Safety products manufacturer MSA South Africa in February launched a modular device, Smart Arm, which enables workers to quickly set up flanged horizontal or vertical rope access points for easier entry or exit from a confined space.
Smart Arm is a mobile, metal arm that is fastened above an entry point to ensure a secure lifeline and give better leverage and support to the worker.
A rope and harness are hooked onto the device, which is safely secured to a horizontal entrance point, explains MSA Africa fall protection product manager Emmanuel Manaka.
He notes that the MSA Smart Arm is designed for industries where there is limited space for worker manoeuvrability, especially the oil, gas, petrochemicals and the wine and brewery industries, where it has been particularly successful since its launch in South Africa.
He adds that confined space rescues can be technically challenging, owing to the environ-ment in which they occur.
“Confined spaces in many industries are often narrow and constricting and are usually either unlit or poorly lit, forcing rescuers to use their own light source. Confined spaces also often contain hazardous materials in liquid or gas form, which can be harmful or fatal to humans,” Manaka says.
He points out that these hazards, therefore, create a limited window during which to per-form a rescue.
“The general rule is that, after four minutes without oxygen, a person in a confined space will likely suffer asphyxia, resulting in either brain damage or death,” Manaka states, adding that the urgent need to rescue someone from a confined space can lead to ill-prepared rescue attempts, with two-thirds of all deaths occurring in confined spaces attributed to persons attempting to rescue someone else.
When an entry hatch is on the side of a smoke stack or building, securing a lifeline can be a challenge. If anything goes wrong, rescuers are also endangering themselves and putting their lives at risk.
Manaka notes that, in an emergency, a worker can be extracted with a single action without a rescue worker having to enter the space, reducing risk of death or injury.
“Owing to the nature of confined-space rescues, specialised equipment is necessary to perform a safe and successful rescue. Should an entry rescue be necessary, rescue personnel will wear protective clothing appropriate for the situation,” he says.
Manaka adds that this may include a self-contained breathing apparatus and protective headgear, as well as the use of explosion-proof lighting.
The rescuer, he says, may also wear a full body harness with an attached safety line, especially if a vertical descent is required.
“To assist vertical descents, a mechanical winch and tripod may be set up over the access point if the bottom of the confined space is more than five feet from the entrance,”adds Manaka.
He notes that the Smart Arm is a simple device that is easy to use, transport and install.
“The device is compliant as an anchorage connector, thereby providing a safe option for entry and emergency extraction by elimin-ating the need for rescue workers to enter the confined space.
It also provides a speedy single-action recovery process that greatly reduces the potential for injury even further,” Manaka says.
“Local industries, such as offshore oil and gas, mining and emergency services, as well as any other business that deals with confined spaces, can ensure the improved safety of their employees while complying with increasingly stringent safety legislation using the MSA Smart Arm,” he concludes.