Filter Self-Rescuers – Usage, Maintenance and Compliance
Filter self-rescuers (FSR) are air purifying respirators developed to aid an efficient, safe escape from dangerous underground mining conditions. They provide protection against carbon monoxide and other such hazardous gases emitted as a result of mine fires and firedamp explosions which at certain levels, can lead to disorientation, unconsciousness and even fatality when inhaled.
Chris Taylor, one of SOCOTEC’s senior field technicians, is the only individual certified to carry out MSA self-rescuer training in the whole of the UK. Here, he explores the importance of self-rescuers in relation to the health and safety management of employees working in underground mining conditions.
What is a self-rescuer?
Available in two types – W65-2 and W95 – a filter self-rescuer is a small, compact piece of equipment that protects the user from inhaling poisonous gases for between two to four hours respectively. Filter self-rescuers work by taking the carbon monoxide (CO) from the user’s ambient surroundings following a fire or an explosion and converting the toxic gas into breathable carbon dioxide. The mouth-operated ambient air filter can be easily accessed by separating the outer shell, which disassembles quickly to reveal the internal apparatus.
Once activated, filter-self rescuers are designed for one-time use only, as they rely on atmospheric oxygen to function. It should be noted that filter self-rescuers do not adequately protect the user from environments where oxygen deficiency is less than 19.5% – this is the job of self-contained breathing apparatus, such as a self-contained self-rescuer (SCSR), which operates using the breath of the operator as opposed to ambient air. In this case, filter self-rescuers serve as the more compact, cost-effective option compared to SCSR units.
When were self-rescuers first implemented in the UK?
Self-rescuers were originally integrated in 1967, when a viable solution was found in response to a series of disasters at several mines across the UK. As part of new legislation surrounding health and safety in mines, it became a legal requirement in the 1970s to carry self-rescuers on the person of all those working in underground mining conditions, and this remains strongly in force today.
Benefits and recommended safety procedures
Each self-contained self-rescue device can be worn as part of an integral belt-loop, and are reasonably small and lightweight to allow for immediate use and ease of access in an emergency. FSRs are designed for optimal protection against rough underground mining conditions, being housed in a durable, corrosion-resistant stainless steel container that is sealed to guarantee a long life expectancy. Indeed, when placed in the mine for usage/storage, the devices are serviceable for four years up to 10 years with life extension testing, which SOCOTEC can provide.
Inspection and maintenance
It is recommended that self-rescuers are maintained by a trained and experienced operative every three months. Quarterly checks are provided as part of SOCOTEC’s maintenance and repair servicing, and all records are updated for each self-rescuer accordingly.
In order to be fully proficient in handling and operating FSRs, training is required before workers are deemed to be legally safe to work underground. SOCOTEC is able to provide training for new users, as well as refresher training for those who are experienced with them. Upon completion of the training, certificates are supplied as proof that the user is fully qualified and competent to be operating the unit, as well as counting towards the employee’s Continued Professional Development (CPD).
Relevant health and safety legislation
There are many regulations surrounding the compulsory usage of self-rescuers when working underground. These not only underline exactly who is supposed to wear self-rescuers, but also provides guidelines on the recommended intervals in which they should be monitored.
According to Regulation 10 of the Escape and Rescue from Mines Regulations 1995, the duty holder is responsible for providing suitable filter self-rescuers to allow those working below ground to work safely, as well as implement safe havens and changeover facilities where necessary. Similarly, Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 requires employers to make suitable and sufficient assessments of health and safety risks to employees, as well as anyone who may be affected by this activity while underground, with FSR devices forming an integral part of this legislation.
Users and employers should also note that it is a legal requirement for FSR devices to be on the person of those who are working in underground mines, with Regulation 5 of the Management and Administration of Safety and Health at Mines (MASHAM) Regulations 1993 states that every employee should carry their self-rescuer with them at all times. However, where carrying a self-rescuer is not possible, the units should be placed at a distance of no greater than 25 metres away from the worker in a readily accessible location.
There is also specific legislation in place when it comes to training – Regulation 23 of MASHAM requires managers to ensure that every individual working underground in a mine (including contractors) are properly trained when it comes to using self-rescuers and following safety procedures. This is supported by Regulation 11 of the Escape and Rescue from Mines Regulations, whereby all employees and employers must know how to use emergency equipment and the designated route to take in the event of a fire/explosion.
How can SOCOTEC help?
SOCOTEC offers a range of services to help your business remain up-to-date with health and safety legislation and guidelines. As well as providing self-rescuer training, we also have a wealth of experience when it comes to helping companies who have fallen short of health and safety regulations to become fully compliant. Additional services include regular equipment maintenance and life extension testing, as well as the opportunity to purchase compliance and monitoring instruments such as AltAirs (a personal gas monitor which serves as a good indication as to when a self-rescuer should be worn) and other PPE-related equipment.
If you would like to find out more about SOCOTEC’s range of health and safety training courses and equipment, click here.
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