Working in or around manholes comes with plenty of risks. One of your employees may fall down the hole or they may need help getting back up to the surface. Your team may also encounter hazardous substances down in the sewer, such as hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide, and methane. Oxygen and airflow will likely be limited, so you need to make sure you and your team can breathe easy when working in confined spaces.
We get plenty of questions related to manhole safety equipment, so we put together this list of FAQs to help you get started. Learn about the best fall protection equipment and how to protect your team from unexpected falls and other hazards when working near manholes.
How Do You Test the Atmosphere Below?
When planning a manhole entry, it’s important to test the air quality below using a confined space gas monitor before allowing your workers into the hole. Most teams will use a tube or hose connected to a sample draw pump, sucking the air back up to the gas detector, testing it for hazardous substances. Monitoring should be continuous so long as workers are in the space. Oxygen tends to be in short supply, so forced air ventilation may be advisable.
How Do I Lower Workers into the Hole?
To lower workers into the hole, a good choice is to use a safety equipment tripod, so you can slowly ease your workers inside. French Creek tripods are a customer favorite. They use a three-legged design that evenly supports the weight, so you don’t have to worry about the system falling over or leaning to one side. Workers can strap themselves in with the available hooks. The built-in winch is perfect for slowly lowering your workers into the pit. You can control how fast your workers move up and down, helping set the right pace for your work environment. Go slow to help your workers get their bearings.
The French Creek 9' Tripod 3-Way Rescue Unit and Winch S50G-M9 is a great choice. It comes with everything you need to safely lower your employees into a manhole, including 50' galvanized wire rope for added peace of mind. The cable won’t break or fray, so you never have to worry about suddenly dropping one of your workers. The sturdy aluminum tripod can hold up to 5,000 lbs., helping you tackle any situation with ease. We also sell the French Creek 7' Tripod and 50' 3-Way Rescue Unit and Winch S50G-M7 for those that don’t have as much headroom. It comes with all the same features as the 9-foot option.
If you have your own rope, recovery gear and winch, go with the French Creek 9ft Aluminum Tripod TP9. It’s just what you need to complete your kit. Some crews may not need the full nine feet. If your employees are shorter and don’t require as much headroom, you can go with the French Creek 7ft Aluminum Tripod TP7 instead.
How Do You Protect Workers that Go into the Hole?
Workers may face a number of challenges when working below ground. They will need headlamps to see clearly in the dark. They will also need safety gloves, boots, and workwear to protect themselves from sticky substances, slick walkways, and other potential hazards. Your team should always have their footing when working in confined spaces.
Your team should also wear gas monitor clips near the breathing zone when working in the manhole. The clip should audibly beep, vibrate, or flash blinking lights to alert workers when hazardous substances are present, or the air quality has been compromised. This will signal your workers that conditions have changed, and to leave the manhole immediately. Return only after the space has been tested safe.
What If the Atmosphere Changes?
It’s important to check the air quality throughout your shift. The air quality can easily change on a dime as new toxins make their way into the airflow. Get in the habit of checking for hazardous substances every couple of hours. If your workplace has changed in any way, you should be the first to know.
Use confined space radios and walkie-talkies to communicate with your team in real time. If the atmosphere changes, one of your workers can quickly share this news with the other members of your team.
What Happens If They Need to Be Rescued?
You may have to rescue your employees for several reasons. The air quality may change, leaving some of your employees vulnerable to toxic substances. Someone could also injure themselves in the hole, so you’ll need to pull them out as soon as possible without aggravating their injuries.
Again, French Creek tripods are the best way to go. Use the built-in winch to quickly recover your employees from inside the manhole. Both the French Creek 7' and 9’ Tripod and 50' 3-Way Rescue Units come with a self-retracting lifeline that may be raised and lowered if one of your workers needs to be rescued. You can pull them up in just a few seconds in the event of an emergency.
The friction brake will prevent the crank from freewheeling while holding up one of your employees. If you lose control of the crank, you don’t have to worry about the worker tumbling back down into the hole. You can also use the tripod to send down life-saving supplies and equipment if one of your workers is too injured to move.
Working in or near manholes is serious business. There’s always a chance that someone could slip and fall or lose their footing when working below ground level. Hazardous toxins are bound to be near, as well, so don’t forget to hand out gas monitors to your team. Use French Creek safety equipment tripods to safely lower and raise your employees in and out of manholes, so you can prevent workplace injuries.