Confined Space Emergency Plan Requirements

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Here’s what your jurisdiction’s OHS law says about confined space emergency plans:

Federal: 1) Confined space entry permit systems must specify the protection equipment and emergency equipment to be used by a person who takes part in the rescue of a person from a confined space or responds to other emergency situations in a confined space [Canada OHS Regs., Sec. 11.3(d)]; and 2) if employers can’t comply with requirements of Sec. 11.4(1)(a), they must, with the JHSC, establish emergency procedures to be followed in the event of an accident or other emergency in or near the confined space, which specify the date they were established and provide for the immediate evacuation of the confined space when: a) an alarm is activated; or b) there’s a significant change in the confined space’s atmosphere that would adversely affect the health or safety of a person in the space [Sec. 11.5(1)(a)].

Alberta: 1) Employers must have general emergency response plans for the workplace [OHS Code 2009, Sec. 115(1)]; and 2) that emergency response plan must include the emergency procedures to be followed if there’s an accident or other emergency regarding a confined space, including procedures in place to evacuate the confined or restricted space immediately: a) when an alarm is activated; b) if the concentration of oxygen inside the confined space drops below 19.5% by volume or exceeds 23% by volume; or c) if there’s a significant change in the amount of hazardous substances inside the confined space [Sec. 55(3)].

British Columbia: Confined space entry program must include written safe work procedures that address rescue [OHS Reg., Sec. 9.5(c)(vii)].

Manitoba: Safe work procedures for working in a confined space must include an emergency response plan and rescue procedures to be implemented in the event of an accident or other emergency in a confined space [Workplace Health & Safety Reg., Sec. 15.2(2)(e)].

New Brunswick: A competent person must evaluate and test a confined space and, in a written report, set out the emergency procedures to be followed in the event of an accident or other emergency in or near the confined space, including immediate evacuation of the confined space when an alarm is activated or there’s any significant change in the concentration, level or percentage determined by the tests [General OHS Reg., Sec. 263(3)(d)].

Newfoundland/Labrador: 1) Employers must conduct a risk assessment in a workplace in which a need to rescue or evacuate workers may arise [OHS Regs., Sec. 38(1)]; 2) if that risk assessment shows a need for evacuation or rescue, the employer must develop written rescue and evacuation procedures [Sec. 38(2)]; 3) such procedures are required for, but not limited to, work in confined spaces or where there’s a risk of entrapment [Sec. 38(3)(b)]; and 4) employers must ensure that emergency rescue procedures are established and followed where workers are trained in the event of an accident or other emergency in or near the confined space, including immediate evacuation of the confined space [Sec. 516].

Northwest Territories/Nunavut: A written code of practice for entry to and work in confined spaces must contain rescue procedures and a list of rescue equipment [General Safety Regs., Sec. 37(1)(g)].

Nova Scotia: Written confined space entry procedures must include written emergency procedures to be followed in the event of an accident or other emergency in or near a confined space, including: 1) immediate evacuation of the confined space when an alarm is activated or there’s a significant, unexpected and potentially hazardous change in the concentration, level or percentage determined by tests of the space; 2) a determination of whether more than one person must be present outside a confined space during occupancy by a person; and 3) a written rescue procedure [Occupational Safety General Regs., Sec. 130(3)(f)].

Ontario: A written confined space entry plan must include provisions for on-site rescue procedures [Confined Space Reg., Sec. 7(3)(c)].

Prince Edward Island: OHS regulations don’t specifically state that employers must create emergency plans for confined spaces, but this requirement is implied. The regulations require employers to ensure that: 1) workers only enter confined spaces where training in emergency procedures is provided for workers assigned to a confined space entry job (including a worker stationed outside the confined space) [OHS General Regs., Sec. 13.2(f)]; 2) workers only enter hazardous confined spaces when suitable arrangements have been made to remove the worker from the confined space should it be required [Sec. 13.3(h)]; and 3) a worker posted outside a confined space is knowledgeable in the correct use of the emergency retrieval system procedures [Sec. 13.5(e)].

Québec: 1) Before work is undertaken in a confined space, employer must make available in writing measures to protect workers’ health and safety, including rescue procedures and equipment [Regulation respecting occupational health and safety, Sec. 300(2)(d)]; and 2) employers must develop and test rescue procedures that can quickly rescue all workers performing work in a confined space and cover necessary rescue equipment, team of rescuers, evacuation plan, alarms and communications, PPE, safety harnesses and lifelines, first aid kit and equipment and recovery equipment [Sec. 309].

Saskatchewan: 1) For a confined space not identified as hazardous, employers must prepare a procedure for the removal of a worker who has become injured or incapacitated while in the confined space [OHS Regs., Sec. 271(c)]; and 2) a written hazardous confined space plan must include the rescue procedures to be followed, including the number and duties of personnel and the availability, location and proper use of equipment [Sec. 272(2)(g)].

Yukon: 1) Confined space entry program must include written safe work procedures that address rescue plans [OHS Regs., Sec. 2.04(c)(x)]; and 2) written safe rescue procedures must be prepared and followed in a rescue operation of a worker from a confined space [Sec. 2.30(2)].

Is Calling 911 a Sufficient Emergency Plan?

In some companies, particularly small ones, it may be tempting to simply rely on calling 911 in the event of an emergency in a confined space. But is calling in the fire department or other emergency services personnel an adequate emergency plan under the OHS laws? CSA Z1006 notes that relying on local emergency services isn’t always an option. And although the regulations themselves don’t address the use of 911, several jurisdictions have tackled this issue in confined space guidelines. Guidelines from AB, BC and ON specifically state that calling 911 is not good enough. Nova Scotia’s guidelines don’t go that far. They say that use of the 911 system can be part of a company’s emergency procedure but notes that employers should consider that:

  • Not all emergency personnel are trained or equipped for confined space rescue;
  • In some cases, the response time for emergency services may be too long; and
  • Emergency personnel may be out on another call and so unable to respond to a confined space emergency in your workplace when you need them