Maintenance workers, mechanics, electricians and safety personnel recently descended into confined spaces deep within Center Hill Dam to rescue a trapped dummy in a training simulation. The group set up a tripod rescue system, placed it over an opening in the power plant floor and used a horizontal lift technique to hoist the mock victim 30 feet to safety.
Michael A. Krzychi, Detroit District Operations Branch safety specialist, and Phillip Harrell, Nashville District Safety Office industrial hygienist, provided 20 hours of classroom instruction and four hours of practical exercises to 32 employees who participated in the “Permitted Confined Space” training March 14-17, 2017.
“This type of training is very important to us because it acts as a protector for the men and women who go into dangerous permitted confined spaces,” Harrell said. “Permitted confined space training allows them to know specific requirements for a rescue and practice what to do if the need ever arises.”
Krzychi said the instruction also included hands-on interactive sessions with demonstration, written exams, and field exercises. Participants learn the basics of rescue techniques as well as assisting a fallen victim deep inside Center Hill Dam’s power plant using a no-entry rescue.
Power houses contain spaces that are considered “confined” because their configurations hinder the activities of employees who must enter, work in, and exit them.
Harrell said the class taught participants about identifying spaces, simulated rescue, and understanding Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements.
Krzychi said by practicing hands-on exercises, teaching the basics of self-rescue, and simulating assisting an unconscious victim, participants gain a clear understanding of the communication and team work need for a rescue.
James Sowell, Nashville District Operations safety officer and Crane and Hoist Program manager, coordinated the class with Krzychi.
“We are very fortunate to have both instructors,” said Sowell.
Sowell said 96 district employees attended 15 fall protection and rescue training classes in 2016 at Lake Barkley, Cordell Hull Lake, Lake Cumberland, Cheatham Lake, Wilson Lock, and at the Cumberland River Operations Center located at Old Hickory Lake.
The benefit of bringing in Krzychi from the Detroit District is he is able to “train the trainer.” The 32 designated employees that completed the training at Center Hill Dam will be able to train others around the district at their work spaces resulting in a cost savings of $100,000.
“It’s always great to see our employees receive training that is needed and in this case, we save some money by using the ‘train the trainer’ program,” said Sowell.
Sowell said that even though the training is required by the USACE Safety and Health, and also Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the need for confined space rescue training is sometimes overlooked by many facilities.
Harrell said other class specific topics covered regulations, hazard elimination and control methods, protection procedures, inspections, and components. He said a confined space has limited or restricted means for entry or exit, and it is not designed for continuous employee occupancy.
“Permitted confined spaces are called that for a reason,” said Harrell. “These spaces can be storage areas, tanks, storage bins, manholes, underground vaults, pits, silos, process vessels, and some pipelines.”
The training is critical for safety because mechanics, electricians, maintenance and engineers work in these environments every day at the locks, dams, powerhouses, in and around moving machinery every day.
The district’s goal is to certify training for rescue personnel and this includes requirements for different levels of responsibility. Operations Division personnel have completed more than 95 percent of the required training.
Krzychi said rescue after a fall must be a pre-planned and coordinated event. Current best-practices call for a thoughtful approach to retrieve a fallen worker as soon as possible without endangering the lives of those who must conduct the rescue operation.
Jerry Wisdom, an electrician from Lake Barkley Lock and Dam, practiced a rescue with his group by hoisting a dummy 100 feet from a permitted confined space.
“I think this is good training that I hope we’ll never have to use,” said Wisdom. “If I am ever in a situation where I needed assistance, I feel these guys could safely bring me out and save my life.”
Harrell said safety is always the number one priority, ensuring everyone is paying attention to detail.
According to Sowell, it takes patience and is a timely process for mechanics and electricians to learn new techniques and safety practices.
“Safety and training go hand-in-hand,” said Sowell. “Training is just like insurance for a car. It’s there if you have to use it or if you ever need it.”