LA Fire Department Boosts Confined Space Awareness

Joining Cal/OSHA officials at a news conference, Battalion Chief Jack Wise said, "It is our experience that the victims, would-be rescuers, and co-workers either fail to adhere to their emergency plans or simply do not have a plan in place, with catastrophic results."

The California Department of Industrial Relations' Division of Occupational Safety and Health (Cal/OSHA) joined forces March 28 with the Los Angeles Fire Department to urge employers and employees to prepare properly for working in confined spaces. Officials from both agencies participated in a news conference where LAFD personnel gave a confined space rescue demonstration and potential hazards were explained.

Cal/OSHA launched a statewide confined space education and awareness campaign in February after seven confined space deaths and numerous injuries in 2011. Illustrating the variety of industries where confined spaces are common, those deaths occurred at a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical facility, a winery, a paint manufacturing plant, and a recycling center.

"Today's event with the Los Angeles Fire Department helps raise awareness of the hazards associated with working in confined space environments and the need for employers to have an effective emergency response plan in place before a critical situation arises," DIR Director Christine Baker said. "As a national leader in workplace safety, Cal/OSHA is working with labor, employers, and public safety officials to eliminate this type of preventable fatality in the workplace."

Some of the 2011 fatalities involved potential rescuers attempting to aid someone who had collapsed in a confined space. "These confined space deaths and serious injuries were all preventable had safety practices been in place. It is even more tragic that, in many cases, workers attempting to rescue their co-workers also fall victim," said Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess. "Confined spaces can be deceptively dangerous. Employers need to assess if they have such a hazard, identify and mark those spaces, [and] provide employee and supervisor training and on-site rescue plans and equipment."

"In the last year alone, we have responded to three confined space rescues," said LAFD Battalion Chief Jack Wise. "It is our experience that the victims, would-be rescuers, and co-workers either fail to adhere to their emergency plans or simply do not have a plan in place, with catastrophic results."

Cal/OSHA has posted extensive information about confined space hazards on its website at www.dir.ca.gov/dosh/confinedspace.

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