any space large enough, or so configured, that an employee can bodily enter and perform assigned work, has limited or restricted means for entry or exit, and is not designed for continuous employee occupancy. A confined space is a hazard for suffocation, due to inadequate oxygen levels, carbon monoxide and hydrogen sulfide poisoning, explosive or flammable substances combusting, or heat-related injury. Confined space training is necessary for all Emergency personnel in the case a rescue is needed.
At the Naval Air Station – Patuxent River, firefighters in the Fire and Emergency Services Division must attend a 24-hour, three-day class in confined space training. They must also pass a written exam to qualify in confined space rescue. This is a look at what confined space training looks like at NAS Patuxent River. . . Pax River Battalion Chief Charles Adams said, “We utilized an abandoned water tank and rescue dummies and ran everyone through the procedure. Safety came in first to make sure the site was gas free and give their approval, and then we suited people up in harnesses with rope and breathing apparatus. The goal was to enter the tank, locate and assess the victim, determine which type of system to use to get him out, and then properly package him up and bring him out. Some of our new members still need to take the required classes before earning their certification,” he said, “but participating in the exercise helps them get their feet wet.” During the exercise, two or three members would enter the tank, while others worked outside to monitor levels of oxygen and those of any potentially poisonous or combustible substances.
According to Adams, though the course is required of new members, it also proves to be a welcome refresher for those who are already qualified. Adams says, ““We usually work with the Maryland Fire Rescue Institute and courses are offered a couple times per year,” Following the course, all personnel involved critiqued their own processes and those of their colleagues, in an effort to identify what was done correctly and what could have been done better.
OSHA-approved safety training in confined space entry is crucial to those employees who may be operating in such a setting and to those employers tasked with monitoring them.