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The Guardian Fall Team Blog

One of the most frequent operations found in Confined Space work is the lowering or raising of a worker through a manhole or other vertically-accessible opening. A common setup might have a Guardian Arc-O-Pod outfitted with our 3-Way Rescue/Retrieval SRL positioned over an opening. Attached to the SRL’s lifeline is a worker, ready to be manually lowered to specific levels to perform an inspection of the interior space. Sound good? Nope! This situation illustrates a common misuse of our 3-Way SRL and a misunderstanding of its intended purpose. For this type of operation, our Rescue Winch is the preferred tool for the job. Here’s why…

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Yes, our 3-Way SRL has the capability to manually lower and raise a worker, however, that is not its primary function or role. The main job of a 3-Way SRL is the same as any of our other SRLs; to pay out and retract a lifeline as you work, and to arrest a fall in the event something goes wrong. The 3-Way’s lowering and raising (what we call “retrieval mode”) functionality is meant for use only in emergencies to extract a worker who has fallen and cannot self-rescue. In the above example, had the worker been using a fixed ladder system (or maybe built-in rebar handholds) to access the space, the 3-Way SRL would have been a perfect choice, since the worker would be lowering or raising themselves under their own power. It’s when the worker relies only on the SRL for being lowered or raised that we get into trouble.

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On the other hand, our Accessory/Rescue Winch was designed specifically for being the sole means of raising or lowering a worker. It does not have SRL functionality, but when used as a primary means of moving personnel (or equipment), it doesn’t need it. In those instances, the worker or other payload is fully secured by the winch at all times, minimizing the risk of falling altogether. Note I said minimizing and not eliminating. Because there is always a chance of something happening, Guardian recommends using an SRL as a backup during personnel hoisting as an extra layer of safety.

As in all other Confined Space situations, proper planning is the key to choosing the correct equipment, and ensuring that in the event things go wrong (or in the case of a rescue, if something already has gone wrong) you have the right gear at hand.  While it may seem redundant to have both a 3-Way SRL and Accessory/Rescue Winch in your Confined Space tool kit, it’s not; each has its specific purpose and intent, and in any given circumstance, one will do the job better than the other. And since you never know which job that will be, why take the chance on picking the wrong gear?