By Author(s): Andy Speier 
Published Wednesday, June 30, 2010
| From the July 2010  Issue of FireRescue 
As a technical rescue instructor, I’ve had the opportunity to participate in confined-space entries in some unique places. One thing I know for sure: These entries present a number of unique challenges. This, of course, makes it all the more important to have the right tools to get the job done.
I recently had the opportunity to test MSA’s Workman Tripod for confined-space entry. The tripod has high-tensile aluminum square legs and is adjustable in 5" increments held in place by easy-to-insert ball detent pins. Overall, I found the product easy to use. Its strength is in its short packaged height and weight.
I look at four features in a tripod for confined-space rescue: weight, maximum height, footprint and packed size. I’m less concerned with the maximum capacity as long as it’s sufficient to support a single-person load.
Weight: The Workman Tripod weighs 45 lbs. This is nearly half the weight of some other tripods, so it caught my attention right off the bat. The entry point for a confined space is often deep inside a plant or mill, possibly 25–100 feet off the ground and accessible only via catwalks or enclosed ladders. Ever haul a heavy tripod 100 feet up a water tank? It’s tiring. At only 45 lbs., one rescuer can easily carry this tripod without it becoming a burden.
Maximum Height: The tripod’s maximum height (overall headroom) is 8 feet (96 inches). Its interior headroom (underside of the tripod head) is 91 inches. I’m always looking for as much height as possible, and although this is actually on the shorter end of the spectrum, the height wasn’t a problem for us. Upon rigging the tripod over a manhole and using a 4:1 pre-rigged haul system, the crew was able to remove a firefighter from the hole and her feet cleared the opening. The firefighter was attached to a front D-ring on a class III harness, but at 8 feet, it appeared that we could remove a victim in a Spec Pak, SKED or LSP Halfback and have enough of their torso out of the space to enable us to remove them. The tripod’s minimum overall height is 55 inches. This measurement is relevant when you need to work in basements and other low-overhead environments.
Footprint: The tripod’s footprint is 59 inches at maximum extension—a good size if your target hazards are manholes and similarly sized spaces. If you want your tripod to span narrow trenches, wells and lift stations that have boxes built around them, or larger openings, then this may be a limiting factor. A plus: The tripod features skid-resistant feet with built-in leg base support that improves stability and strengthens the entire system.
Packed Size: As not all agencies have the benefit of carrying all their confined-space rescue equipment on a large, multi-compartmented rescue truck, space can be an issue. Many agencies carry this equipment on ladder trucks, engines and former ambulances. The Workman Tripod’s packed size is 63 inches long and 10 inches in diameter. A packed length of 63 inches will fit in many exterior compartments and is considerably shorter than other rescue tripods.
Set-up: Because the legs are locked in place when folded, and the leg base strap is pre-threaded through the base, set-up is simple and can be done by one person. There are multiple holes to allow the legs to be extended or made level on uneven terrain. The adjustment is held in place with one detent pin on each leg. The pins are secured to the leg with a chain tether to prevent loss. There’s always a bit of confusion when erecting a tripod as to how many holes are showing and where to pin the legs. There are no numbers or letters on the tripod’s legs, but this is easily solved with a permanent marker. Additionally, the tripod features a maximum height indicator—located on the inside of each leg—that identifies the maximum leg extension length. I would prefer it if it were on the outside of each leg. To improve visibility, I colored the indicator with a red marker—an easy fix.
The aluminum tripod head has three exterior and one interior swivel eyes (attachment points) that are rated at a breaking strength of 5,000 lbs. The tripod’s maximum load rating is 400 lbs. with personnel and 620 lbs. with equipment. The interior anchor swivel was a nice feature when using a pre-rigged haul system. The outer anchor swivels are for attaching change-of-direction pulleys for hoists and fall protection mounted on the tripod legs. The three legs are attached to the head and, when stored, are locked in place to prevent the tripod from opening in transit and to prevent the legs from becoming entangled. Take a moment to read the directions as to how to release the legs when packaging the tripod. This is time well spent.
The tripod comes with a 1" yellow, solid-webbing leg base support strap that features a spring-loaded cam buckle. So, in addition to being used as a leg base support, it can also be used as a carrying sling. I often see tripods that come with chain (read: heavy) or cordage secured by a Prusik or ascender to function as the leg base support. The flat webbing with the cam buckle appears to be a good solution as it’s light and easy to adjust.
The tripod also comes with a carrying bag that’s big enough to fit the tripod without a lot of work. It’s made of a coated nylon, which is sufficient for use during transport and storage.
The Workman Tripod is compatible with the Lynx Hoist and Lynx Rescuer units. Prior to using either of these units with the tripod, I recommend that you review the instructions and consult with an MSA Technical Consultant.
On another note, I recently had the chance to participate in a series of confined-space entries in two 2,800-foot-long storm drain systems, where we put the Workman Tripod to good use. Due to the length of the system, there were numerous entry and exit points. Team members appreciated that the Workman Tripod was lightweight compared to other, heavier tripods.
The bottom line: If you’re looking for a tripod that’s a bit lighter, and you don’t need an exceptionally tall tripod, then the MSA Workman Tripod ($700) may work out well for your team.
Note: Thank you to Captain Jon Winkelman and the crew at Station 91 at McLane Fire & Life Safety in Olympia, Wash., for their assistance and input in this review.
- Lightweight; and
- Easy to use.
- On the shorter side.
P.O. Box 426
Pittsburgh, PA 15230
Web: www.msanet.com 
Comment Now: Post Your Thoughts & Comments on This Story