Widdop Reservoir nestles in the Calderdale district of West Yorkshire and for over twelve months shaft and tunnel inspections have not been undertaken as Yorkshire Water’s Raw Water Management Team deemed the tunnel too high risk to enter, in terms of successfully and safely effecting a rescue, should the need arise.

The 240 metre x 1.4 meter diameter tunnel is mostly taken up by the draw off pipe and concrete stools, as well as hose reels on top of the pipe at set intervals. This leaves very little room for manoeuvre within the tunnel, which additionally has a constant flow of 3-4 inches of ground water in the invert mixed with ochre, which makes the underfoot conditions slippery.

The inspections are a necessary part of the maintenance programme that Yorkshire Water need to carry out, therefore entry into the tunnel needed to take place.

To enable these inspections, Yorkshire Water asked PMP to submit a rescue plan – not just submit for someone in an office to approve, but to provide a demonstration of a rescue from a worst case scenario within the tunnel.

Entry to the tunnel is either via a 27 metre shaft or via offset steps at the tunnel entrance, so again there is no easy walk in or out.

Several Yorkshire Water personnel were in attendance for the demonstration, including Darren Lynch, Senior Regional Reservoir Manager whose role includes allocating rescue teams to assist Yorkshire Water operatives in their tasks within confined spaces.

The PMP rescue team included their in-house medic who, as well as assisting in rescues, is trained to provide medical intervention should the need arise. Using specialist equipment identified as best for task, in tandem with some techniques not taught on the standard confined space rescue courses, two rescues were successfully undertaken without issue.

Yorkshire Water ensured that a suitable and sufficient rescue plan was in place for this asset by insisting that a demonstration was carried out before approving any further entries by Yorkshire Water operatives.

Actually knowing that a rescue provision is suitable and sufficient and that the team providing the cover is competent not only makes good business sense but also makes good health and safety sense – is your confined space rescue plan suitable AND sufficient?