Confined space accidents are still one of the biggest industrial killers - with the tragic irony that more would-be rescuers die than those being rescued, by a factor of 1.7 to 1.
Safety product specialists, OTB Products , Managing Director, David Reed says that the very nature of confined spaces drives home the belief that one only enters a confined space if there is no other way.
He adds that workers and reOTscuers going into confined spaces are often faced with limited/restricted entry, difficulties with communication, dangerous atmospheric conditions, lack of oxygen and the presence of toxic or flammable gases. It is a lethal combination that should be avoided whenever possible.
Once a decision has been made that entry is the only way to achieve the purpose required, then, along with the vital precaution of testing the atmosphere, a crucial safety question is: ‘how can we stay in touch with the entrant every second – every second, and in a duplex form of communication, with communication equipment that permits simultaneous two-way communication.
Duplex communications equipment is used in the industries that include:
- Building and construction
- Materials handling
- Manufacturing and metal working
- Petroleum and resources
- Water treatment
- Primary production
But a safer and a practical method for confined space entries is a full duplex system, through which the person inside and person outside can talk at the same time, so there are absolutely no delays in vital communications or alarms.
The Australian Standard recommends the use of full duplex communications when there is no Line Of Sight between the entrant and attendant, or where other forms of communications are ineffective. The duplex communication equipment, plus permit-controlled entries when applied, should create the safest conditions.
Reed adds that grey area arises from misinterpretation of the Line of Sight rule. If the attendant has to bend down or stretch up to see the entrant, they won’t do it often enough. Or, if the distance between makes hand signals unclear, then the Line of Sight rule is inappropriate. In these situations, the full duplex communications offer the safest and reliable form of communications.
All people need to do is to look closely at the whole picture, taking into account the quicker entry possible, being able to hear the entrant at all times, clear static-free communications and completely hands-free operation with no Push To Talk ( PTT) buttons to push. The duplex equipment can be worn with respirators, full SCBA and chemical suits, plus back up alarms. This simplicity reduces entrant and attendant stress (attendants stress more than entrants).
There is no interference with the duplex systems, which are secure private systems with 200/400hr battery life. They are not reliant on radio signal penetration, are totally water proof, cannot be dropped and are less fragile than radios. One can also use the cable to backtrack to the entry in incident-related poor visibility conditions.
The duplex systems offer productivity and safety gains in routine jobs as well as rescues. OTB Products have recently introduced a rental option for their equipment.
The Con-Space Confined Space communications systems from OTB Products include:
- CSI1100 Mini module, 1 on 1 up to 1 on 3 system, CSI2100 1 on 3 up to 1 on 7 system
- CSI – Talk box System for monitoring and for low noise entry
- Inspection CSI – Hi noise system for work in high noise areas
- SR65I Radio accessory, for use when radio can be used successfully and especially suited to times when respirators have to be worn