As I reflect on the brave Americans we’ve had the pleasure of working with, it reminds me of the History Channel mini-series AMERICA: The Story Of Us. With Veterans Day approaching, the episode focusing on WWII resonates in my mind most. In case you aren’t familiar, I will do my best to summarize it here.
In the show, Actor Michael Douglas said, “That was our finest generation in terms of people who would sacrifice and give something of themselves.” First, that generation survived the Depression. Next, they risked their lives every day in wars for their country—and not just on the battlefield. In just four years of war, over 300,000 aircraft, 20,000 rifles and small arms, and 40,000,000 bullets came out of US factories. Making weapons could be as dangerous as using them.
In August of 1942, American made B-17 bombers attempted the first-ever high-altitude precision bombing. The planes were cramped, unheated and unpressurized. Crews suffered claustrophobia, altitude sickness, and frostbite. Of the 111 men on this mission, 31 were dead or missing by the end of the war. These men depend on each other. The danger bound the crew on every mission together.
Military expert 1st Sergeant William Bodette said, “if you ask anybody that’s ever been in combat, they will tell you, yeah, sure, you fought for your country, you fought for your way of life, but in all reality, you’re fighting for your buddy that’s right next to you.” Americans faced dire times during WWII, but that sense of comradery and family that was so prevalent then is still alive in American industry today.
As providers of confined space rescue services, we work across a broad span of manufacturing, construction, and agricultural industries. The people who work in these industries are folks we are honored to have as clients. These are I’ll-give-you-the-shirt-off-my-back Americans. These are people who view their co-workers as extended family. And it’s not uncommon that some are related to one another. And of course, when a family member is in trouble, we come to their rescue.
When it comes to a confined space rescue, it’s important to remember the risks. While recusing someone is admirable and courageous, we want to ensure that workers never unnecessarily put themselves in harm’s way. Many of the people who work in the industries we work with are veterans, volunteer first-responders, or prior team-sport athletes.
These people may rush to rescue a coworker, but deaths occur often during confined space rescues (CSR), particularly permit-required confined space rescues. In fact, an estimated 60% of fatalities in confined spaces are would-be rescuers. Employees should never attempt to rescue an entrant without the proper training because they can then get caught themselves in the confined space.
To protect would-be rescuers, some companies have trained personnel within the company to conduct rescues. Other companies may not have trained personnel or want to incur the liability for emergency rescue. These companies depend on specially trained CSR providers, such as O’Brien’s Confined Space Rescue Services, to conduct emergency rescues.
If you are part of a rescue team, you must be familiar with your site-specific confined space rescue plan and roles. All members of the team must be specially trained in confined space rescue work. The team must have at least one member certified in CPR and first aid. All members of the team must be trained in the techniques and equipment for specific confined spaces.
When a company or individual takes confined space rescue into their own hands, they are taking on immense responsibility. Rescuers are taking on the responsibility of saving their co-workers’ lives. Those who actually enter the confined space are putting their own lives at risk. Whether or not to attempt a confined space rescue yourself is a decision that needs to be carefully evaluated and well planned.
This Veteran’s Day, we think of all the people, near and far, who put their lives at risk for their country and countrymen. Whether it’s on the battlefield in a foreign land or in a confined space right here at home, thank you to those who put their lives on the line for our safety. From all of us here at O’Brien’s Safety Services, we salute you.