Last week, Helix’s confined space rescue team held their quarterly safety training in Lakeside in conjunction with Heartland Fire’s Rescue Engine 12 crew from La Mesa.
Confined spaces are areas large enough for employees to enter and perform work, are not intended for continued occupancy, and have restricted entry and exit points.
Helix has a variety of confined spaces including pipelines, water storage tanks and underground vaults. District staff regularly enters these spaces for inspections and maintenance to ensure the integrity of our infrastructure. There are 37 miles of pipe 30-inches and larger in diameter, a portion of which is inspected from the inside annually.
To ensure workers stay safe, Helix follows Cal/OSHA safety protocols that include permit issuance, continuous air monitoring, ventilation, the use of harnesses and retrieval systems, emergency whistles and stand-by rescue personnel on site. \
The rescue personnel are members of the district’s confined space rescue team. The team is made up of nine volunteer employees who receive no extra compensation for these duties. Although OSHA requires annual drills, Helix’s team conducts quarterly drills and training to ensure everyone is prepared in case an emergency arises during confined space work.
Morgan Blake, valve maintenance technician and volunteer member of Helix’s confined space rescue team, lowers himself into a 36-inch pipe through a manhole.
Captain Tom Brown, firefighter/paramedic Kyle Tasco and engineer Scott Norris, Heartland Fire’s Rescue Engine 12 crew from La Mesa, practice maneuvering themselves and their rescue equipment through the tight confines of a 36-inch pipe.
Last week’s training session focused on simulated emergency rescues. One member of Helix’s confined space rescue team volunteered to be the victim – an employee who was injured while working underground in a dewatered 36-inch diameter pipeline. The remainder of Helix’s team and the fire department personnel assumed rescue roles.
They worked together to crawl through the pipe to the victim, secure him to an immobilization device, and pull him out of the confined space.Regular safety training such as this allows the district’s volunteer rescue team to practice and continually improve its processes.
Travis Powell, system operator, and Pete Spangler, utility crew member, practice hoisting Eric Hughes, valve maintenance technician, out of a 36-inch pipeline during a rescue training exercise in Lakeside last week. They are three of nine Helix employees that have volunteered to be part of the district’s confined space rescue team. Firefighters from Heartland Fire’s Rescue Engine 12 crew from La Mesa attended the training as well to practice coordinated emergency responses between the agencies.