Confined Spaces Case Study Part 2 – Horizontal Entry.

Abfad Limited provide emergency rescue and safety cover for working at height and within confined spaces, they provide these services to many industries, including the power generation sector. They are often called on to demonstrate various rescue strategies and techniques to site personnel before any confined spaces work is carried out. This gives personnel a visible demonstration of the techniques and strategies that will be employed if an emergency situation arises, ensuring their safety.

A confined space is any space of an enclosed nature where any danger of death exists from any number of sources. Confined spaces are hazardous working areas and a full risk assessment must be carried out before any work is started, identifying any risks that may be present, or may arise as a result of the work being conducted.

Confined Spaces Regulations

Safety measures must be put into place to ensure the safety of all personnel during the confined spaces work, including the provision of a specialist rescue team, who can, in the course of an emergency situation arising, perform the necessary assessment of the situation and conduct any rescue needed, in a safe and controlled way.

Regulation 5 of the ‘Confined Spaces Regulations’ say “you must make suitable arrangements for emergency rescue which will depend on the nature of the confined space, the risks identified and the likely nature of an emergency rescue. You should not rely on the public emergency services”.

Any kind of rescue should only be attempted by a specially trained and equipped rescue team, as nearly two thirds of all deaths occurring within confined spaces are attributed to an urgent rescue attempt by untrained and unprepared people.

Thornhill Power Station

Thornhill Power Station is a combined cycle gas turbine power station, based in Ravensthorpe, Dewsbury. It became operational in 1998 and supplies electricity to the local electrical grid. Abfad Limited’s rescue team was called in to provide emergency rescue and safety cover during a scheduled outage at the power station. Before this work commenced we ran through several scenarios to demonstrate to site personnel the rescue strategies and techniques that would be used, if an emergency situation occurred.

Confined space risk assessment

Inspection work was due to be carried out in the Diverter Damper box area of the HRSG gas path/GT exhaust duct. The gas path can only be accessed horizontally through an opening approximately 2’ square. This area is classified as a confined space, and due to the nature of the area, personnel working within have a possible risk of asphyxiation from natural and methane gasses. These risks are all well controlled by the site, resulting in a low risk confined space area, however, numerous other residual hazards are also present, such as poor lighting in the space, and multiple slip, trip and fall hazards from the many studs and bolts present, which could cause significant injury if personnel were to fall onto them.

In order to gain entry to the tank, scaffold boards were placed over the studs at the access hatchway, these also formed part of the emergency arrangements necessary for any rescue.

Rescue scenario

The scenario consisted of a member of site personnel working in the confined space of the exhaust duct, complaining of chest pains and suffering a possible heart attack, resulting in a medical emergency. The exercise then tested the emergency procedures in place and demonstrated the methods that would be used to rescue the injured person. The rescue exercise began when the injured person collapsed with chest pains and verbally raised the alarm by shouting for help to the Standby safety man, who was part of the Abfad rescue team.

The Standby safety member of the rescue team then confirmed that the air remained breathable and entered the confined space via the access hatch and began to assess the collapsed worker and provide some initial first aid. Following an initial assessment of the worker and the situation, the rest of the rescue team were then summoned to enter the confined space to provide additional help and assistance with evacuating the injured party. Staff were also instructed to call the emergency services, so that once outside of the confined space, the injured worker could be given further treatment and taken swiftly to hospital, if needed.

The remaining rescue team were immediately on hand, along with a rescue stretcher, which the collapsed worker was secured into, to be removed safely from the confined space, to an outside area, where more treatment could be given by the rescue team, on site personnel, and the emergency services.

Once secured into the stretcher, the Abfad rescue team used the pre-installed scaffold boards to extract the collapsed staff member and safely remove them from the space.

A successful demonstration

This exercise proved a successful demonstration to site personnel, of a basic, horizontal, confined space rescue, demonstrating the site emergency procedures for confined space work and the strategies and techniques used by the Abfad team to perform any kind of rescue in this situation.

Site personnel commented on the exercise that, “the control of the work (by the Abfad team) was to a very high standard” and “the exercise was conducted very professionally by Abfad”.

Along with this exercise the Abfad rescue team also provided site personnel with the opportunity to test the portable escape breathing sets used for confined spaces, like this one, where toxic or asphyxiating gasses or fumes may be present. These are an important piece of equipment where any fumes or gasses are presented as a risk.

Abfad Limited have been established since 1996 and provide IRATA approved rope access services, including emergency rescue and safety cover for other people working at height or within confined spaces. Visit their website for more details

Injured person removed horizontally  Horizontal confined space rescue

Injured worker secured into stretcher  Escape sets test