Understanding Confined Space Rescue Tripods | Major Safety Skip to content

Choosing The Right Tripod Rescue System

When shopping for a confined space entry rescue tripod system, it doesn't take long to realize just how varied the choices are. These differences make it difficult to determine which tripod system is best suited to your application and budget. Below are a few things to consider that will improve your chances of making the best decision.

Know Your Requirements

A tripod rescue system is intended to help comply with OSHA confined space (1910.146) and fall protection (1910.132) standards (States may have their own standards as well). It might help to go over our "Definitive Guide to Confined Space Entry".

Specifically, a properly equipped tripod system will help you meet OSHA requirements for - (1) lowering; (2) fall protection; (3) rescue/retrieval. Think of each of these as a single leg on a "compliance stool". If the stool is missing one leg, it falls over - it doesn't meet the OSHA standards.

Confined Space Compliance Stool

Know Your Components

There are a number of tripod components available to safely comply with these requirements - to build the "requirements stool". It is here that the differences between systems you may have seen should begin to make sense to you. When looking at the components keep in mind this simple axiom - no one component can be all three legs on the stool. So no one component can serve to lower, as fall protection, or as rescue/retrieval.

The First Leg - Lowering

This first leg of the compliance stool is met by using a man-rated mechanical winch. This is a simple to use hand-crank winch which attaches to the back d-ring (or shoulder d-rings) of the entrant’s harness.

The Second Leg - Fall Protection

This second leg of the “compliance stool” is met by using either a SRL (self retracting lifeline) or a combination winch/SRL. The cable of either of these options is also attached to the entrant’s harness d-ring. Yes. This means that two cables will be attached to the entrant’s harness.

Both of these options serve the same purpose. If a fall occurs and the brake system on the winch fails, either one will arrest the fall. Meaning that the combination winch/SRL acts just like a regular SRL. It locks up like a seat belt in a fall. And like an SRL, when in SRL mode, it freely moves up and down with the entrant.

But unlike a plain SRL the combination winch/SRL can also be switched to rescue mode and used as a rescue winch if the main winch were to fail. This leads us to our third leg.

First, however, let’s address the use of ladders. It is an industry practice to count a ladder as fall protection. In other words, to count it as the second leg in our “compliance stool”. We have yet to verify OSHA’s stance on this practice. We would strongly discourage our customer’s from using just a mechanical winch and ladder.

The Third Leg - Rescue/Retrieval

This third leg of the “compliance stool” is met by using the same winch used to lower the entrant mentioned above in the first leg of our “compliance stool”.

A concern here, however, is how to perform a rescue if the mechanical winch fails?

This is why many will opt for the combination winch/SRL option as the second leg - the fall protection leg - of the “compliance stool” as noted above. They do this instead of going the plain SRL route.

As mentioned earlier, the combination winch/SRL acts like a regular SRL. It will arrest a fall. But in the event of a winch failure, it can also be switched into rescue/retrieval mode and be used to rescue the entrant. So it can act like the second leg of our “compliance stool” - fall protection. But if needed, it can also serve as the third leg - rescue/retrieval. This puts you in compliance and gives you redundancy.

Approvals and Repairs

Okay. So you understand the requirements and components of a tripod rescue system. You’ve learned why each leg of the “compliance stool” is needed. Now what?

There are two other considerations that need to be addressed: Approvals and Repairs.

It is vitally important that when you buy a tripod rescue system, it meets all the applicable ANSI/OSHA approvals. This should be obvious and needs no further explanation. Just be aware that a lot of cheap Chinese product has entered the US. This stuff does not meet the necessary ANSI/OSHA requirements.

It is also crucial that the manufacturer be available for approved repairs and recertifications. This consideration is often overlooked. It shouldn’t be.

If a component of a tripod system is subject to a fall or rescue, it must be sent back to the manufacturer for recertification. If any part of a tripod system gets damaged or wears out from normal use, it must be repaired and recertified by the manufacturer.

If you have a Chinese-made confined space tripod, it will be impossible to get it repaired or recertified.

All the systems we sell meet all applicable ANSI/OSHA standards. Moreover, our FrenchCreek tripod systems are made in the USA. This means they are serviced in the USA.

The Right Tripod Rescue System For You

The Safest: The safest system we sell is our S50G-M7. It comes with both the basic rescue/retrieval winch, and with the combination winch/SRL. As discussed above, this configuration gives you all three legs of the “compliance stool”—lowering, fall protection, and rescue/retrieval.

Why is it the safest? With this system, you have a tripod system with a backup or secondary means of rescue and retrieval. Why? As discussed earlier, the combination SRL/winch provides fall protection in SRL mode. But can be switched to rescue mode to provide retrieval capability. This gives you redundancy. It does cost more, but it is worth it.

FrenchCreek S50G-M7 Manhole Tripod System | Major Safety

The Best-Selling: Our best selling confined space tripod is our M-CSKit-25. It comes with the basic winch used to lower and rescue/retrieval. This satisfies the first and third legs of the “compliance stool”. And for the second leg, fall protection, it comes with a SRL. Not only does this system meet all the necessary requirements, but it also happens to be very affordable.

Major Safety M-CSKIT-25 Confined Space Tripod System | Major Safety

Be aware that we have quite a few more tripod systems on offer. For example, we have rope cable systems for energized entries and systems with 9 foot tripods. To view all of our confined space tripod systems, please Click Here.

Tripod System vs. Davit System

We are often asked how a tripod system compares with a davit style confined space rescue system. Let’s look at the pluses and minuses.

Davit System or Tripod System

Pluses of Davit System

A davit system can accommodate more scenarios. Some examples include oversized manholes and square or rectangle vault openings. For large vault openings, the davit system can sometimes be set up on the corner so that the davit arm extends over the vault. Tripods simply cannot do this effectively.

A davit system has more headroom/clearance. This is because it doesn't have a bunch of overhead legs in the way.

A davit system is more versatile. The mast arm, with the winch and SRL, can be easily mounted onto different bases that are available for purchase. A popular example of this is a hitch mount base attached to pickup trucks.

A davit system provides a safer exit out of the confined space. How so? Once the entrant is sufficiently clear of the space, the davit arm can be swiveled away from the space so that the entrant can disembark from the system safely away from the entry point.

Minuses of Davit System

Davit systems are more expensive. A davit system costs well over twice as much as our best-selling tripod system.

Davit systems are not as portable. The pieces are heavier and bulkier than a tripod system. Granted, we've seen some pretty ingenious ways to move them around strapped to a dedicated dolly or hand truck.

So which one is best for you?

There's no good answer to this question. The location of a confined space, say a hike from the nearest access road, might seem to lean towards a tripod system. However, if the entry point to the space is a 8' x 8' vault, then a tripod might be problematic.

The size and shape of the confined space entry point will always dictate your options. If it allows for both, then consider location. If the space requires a bit of effort to get to, a tripod system is probably the best option.

The bottom line is this: a davit system can be used just about everywhere a tripod system can be used. The same can't be said for a tripod system.

Tripod Systems and Complete All-In-One Confined Space Kits

A confined space tripod system is not enough. For the majority of confined space entries, you will also need a gas monitor that detects four gases: oxygen, methane/combustibles, hydrogen sulfide, and carbon monoxide. You will need a ventilation blower. And you will need a rescue tripod system. We make it easy. We sell complete kits that contain all of these components—See Here.

We’ve already detailed the confined space tripod. So let’s quickly go over the 4-gas monitor and the ventilation blower.

Gas Detector

Before a confined space can be safely entered, its atmosphere has to be checked with a 4-gas confined space monitor. The monitor has to check for oxygen (both too much and too little), methane (combustible gases), hydrogen sulfide (the rotten egg odor), and carbon monoxide (the odorless killer). The measurements obtained must be noted on your entry permit. It is also required to then continuously monitor the atmosphere while in the space.

Ventilation Blower

A ventilation blower is needed for two reasons. The first is to provide fresh air for the workers in the space. It makes for a more comfortable work environment. The second reason is to displace with forced air any hazards detected by the gas monitor. If at any point before or during entry the gas monitor detects a hazard, the space cannot be entered (or re-entered) until the atmosphere is normalized. This is done with a ventilation blower and the introduction of fresh air.

Further Word on All-In-One Confined Space Kits

If you need all of the equipment mentioned above, the simplest and most cost effective way to procure it is to purchase one of our all-in-one confined space kits.

Complete All-in-one Confined Space Kit | Major Safety

Our kits come standard with our M-CSKit-25 tripod system and our 9533-15 ventilation blower system. We sell a few different all-in-one confined space kits. The difference between them is because we offer them with different 4-gas confined space meters.

Some of the meters have built in pumps and some don’t, for example. If you need help, please reach out to us. We can customize them for you.

Generally, deciding which kit is best for you comes down to personal preference and budget. All of them meet the necessary ANSI/OSHA requirements.

Confined Space Tripod Wrap-Up

The proper equipment is only as good as the training. It is crucial to properly train your workforce on the use and operation of any piece of confined space safety equipment. Please don’t neglect this. At a minimum have your designated competent person go over the manuals and equipment with your workers. Visit our “Definitive Guide To Confined Space Entry” article for help.

But more than training is needed. What about after the products are purchased? This is where we shine. We have an in-house service center that works on most brands of confined space gas detectors. And if you bought your monitor from us, we also do the warranty work. This avoids long factory wait times and provides you access to timely tech support.

And although we don't service blowers or tripod systems in house (as mentioned earlier, they have to be serviced at the factory), we can put you in direct contact with their tech departments, if needed. We also will assist you in the return of those items to the factory for repair or warranty evaluation by securing the needed return authorization info on your behalf. This saves you a bunch of headaches.

For over 50 years, we've been helping companies enter confined spaces safely and affordably. Let us help you. Call us if you need help. By the way, we answer the phone.

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