A New Standard for Rescue Systems
ANSI recognizes that every second counts in an emergency
- By Craig Firl
- Oct 01, 2007
The American Federation
of State, County, and
(AFSCME) defines a confined
space as an area that
has limited openings for
entry and exit, has poor natural ventilation
that can pose serious risks, and is not designed
for continuous occupancy by workers. The
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
provided comprehensive standards for
everyday working conditions in Section
1910.146, but not until this month has there
been a standard specifically for the rescue systems
that are used in confined spaces. The
American National Standards Institute (ANSI)
Committee on Standards for Fall Protection
made ANSI Z359.4 effective Oct. 15, 2007.
Workers in various industries are required to
inspect, clean, test, and maintain these spaces,
making it incredibly important that proper
safety precautions are in place to prevent
injuries from falls into confined spaces.
One of the most challenging rescue situations
involves such confined spaces as sewers,
tanks, or manholes. Access can be difficult
given small openings and a lack of space. Along
with these concerns, confined spaces often present
additional risks, such as the lack of oxygen
or noxious air that makes immediate rescue
a priority. The need to act quickly can lead
to failed rescues. Two-thirds of the deaths in
confined space rescue situations occur when a
person is trying to rescue someone else. Proper
equipment to perform quick and safe rescues
In confined space rescues, equipment
must operate perfectly and quickly. Rescue
and retrieval are critical pieces of any fall protection
program. The efficient and effective
performance of these tasks can mean the difference
between a non-injury incident and
one resulting in serious worker harm. Equipment
choices depend on the specific job site
and typically include one of the following:
tripods, davit arms, winches, self-retracting
lanyards, comprehensive rescue systems, and
Equipment selection criteria
There are six main criteria to consider when
selecting confined space rescue equipment: ease
of use, mechanical systems, durability, versatility,
strength, and portability.
1. Ease of use: During an emergency, speed
and safety are the primary concerns. Decisions
must be made quickly, and there is no room for
error. To allow for the safest rescue, the equipment
chosen for the task must be easy to assemble
2. Mechanical systems: The mechanical
device is one of the most critical parts of the rescue
system. It provides the means to hoist an
incapacitated worker to safety. Lifeline type and
length are just a few of the options. In some situations,
a secondary or backup system is
required. Backup systems are required when the
person is supported or suspended from the primary
line in non-emergency situations. For
example, if a person is lowered partway into a
confined space to perform maintenance activities,
the suspended person also should be protected
by a backup lifeline such as a self-retracting
lifeline or rope grab and lifeline system.
3. Durability: Confined space systems must
be built to stand up to the harshest environments.
Components must be designed from
quality materials that are strong enough to
endure rough use and exposure to the elements.
4. Versatility: The confined space system
should be adjustable, readily adapting to extreme
environments and uneven terrain. A modular
design also is helpful, allowing additions to the
system over time.
5. Strength: The system must be rated for
the application it will be used for, such as fall
arrest, rescue, man-riding, or material handling.
Better systems will be designed to maximize
strength and minimize weight.
6. Portability: The system must be lightweight
and easy to transport, assemble, and store. In an
emergency situation, every second counts.
Accessories (such as a boatswain’s chair or Ylanyard)
can be useful tools for confined space
rescue. Because comfort and the proper support
are critical, workers and employers
must select equipment that will allow
them to be suspended for long periods
of time with reasonable comfort.
ANSI’s new standard specifically addresses safety
requirements for rescue systems typically used
in confined space rescue. The standard covers:
“requirements for the performance, design,
marking, qualification, instruction, training,
use, maintenance and removal from service of
connectors, winches/hoists, descent control
devices, rope tackle blocks, and self-retracting
lanyards with integral rescue capability comprising
rescue systems, utilized in pre-planned
self-rescue and assisted-rescue applications for
1-2 persons” (Safety Requirements for Assisted-
Rescue and Self-Rescue Systems, Subsystems
Individuals engaged in confined space rescue
operations will benefit from this new standard
and compliance is recommended. The
standard discusses the equipment and performance
criteria for systems and components used
in assisted- and self-rescue situations. The standard
also addresses training and pre-planning
requirements and establishes criteria for equipment
marking, testing, care, and use.
The new standard lays out general system
requirements, definitions about the operation
and function of self-retracting lanyard components
with integral rescue capabilities, and
requirements for synthetic rope tackle blocks
and descent devices. The standard also details
methods for equipment testing and training;
requirements for inspection, maintenance, and
storage, including the provision that the equipment
be inspected prior to each use and on an
annual basis by a competent person; and requirements
for marking and instructions.
Similar to ANSI Z359.1, this Z359.4 standard
requires the rescuer to assess workplace
conditions where rescue equipment may be
required prior to selecting a rescue system.
Equipment selection must be based on compatibility
with other fall protection equipment,
as well as hazards and anchorages that are present
in the environment.
End users of confined space rescue equipment
will need to become familiar with the
changes proposed in ANSI Z359.4 to ensure
their job sites are safe and compliant. Specific
actions will need to be undertaken, including
• End users will be required to check current
inventories of equipment to ensure compliance
with the proposed standard.
• Processes will need to be put in place that
are compliant with the standard, including naming
a competent person to inspect equipment.
• Fall hazard assessments will need to be
performed at workplaces to determine what
equipment will be needed to rescue someone
after a fall.
• Rescue plans will need to be in place before
a rescue situation arises.
• Work sites should not depend on emergency
services for every rescue situation.If emergency
services are not able to answer a request
for assistance in a timely manner or if they do
not have adequate equipment, then companies
should have in-house rescue procedures and
trained personnel in place.
• Users of fall protection equipment will
need to be trained on how to use rescue equipment
in addition to fall arrest equipment and
should practice using the equipment.
Today’s technology dictated the need for this
addition to the original Z359.1 standard. As the
standard demonstrates, an essential part of any
fall protection plan is a rescue plan. The addition
of this standard ensures that equipment used
to rescue workers after a confined space fall is just
as protective as the fall arrest equipment itself.
This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2007 issue of Environmental Protection.
About the Author
Craig Firl is the product marketing manager for hardgoods with Capital Safety, Red Wing, Minn. The company designs and manufactures height safety and fall protection equipment. He has 25 years of experience in confined space rescue systems and the related standards.