So You Have A Tripod
Many workers have a false sense of security. Many times I hear them say, ” We have a tripod, and it has one of those winches”. This is usually a red flag that lets trained personnel know that you are not trained appropriately for Confined Space Rescue scenarios. Why do I feel this way you may ask?
Workers whom rely solely on a winch and tripod are destined for doom. I liken the winch to a crutch for the cripple. If you can’t walk, you rely on a crutch. If you take away the crutch, you still can’t walk. If you are predominately using a winch for retrieval of a worker, you are dependent on it working. If ( or when) it fails, you may not have the practiced skills to retrieve your worker. In addition to your dependance issue, winches are VERY slow! If you have ever been lowered or raised by one, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you winch moves at two foot per minute, it would take you 10 minutes to get out of 20 foot pit. The average human can only hold their breath for a few minutes at the most. If you space developed hazardous atmosphere, and you needed immediate rescue, you would die!
My other major concern regarding the use of a winch is the cost. Most winches today are well in excess of $1,000. That is a costly tool for your company to purchase for the few times you may use it. This cost could be put to much better use by purchasing rope equipment. This cost savings can be paired with a much more dependable system, that has speed limited to the operators desire. Of course the rope systems require specialized training, but they offer so much more. Rope systems can be expanded or reduced depending on the situation. Additionally they can offer the rescuer, and the worker many more options.
One last serious consideration when using a winch on confined spaces that are elevated above grade, and if your winch retrieves the victim, how do you get them down to the ground level for medical care. If you are not proficient in Rope Rescue systems, you will not have the ability to lower your victim to the ground safely. This may translate in a delay at best for the patient, which could translate to an untimely death of your co-worker.
In summation, winches and tripods have their place. However, just because you have one does not mean that you should use it as a do-all fix-all tool. They are just that, a tool. Put that tool in your tool box along with many other tools, and then you will be prepared to work. How do you get more tools, you may ask? The answer is train, train, train!
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