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Pre-entry Atmospheric Clearance Measurements

Friday, March 17, 2017

The following article was written by Russell Warn and published in ISHN magazine (ishn.com), December 2016. Roco comments have been added to the article and are noted in red.

Working in confined spaces presents a unique and dangerous challenge in combatting the unseen – oxygen deficiency, poisonous or explosive gases, and other hazardous substances are among the most frequent causes of accidents associated with work in confined spaces and containers.

From 2005-2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported nearly two deaths per week, or roughly 96 per year, could be attributed to confined space, with about 61 percent occurring during construction repair or cleaning activities.

With conditions subject to change in a moment’s notice, taking steps to protect against life-threatening dangers should always be a top priority in confined spaces. Performing a thorough clearance measurement is a demanding — yet crucial — task that dictates the safety environment, and should not be taken lightly. To help guide you along your road to enhanced safety, outlined below are several best practices based on frequently asked questions.

When should I perform a clearance measurement?

Conduct clearance measurements immediately before operations begin. Environmental factors such as temperature and air flow can change the atmosphere, causing readings to fluctuate. One shift’s measurement taken at 7 a.m. is not representative of the conditions when work operations commence for another shift at 4 p.m. New clearance measurements must be taken immediately to account for the nine hours of changing temperatures and ventilation patterns, depicting the accurate readings of present conditions.

Roco Comment: In addition to pre-entry clearance measurements, entry into permit spaces during construction activities requires "continuous atmospheric monitoring" unless the entry employer can demonstrate that equipment for continuous monitoring is not commercially available or periodic monitoring is sufficient. Ref. 1926.1203 (e)(2)(vi), 1926.1204 (e)1)(ii), and 1926.1204 (e)(2). Additionally, Roco believes that for "ALL" permit entry operations, it is advisable to provide continuous atmospheric monitoring no matter what the industry activity entails.

What’s the importance of zero-point adjustment?

When performing clearance measurements, it’s crucial to determine the reference point of the gas detector by calibrating the zero-point. The zero-point ensures that the indicated values correspond to the actual existing gas concentrations. In order to determine that the actual zero-point has been found, calibrate equipment in an environment where the hazardous substance is not present, such as fresh air environments. With every scientific test, no matter the field, a control group, which serves as a starting point of reference, permits for the comparison of results to show any contrasting changes. The zero-point calibration acts as such, allowing workers to identify the presence, or lack thereof, of different gas concentrations.

Where do I measure/take the sample?

When it comes to measuring samples, there are four things to keep in mind: the physical properties of gases, and the type and shape, temperature and ventilation patterns of the confined space.

Know the differences between light and heavy gases. Clearance measurement experts must have a strong working knowledge of hazardous substances’ properties, as they play a role in where measurements should be taken. For example, if a sample is pulled from the top of the confined space and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is detected, the sample may not be entirely reliable. H2S has a molar mass of 34 g/mol, which is significantly heavier than that of air (29 g/mol). As a result, H2S sinks to the bottom of a space, where its concentration would be greatest. Identifying a presence at the top of the confined space says immediate danger and appropriate actions should be taken.

Light gases quickly mix with air and rise to the top. As a result, any measurements in open atmospheres should be performed close to the leak, and increases in concentration should appear in the highest points of the confined space. Heavy gases, on the other hand, should sink and flow like liquids, pass obstacles or stick to them. They barely mix with air like light gases do, so their samples should always be taken at the lowest points of the confined space.

Determine the type/shape of the confined space: In an ideal scenario, each confined space area would be in an “even” or level position. This isn’t always the case, and a container may be placed on an inclined surface, making the highest point in the corner positioned toward the top of the inclined surface. Thus, entry may be nearer to where the heavy gases have accumulated.

Take tabs on temperatures. All matter is made up of atoms and molecules that are constantly moving. When heat is added to a substance, such as a gas, the molecules and atoms vibrate faster. As the gas molecules begin to move faster, the speed of diffusion increases. If the sun has been shining on a tank for hours, there’s a good chance the clearance measurement taken at dawn no longer reflects the current readings due to the increase in diffusion.

Vet the ventilation. Air currents change the position and concentration of air clouds, and often times, the way a confined space is ventilated can affect readings. Containers cannot always be separated from pipelines, or there may be leaks in the tanks that must be accounted.

Roco Comment: Not only is it required by certain OSHA provisions like alternate entry procedures, but Roco highly recommends monitoring the atmosphere prior to initiating ventilation. This is intended to provide a reasonable assessment of the potential atmosphere change should the ventilation equipment fail. The rate for a potential hazard to re-develop will be based on factors such as the effectiveness of isolation, any residual product within the space, temperature, humidity and passive ventilation which are among just some of the factors.

How do I safely conduct the measurement for an accurate reading?

People often question why they can’t just use the carrying strap of their device to lower the device into the confined space for a reading. Although this seems like a simple fix, it’s not a safe or recommended way to conduct the measurement. Lowering the device into the container this way not only obscures the way the display is read, but it may not audibly alarm. If the measured value is slightly below the threshold value and the alarm does not sound, a worker would not be notified of the dangerous concentrations lurking below. Not only this, but measurements may be inaccurate since the measured gases, due to their molar masses, may be concentrated at a higher or lower point within the container. Clearance measurements should be conducted on-site and on-the-ground of the confined space for accurate, safe readings.

Roco Comment: The points made in the preceding paragraph are certainly valid. The best solution that we can offer is to use remote sampling probes or tubes to actively draw (pump) samples from the stratified levels of the space while the direct reading instrument is in a position outside the space to observe the real time readings. To expound upon the point the author makes, if the pre-set threshold for the alarms are not enough to trigger the alarm indicating the presence of a hazardous atmosphere, and the individual performing the assessment relies instead on rapidly pulling the monitor from the space in the hope that they are able to read the display before the values change, is a very dangerous way of approaching this procedure. Depending on the sampling rate of the monitor, the hazardous gas(s) may have cleared from the monitor in the time it takes to withdraw it from the space, and it is very likely that the instrument will display a normal atmosphere by the time it is back within view. Additionally, for areas within the space that cannot be remotely assessed by remote sampling prior to entry, the only safe recourse is to limit entry to the areas that have been assessed and to take a monitor into the space to continuously assess the unreachable regions before venturing further.

What do I need to document during clearance measurement protocols?

Just as it’s important to remain thorough in clearance measurements procedures, it’s equally as important to remain thorough in the general housekeeping protocols surrounding samples. This includes documenting:

  • The container number
  • The measuring point of the container, and whether there was more than one measuring point
  • At which time was the clearance performed
  • Under what condition was the measurement performed
  • Measured hazardous substances
  • Name of person performing measurement
  • Equipment used for clearance

Safety, regardless of job title or responsibility, should be everyone’s top priority. When working in the midst of poisonous and explosive hazards, performing clearance measurements correctly and carefully means not only keeping one’s self safe, but keeping the working environment safe, as well.

About the Author:
Russell Warn is the product support manager for gas detection products at Dräger. He has been in the safety industry for more than 29 years, with most of this time dedicated to gas detection product and application support.

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OSHA Warns of Engulfment Hazards

Friday, March 03, 2017

As shown in this photo, an engulfment scenario was featured at last year's Rescue Challenge. Be aware...it only takes 5 seconds for flowing grain (or other product) to engulf and trap a worker.

In 60 seconds, the worker is submerged and is in serious danger of death by suffocation. More than half of all workers engulfed die this way. Many others suffer permanent disability.

OSHA has recently issued further warnings on the dangers of working in grain or bulk storage facilities.

An "engulfment" often happens when "bridged" grain and vertical piles of stored grain collapse unexpectedly. Engulfments may occur when employees work on or near the pile or when bin augers whirl causing the grain to buckle and fall onto the worker. The density, weight and unpredictable behavior of flowing grains make it nearly impossible for workers to rescue themselves without help.

"Far too many preventable incidents continue to occur in the grain-handling industry," said Kim Stille, OSHA's regional administrator in Kansas City. "Every employee working in the grain industry must be trained on grain-handling hazards and given the tools to ensure they do not enter a bin or silo without required safety equipment. They must also take all necessary precautions - this includes using lifelines, testing the atmosphere inside a bin and turning off and locking out all powered equipment to prevent restarting before entering grain storage structures."




In 2016, OSHA has opened investigations of the following grain industry fatalities and incidents:

• March 16, 2016: A 42-year-old superintendent at Cooperative Producers Inc.'s Hayland grain-handling site in Prosser, Nebraska, suffered fatal injuries caused by an operating auger as he drew grain from a bin. OSHA cited the company on Sept. 9, 2016, for three egregious willful and three serious violations and placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. The company has contested those citations. See news release here.
• March 22, 2016: A 21-year-old worker found himself trapped in a soybean bin, but escaped serious injury at The Farmer's Cooperative Association in Conway Springs, Kansas. Rescue crews were able to remove the worker and he was treated and released at a local hospital. On June 2, 2016, OSHA cited the company for 13 serious violations. See citations here.
• March 25, 2016: A 51-year-old employee was trapped in a grain bin at McPherson County Feeders in Marquette, Kansas. Emergency crews were able to rescue him. OSHA cited the company for four serious violations on April 14, 2016. See citations here.
• May 19, 2016: A 53-year-old male employee at Prinz Grain and Feed suffered severe injuries on May 18, 2016, as he worked in a grain bin in West Point, Nebraska. The maintenance worker was in a grain bin when a wall of corn product collapsed and engulfed him. He died of his injuries two days later.
• Sept. 1, 2016: A 59-year-old employee suffered severe injuries to his leg when the sweep auger inside a bin at Trotter Grain in Litchfield, Nebraska, caught his coveralls.
• Sept. 19, 2016: A 28-year-old employee of the Ellsworth Co-Op in Ellsworth, Kansas, had his left leg amputated when he stepped into an open auger well inside a grain bin while the auger was running.

"It is vital that we work with leaders, farmers and those employed in the grain and feed industry to increase awareness of hazards in the grain industry and discuss ways to protect workers on the job," stated an Omaha OSHA official.

We add that it’s critically important for emergency responders to be aware of the dangers they may face in bulk storage facilities. In addition to engulfment, there’s also the risk of dust explosions as well as entrapment from moving mechanical equipment.


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Roco Competent Person Equipment Inspection

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Does a competent person inspect your rescue equipment each year?

If not, you may want to consider having an independent third party perform the inspection for you. This service is offered by Roco as a stand-alone service, or it can be added to your next private training session. 

Functional Ops Check

The service includes a “sight and touch” functional inspection of hardware, nylon products (including rope, webbing, and anchoring components), harnesses, and accessory equipment (including litters and stretchers) utilized in confined space/high angle applications. The inspection will be conducted in accordance with manufacturer’s specifications and will satisfy the requirement for an annual2 inspection by a competent person.
Note: Equipment recommendations will NOT be provided by inspection personnel unless requested to do so.

Service Inspection Benefits include:

• Certified personnel to inspect equipment to manufacturer's standards.
• Inspection documentation from an independent third party.
• Frees your personnel from the responsibility of equipment inspections.

A full report of findings will be provided to include accessibility of equipment to responders and any other recommendations to improve overall team performance. It will include other pertinent information such as the manufacturer, product number, and serial/lot number (where applicable), date of manufacture, and in-service date (when available). It will also include the results of pass/fail testing for both visual and functional inspection. All equipment deemed unsuitable for use will be tagged for removal from service.

Regardless of the stated service life, the condition of equipment – as determined through inspection by a qualified party – is a key factor in determining whether or not a piece of equipment is fit for service.

Although the definition of “equipment lifespan” is very broad depending on the manufacturer, each provides specific instructions on proper inspection of equipment and detailed explanations on when to retire the service item. Several general identifiers that pertain to all equipment are shown below.

Reasons for Equipment Retirement include:

• Item fails to pass any pre/post use or competent person inspection.
• Item has been subjected to a major fall or load.
• Item is constructed of plastic or textile material and is older than 10 years.
• You cannot determine the complete full-use history of item.
• You are not certain or have lost confidence in the equipment.

As a reminder, it is very important to keep the manufacturer’s instructions when purchasing new equipment. This is vital to identifying and keeping track of the manufacture date as well as other important information. For example, if the manufacture date of equipment, such as life safety rope and harnesses, cannot be identified; it can pose extreme liability for agencies or facilities whose teams may potentially be operating with equipment that has passed its service life. It could also create a compromise in the safe operation of the equipment.

A 10-year service life for nylon/polyester products is set according to ASTM F1740-96 (American Society for Testing and Materials).

Inspect Rescue Equipment Every Time It’s Used

All team members should be qualified and knowledgeable enough to perform pre- and post-use inspections of equipment. It is crucial that all members document each use of equipment, denote any deficiencies, and report to the proper person. One person should be designated to perform the competent person annual inspection. This person should have complete knowledge of the equipment and inspection procedures as well as the authority to keep or remove equipment from service as they see fit. If team members are unable to fill this role, a qualified third party with applicable manufacturer certifications in competent person inspection should be utilized to assist in determining the condition and estimated service life of rescue equipment.

Download Roco's Quick Checklist for your convenience. →

Rescue team members are encouraged to attend this inspection where they will receive information on proper pre- and post-use inspections for their equipment. Guidance can be also offered in areas of equipment care, inspection, record-keeping, and proper storage. Again, equipment recommendations will not be addressed unless specifically asked to do so – this is only an inspection of the equipment you currently have on site.

Remember, with rescue gear, lives are literally “on the line,” – if in doubt, throw it out!

To schedule your Roco Competent Person Inspection, or add it to your current training dates, call us at 800-647-7626 or email info@rocorescue.com. Roco offers this service at no charge for current customers or for a very nominal fee for non-customers.1


1 Current customers receive a one-day equipment inspection at no charge. Travel expenses apply for out-of-town customers.
2 References include: 1926.502 Appendix C; ANSI Z359.2 Section 5.5.2 Inspections; ASTM Rope Inspection Guide; NFPA 1983 Section 5.2; ANSI Z359.11 Annex A (harnesses); and ANSI Z359.4 Section 6.1.

NOTICE: The client remains responsible for ensuring that all guidelines and requirements for maintaining and, where indicated, removal of equipment from service, are followed. This includes removing equipment from service anytime there is a situation or incident that occurs during handling, training, or rescue, that might have caused damage or otherwise compromised the integrity of the equipment, particularly where internal damage that is not visible might be present (e.g. equipment dropped from height, exposure of nylon products to chemicals or other potentially degrading substances, etc.). Client will be required to complete a certification that between Roco inspections, the equipment was properly stored, was available only to personnel trained to use the equipment properly, and that any equipment that was exposed to any condition or occurrence that could have resulted in hidden damage has been removed from service. A company representative, preferably someone from the rescue team, must be present during the inspection process.

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Rescue Toolbox: CMC PMP Swivel Pulley

Friday, February 10, 2017

By Pat Furr, Safety Officer & VPP Coordinator for Roco Rescue, Inc.

I have written previous articles on modern equipment and I do have my all-time favorite piece of kit that in my 36 years of bending rope has earned the title of the best piece of equipment in my view. It is my choice for that title because it is versatile, safe, and efficient. Second in line on my list of all-time favorites is the Omni-Block/CMC PMP Swivel Pulley. If you have not used this pulley yet, I suggest you beg, borrow, but don’t steal one.

So what’s so great about this pulley? For starters, the materials and the bearings of this pulley are gem like. The quality of build and the bearings reduce stiction (static friction) at the sheave axle increasing efficiency, even for such a small tread diameter. But the real advantages of these pulleys are the built in swivel and the swinging side plate. There is a story about the swinging side plate that I may tell you some day. Here is a hint: If you have what you think is a good idea, don’t hesitate in exploring that idea further. If you wait, you just may miss a great opportunity.

The built in swivel has several benefits. For situations that call for a swivel built into the system, you can accomplish with a single piece of equipment what would normally require three separate pieces. By having the swivel built in, you eliminate a separate swivel and the carabiner needed to connect it to the pulley. Less weight and less likelihood you have to dig or go searching for a separate swivel and extra carabiner. For directional pulleys the built in swivel aligns the side plates with the direction of pull and eliminates chafing between the rope and side plate which increases efficiency.

Another advantage of the built in swivel is while building or operating Z-Rigs and blocks and tackle (BT). For vertical BTs, the load can stay in any orientation with no fear of putting twists into the lines or creating side plate interference. Additionally, if you are not paying attention while building a Z-Rig and create a twist in the ropes coming from the first change of direction at the anchor to the pulley and then the haul line, it would normally create a lot of friction as the second and third sections of rope cross each other. But with the built in swivel, any twists in those lines will spin clear as soon as you put any tension on the haul line. It’s like magic.

The swinging Prusik minding side plate has a double action lock that when operated allows one side plate to open to mount or dismount the rope while the pulley is still attached to the carabiner. This feature alone makes this pulley unique in its function.

For a series of directionals that need to be disassembled as the rescue progresses, this will speed the operation up significantly. But my experience with this pulley - especially for tower rescue- is the reduction in the potential to drop the pulley. In fact my tower rescue set up relies on a one piece mechanical cam, a carabiner and this pulley and they never have to be disconnected from each other! I have seen the incidence of dropped objects practically eliminated during the tower recue classes I teach just because of this one change.

The swinging side plate really shines during the construction of a Z-Rig. It is so simple to mount the cam, carabiner and pulley as a three piece set onto the mainline and then simply mount the rope into the pulley and close it up. Remember, if you managed to build any twists into the 2nd and 3rd lines, they will spin free as soon as you pull the haul line.

In single sheave versions these CMC PMP Swivel pulleys come in three sizes. 1.1”, 1.5”, and 2.6”. The 1.1” is NFPA rated for Technical Use, while the 1.5” and the 2.6” are NFPA rated for General Use. They will all accept up to 13mm rope. The Double Sheave version does not have a Prusik minding feature, but does have a becket. Both side plates have the dual action release button for ease and speed of loading the rope(s).

It is hard to put into words just how efficient these pulleys are until you use them in your rope systems. But I hope I have piqued your interest enough to look into them.
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Follow Up to CS Deaths in Key Largo, FL

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

By Josh (JC) Hill, Roco Technical Equipment Manager & Chief Instructor

As mentioned in our original story, the alarming statistic of confined space fatalities still proves to be accurate – approximately 60% of fatalities in multi-casualty incidents are the “would be rescuers.” In January, it happened once again. Four construction workers had entered a drainage manhole to determine why the newly paved road was settling in that location.

Upon entering the space, which is believed to have been done without initial monitoring or ventilation, the worker collapsed. As is seen much too often, a second worker entered the space to assist the downed worker and was rendered unconscious. A third worker entered the space and again succumbed to the atmosphere.

The 911 system was activated and responders from the Key Largo VFD arrived at the scene and prepared to enter the space to perform rescue. Initial reports state that a volunteer firefighter donned an SCBA for respiratory protection and attempted to enter the manhole. He found the space to be too confining and removed his SCBA to make entry. He was in the space for approximately 20 seconds prior to being overtaken by the atmosphere. Note: It is our understanding that proper monitoring of the confined space had still not occurred at the time of the firefighter’s entry to attempt rescue.

Another firefighter then entered the space and recovered the first firefighter from the deadly space. Medical attention was provided until he was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center. The Miami-Dade County Haz-Mat Team was also called to the scene.

After proper monitoring of the space, it was determined that rescue was no longer a viable option and that the scene would be transitioned to recovery efforts. The testing of atmospheric conditions showed the space contained significant levels of hydrogen sulfide and methane gas with decreased levels of oxygen.

Although original reports did not give indication of toxic gases, the signs surrounding the events make it obvious that the potential was there. To have several workers enter a space like this and rendered unconscious in short periods of time is a classic scenario involving atmospheric hazards. This combined with several statements from neighbors that the area smelled of “rotten eggs” for months provide significant clues to atmosphere being a significant contributing factor to the emergency.

So, why do these confined spaces incidents continue to occur across the nation with emergency responders?

When you break it down, the reasons are fairly simplistic and very alarming. Most citizens have a misconception of fire departments and emergency responders. Most often, it is assumed that if you call the fire department, whether in a large municipality or small township, the personnel responding will be qualified and equipped to perform any task needed.

Fact is the vast majority of fire departments are trained and equipped to perform basic first aid and life support along with standard firefighting operations.
Funding has and will continue to be the major handicapping factor that limits the capabilities of these agencies. Unfortunately, it usually takes a catastrophic event before funding is provided.

Also, unless dedicated specialty teams are established, it is practically impossible for agencies to train each individual to a proficient level for technical rescue and hazardous material response and have them maintain this level without regular, on-going training. It is also unrealistic for departments to outfit each individual responding unit with all of the necessary equipment to respond to every conceivable scenario.

As we all know, emergency responders are built around running towards the danger when human life is at risk. This attitude is what separates them from the average population and makes them successful at protecting life and property.
However, when not properly trained to react and respond to these types of uncommon hazards, the results are often as unfortunate as what we witnessed in Key Largo.

So, how can we change these alarming statistics for emergency responders?

First of all, it is critical that responders understand the unseen hazards they could be exposed to during these types of hazardous confined space operations. It is imperative that all personnel – from the newest rookie to the incident commander – understand what they are facing. Emergency responders must be able to recognize when they are not adequately trained or equipped for an event or hazard. They must understand that their lives are on the line in these hazardous environments.

Firefighters, from the smallest volunteer departments to the largest municipalities, must be trained to recognize the signs of hazardous environments and understand that they would be putting themselves in grave danger if they proceed with rescue attempts. Supervisory personnel should receive additional training that provides the knowledge to understand their full capabilities when facing scenarios they are not properly trained and equipped to safely handle. To stand-down is the wisest decision to protect their personnel from severe injury or death when the chances of successfully performing rescue have little to no chance for success.

It’s a difficult choice – risk vs. reward. But it’s a critical decision that emergency responders must make every day. Their personal safety must come first – it must be a viable rescue before they put themselves in harm’s way.

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The Fit Rescuer & Why It's Important

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

 By Pat Furr, Roco VPP Coordinator & Chief Instructor

As a Roco instructor, I see all sorts of students coming through our classes. But the one common characteristic in most every student is, “They want to do the very best for their patient or victim when the time comes for them to act!”

Beyond that, our students come with a very wide variety of characteristics. Some are loud and boisterous, while others are a bit shy and quiet. We see folks that are incredibly fast learners and some that need just a bit more time and attention. Some folks are incredibly fit and some could stand to lose a pound or two. And that is the subject of this article... Do we as rescuers have an obligation to our rescue subjects to maintain a reasonable level of physical fitness?

In addition to NFPA 1006 section 4.2 (3) minimum physical fitness as required by the AHJ, I say we do, even if only ethically. And I also say we owe it to ourselves to try to get into or stay in good shape. I don’t mean to throw stones, and I will be the first to admit that I go through periods (some of them extended) where I allow myself to get a tad soft. Well, OK, maybe more than just a tad soft. And when I do, I feel certain limitations that I know are going to hinder my ability to do right by my rescue subject. If I am winded and drenched in sweat after climbing a few flights of stairs, that is going to ultimately count against my rescue victim. If I need to go in “on air” and my mask is fogged from my perspiration, I will need to run a constant purge just to keep my mask clear – and that may spend our air supply prematurely. I remember a few years back during one of my "Jabba the Hutt" periods that I could barely lift up the tripod. Then, after a few months of working out and eating correctly, I remember grabbing that same tripod and slinging it up onto my shoulder as if it was filled with helium. It felt GREAT!!

I don’t think anyone could make the argument that improved fitness will not add to our effectiveness as rescuers. But there are so many more benefits to improving our individual physical fitness. A reduction in soft tissue injuries like pulled muscles and strains, as well as an increased resistance to illnesses. For me I have a much better mood and energy level to go out and enjoy most anything. And exercising regularly can drastically reduce stress levels! But as it applies to my tasks as a rescuer, I have more stamina, strength, ability to handle heat and cold – and because of all those factors, I have an increased situational awareness and ability to formulate and understand the plan. And for those of you that know me that last one is a huge benefit.

So I’ll assume that for the most part you agree with what I have said to this point, at least that’s my hope. What do we do about it then? Well, I suppose the first thing is for all of us to stop for just a few moments and assess where we feel our individual fitness is right now. For those of you that think that you could be a bit, or even a lot fitter, then I have some very basic suggestions to offer you. For those of you that are fit and plan on maintaining that fitness, good on ya! Keep up the good work! For those of you that are not in good shape at all and really aren’t interested or feel there isn’t enough time in the day to do anything about it, well I hope you’ll reconsider and keep reading to see that it really doesn’t take much at all to make a positive change. And as those positive changes happen, it is like a railroad locomotive. It starts out sort of slow, but as the momentum increases, so does the rate of positive change. And you know it when it really starts to happen, and it feels GOOOOOOOOD…..

If you start your day with a morning stretch, that is a good base to build on. If you are like a lot of us, we set the alarm to give us just enough time to get up, dressed, fed and out the door, sometimes finishing that last bite of breakfast as we are driving to work. Here’s a little hint, set the alarm 15 minutes earlier. C’mon…15 little minutes is nothing. This accomplishes several things. It gives us time to do a bit more slow and easy stretching and is plenty of extra time to do a set of pushups and some crunches. It also gives us a few minutes buffer to get to where we need to be on time, and eliminates that feeling of cutting it close which is just another stressor. Wouldn’t it be nice to start the day with less stress and that certain physical feeling of being slightly pumped up? Give it a try for one week; what do you have to lose, other than some stress and maybe a few pounds? 

Do you use the elevator to go up one, two, three floors? My bet is that in the time you wait for the elevator and all the stops you make, it would be nearly as fast to take the stairs. After getting into the stairs-over-elevator habit, you may find yourself going for five, then six, seven, ten stories. Now if we are talking 20 stories or more, then yeah, I’ll give you a pass on this one.

By the way, you don’t need to join a gym to get into really good shape. For those of you with good knees, running is a great calorie burner. For old fogies like me or those of you with knee or other injuries that prevent running, there are plenty of aerobic exercises like brisk walking, rollerblading, swimming, biking, and even dancing that will burn off some of that extra weight. I am fortunate to live very close to several lakes and I have taken up sliding seat rowing for my no impact aerobic workout. Wow! Talk about involving nearly every muscle group along with the heart and lungs. This is one of the best calorie burners I have ever known and the beauty is I am out on the lake at sunrise with the loons, ospreys, and eagles, the odd deer, turkey, fox, or mink on the shoreline, just enjoying the view of the mountains. Okay, I’ll quit waxing poetic now, but it is really nice and boy does it keep me fit.

What about what we eat and drink? Changing what you choose to eat is a simple matter of education and some simple strategies, but don’t make wholesale changes overnight. It is best to gradually change your diet and develop habits that can be built upon. Radical diet changes fail more often than not. There is a lot of truth to the old saying “We are what we eat.” I’ll be the first to admit I love me a big green chili cheeseburger and fries, and chase that with a bowl of ice cream while we’re at it. But I am fortunate to have a pretty good pseudo nutritionist in the house, who mandates adherence to a grocery list. Yup, it’s as simple as that. The key is to do just a bit of research on the sort of foods that should go onto your list, and the good news is there are plenty of resources to help guide you. Make sure to cover all the food groups with a good balance and visit the internet to see the variety of healthy choices within those groups. The next step is to make sure that the vast majority of your list is healthy choices. Next time you visit the grocery store, pay attention to the layout of the store. I’ll bet you will see that the healthy choice items tend to be on the outer perimeter of the store and the less healthy items are in the middle aisles. For example, if you are looking for nuts, see if there are choices near, or in the produce section out on the edge of the store. Then compare the nuts in the bins or light packaging to the choice of nuts on the snack aisle. My bet is the nuts from the produce section have few or no additives, whereas the nuts out of the snack aisle will be loaded with oils and all sorts of hard to pronounce gunk. Now there will be some healthy choices on the inner aisles, like wild or long grain rice- not the instant kind- , oatmeal without additional ingredients, and stay away from foods with artificial coloring. Get into the habit of reading the labels. Avoid or limit processed foods and foods with extensive ingredients on the label. The fewer the ingredients on the label, generally the healthier the item will be. Most of us love pasta in all its forms, but there are alternatives to pasta that taste great using the same Marinara sauce or whatever your favorite topping may be. Consider couscous or quinoa as a pasta alternative. And give it a chance, it isn’t pasta, it’s a substitute.

Don’t worry too much about the few fun and tasty items that still manage to make it onto your list, and even these can be healthy. Consider your favorite fruit or nuts as a snack. Just beware of nuts with additives like oils and salt. Consider your favorite fruit or nuts as a snack. Just beware of nuts with additives like oils and salt. Even some junk food snacks on occasion are not the end of the world, we are human after all, just be sure that they are the special treats and not the norm. And this is where the rubber meets the road and is critical. Stick to your list!! Do not stray at all, and to help with that, go shopping after dinner. Shopping on an empty stomach spells trouble for most of us. The main key to success is to develop a healthy list and then to stick to it.

What about a plan for the frequent traveler? That complicates things a little bit. Traveling disrupts our routine and unless you stay at a suite with a well equipped kitchen, the meal choices are limited to restaurant offerings and complementary hotel breakfasts. As far as your routine being disrupted, remember that the time before work starts is yours. If you get into the habit of doing some stretching and basic “quality” calisthenics first thing in the morning at home, it will be seamless to do the same thing before showering and heading out of your hotel room. If you have a say in your lodging arrangements, try to find a hotel with either a well-equipped fitness center, or one that has an arrangement with a local gym. If you travel to the same locations repeatedly, find the lodging that best fits your needs.

For dining on the road here is a good link to help you make good choices. http://traveltips.usatoday.com/eat-healthy-traveling-business-1476.html

It is tough to resist the fancy menu photos and the aroma of restaurants, but make a promise to yourself that you will follow the guidelines for the vast majority of your meals out. It isn’t the end of the world if you slip now and then, and especially if you are traveling with a group. It is nice to get together socially and have a nice meal, but make that the exception not the norm.

Most hotel rooms are equipped with a drip coffee maker and a microwave oven. For a healthy breakfast, pre-package servings of oatmeal in Ziploc bags before leaving home. Sure, go ahead and mix in some cinnamon or chopped nuts and dehydrated fruit, or grab an apple once you arrive at your destination and chop it up to add in for some added flavor and vitamins. Consider making a quick stop at the grocery store and get some Greek yogurt and fruit like strawberries, blueberries or bananas. Mix them together and have a great high protein breakfast loaded with vitamins. 

I hope you feel the same as I do that we all benefit from being fit. We feel better about ourselves, we are less prone to injury, feel less stress, and ultimately, we are able to perform better in our efforts to save our stricken rescue subjects. I hope that in reading this you can take some, all, or even expand on these tips and start heading in a direction of improved fitness.

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Roco Rescue Training in North Dakota

Monday, January 23, 2017

Roco is excited to be conducting several Rescue & Fall Protection Workshops at the 44th Annual Safety Conference next month in Bismarck, ND. This will kick off our working relationship with the ND Safety Council to provide safe, effective confined space rescue training for their membership. 

What's more, the North Dakota Safety Council (NDSC) is currently constructing a new safety campus in Bismarck that will house a 5,000 square foot hands-on training lab. Roco, as a training partner, will provide high-level technical rescue courses at this new facility on a year-round basis.

For the conference on February 20-23, we will be conducting a number of hands-on rescue workshops and presentations to be presented by Roco Lead Instructors Dennis O’Connell, Pat Furr, Brad Warr, Eddie Chapa and Josh Hill. Sessions include:

  • Intro to Competent Person Requirements for Fall Protection
    2/20 9am-6pm (classroom w/demo)
  • Confined Space Entrant, Attendant, and Supervisor Requirements
    2/20 9am-6pm (classroom w/demos) 
  • Tripod Operations
    2/21 11am-5pm (hands-on training) 
  • So You’ve Fallen, Now What?
    2/22 10am-11:30am (classroom)
  • Dial 911 for Confined Space Rescue
    2/22 1:30pm-2:30pm (classroom w/demos)
  • Confined Space and Rope Rescue...
    2/22 1:30pm-5pm (hands-on training) 
  • Trench Collapse Rescue Considerations
    2/22 2:45pm-3:45pm (classroom) 
  • Fallen/Suspended Worker Rescue
    2/23 8am-11:15am (classroom w/demos) 
  • We look forward to meeting you at Roco booths (#202 & #203) or in these training sessions. For more info, click to NDSC’s 44th Annual Safety & Health Conference. Don't forget to register online at www.ndsc.org for these training sessions.
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Three More CS Deaths Due to Atmospheric Hazards

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

KEY LARGO, Fla. - Three workers in the Florida Keys died Monday morning (Jan 16) after they were overcome by fumes, authorities said. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue officials said they responded to reports of three people down. The victims were working at a road project.

A representative said a worker went inside a drainage manhole to see why the newly-paved Long Key Road was settling at that location. She said the worker got trapped inside the manhole and three other workers, a volunteer firefighter with Key Largo Volunteer Fire Department and two Monroe County Sheriff's Office deputies tried to help get him out.

The two workers who collapsed and the firefighter, who also collapsed after going underground, were pulled from the hole, authorities said. The two workers were pronounced dead at the scene. It took authorities several hours to recover the body of the third worker. The firefighter and deputies were taken to Mariners Hospital in Tavernier.

The firefighter, identified by relatives as Leonardo Moreno, was then airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center, where he is listed in critical condition.

"A firefighter had an air pack on," Monroe County Sheriff Ramsey said. "He found the hole too small, so he elected to take his air pack off and go inside the hole to attempt the rescue."

The deputies are being treated for non-life-threatening ailments. A fourth worker for the contractor was treated at the scene.

Cause of deaths will be determined by the Monroe County medical examiner.

A woman who lives near the manhole told Local 10 News that the area has smelled of rotten eggs for the past couple of months.

The contracted workers were in a 15-foot hole and it's believed that a build-up of hydrogen sulfide and methane is to blame for the deaths.

"There's no sign of any pre-venting going in, and obviously going into a contained environment where there is gases can be deadly, as we unfortunately found out today," Ramsey said.

Records show that the contractor was fined for an incident at a manhole in Collier County in 2002. In that case, OSHA said workers were exposed to hazardous conditions.

UPDATE: We are glad to report that the firefighter involved in this incident has been taken off the ventilator and is breathing on his own with no neurological deficits shown so far. This information is according to the latest update on his gofundme page https://www.gofundme.com/leomoreno

SOURCES: WPLG Local10.com and Firefighter Nation.
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Trench Collapse Fatalities Double in 2016

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Twenty-three workers were killed and 12 others injured in trench collapses in 2016 – an alarming increase from the previous year. "There is no excuse,” said Dr. David Michaels, OSHA assistant secretary.

"These fatalities are completely preventable by complying with OSHA standards that every construction contractor should know."

Among the victims was a 33-year-old employee, crushed to death this summer as he dug a 12-foot trench for a plumbing company out of Ohio. An OSHA investigation found that they failed to protect its workers from the dangers of trench collapses. The company was issued two willful and two serious violations, with proposed penalties of $274,359.

OSHA's trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, with soil and other materials kept at least two feet from the edge of trench.

OSHA has a national emphasis program on trenching and excavations with the goal of increasing hazard awareness and employer compliance with safety standards. For more information, read the news release.
Source: OSHA QuickTakes December 1, 2016, Volume 15, Issue 26

Comments from Dennis O'Connell, Roco Director of Training & Chief Instructor

In the above OSHA Newsletter, they highlight this growing problem. Besides the loss of human life, the “SERIOUS” and “WILLFUL” violations paragraph should get you asking, “Are we doing what we should be for trenching in our facility?” 

The new OSHA statistics show in 2016, we have two people a month dying in trenches, which is double the amounts for 2014 & 2015. Why, is the soil getting more dangerous? I can only speak to what I have seen in trends in industry that may be contributing to this rise. In previous articles, I have discussed the subject of trench and trench rescue and some of the following concerns:

• We are relying heavily on subcontractors to do trench work in our facilities.

• Entry Supervisors are not properly trained as Trench Competent Persons and are assuming the contractor is taking all necessary precautions.

• Our Confined Space Entry Supervisors are signing off on trenches as Confined Spaces and not as trenches.

• Rescue - most locations have not trained or equipped their rescue team to handle a possible trench rescue situation even though trench work is a common daily occurrence in most refineries and large municipalities.

• Trench rescue entities are far and few between. Most municipalities are ill equipped to handle trench collapse rescue.

 

Give us a call for a private Roco Trench Rescue training course at your facility or at the Roco Training Center. Or, register for Roco's open enrollment Trench Rescue course online.

 

 

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Why Knot?

Thursday, December 01, 2016

By Pat Furr, Safety Officer & VPP Coordinator for Roco Rescue, Inc.

As rescuers, we all have our favorite knots and our favorite ways of tying them. Depending on the application, there may be several knots to choose from that will perform slightly differently in terms of efficiency or knot strength. You can go online and order any number of books ranging from a couple of pages thick to 2’ thick with hundreds of knots in it. The trick is to decide what applications you will need to perform with your ropes and knots. If you don’t need to shorten a rope, then you don’t need to know how to tie a sheepshank. Or, if you use manufactured harnesses, then a tied Swiss Seat is not a needed skill in your inventory.


For the most part, we can break applications into 6 categories for rescue purposes: 

1) Knots that form a permanent loop in the end of a rope (Ex. Figure-8 on-a-bight)
2) Knots to tie around objects (Ex. Bowline)
3) Knots to join ropes together (Ex. Square Knot)
4) Knots tied in the middle of ropes (Ex. Butterfly)
5) Hitches binding and adjustable (Ex. Prusik Wrap or Clove)
6) Utility knots (Ex. Daisy Chain)

Whenever we tie a knot in a line we lose some of the efficiency in the rope or webbing we are using. Generally, the more acute the first bend in the knot, the more efficiency is lost.

Other factors such as angle deflection, direction of pull, and rope construction all have effects on a knot’s efficiency. Then, there’s the type of load the knot will see (two directions or three directions). The direction and critical angle applied forces may change the efficiency rating of a knot greatly. In rescue, we try to use knots with fairly small efficiency losses, generally between 18-37%.

There are some other considerations beyond knot strength when choosing which knot to use for any particular application.

Ease of Tying

In addition to knot efficiency (strength), we also must think about many other things such as ease of tying especially in those hard to access places where you wish you had more Gumby genes. Where and under what circumstances will you need to be tying the knot? Will it need to be tied one-handed? Is speed a consideration? Take a calf roper, for example, he needs a knot he can tie quickly and securely. Would you be able to tie a Prusik on line for self-rescue with one hand if the other is stuck in the device? What about an emergency situation where you might need to bail out a window while blinded by smoke?

Say you want to clip into a fixed rope but need to do it one-handed? The Clove Hitch will be much easier to tie into a carabiner one-handed than most loop knots. Not only that, if you need to adjust your position after clipping in, the Clove Hitch is easily adjusted one-handed.

Ease of Untying

Not only ease of tying, but ease of untying a knot should be thought through, especially with wet rope or heavy loads. Once the knot gets loaded – or if it sees a heavy or shock load – will you be able to get the knot untied? Will you need to use a tool like the marlin-spike to get your loaded knot untied? How often will you be tying and untying the knot? Will the knot be wet or dirty? (Example: a loaded Bowline is easy to untie, while the Figure-8 Bend is more difficult.)

Knot Security

Knot security must always be considered but this is especially true if the knot will be subjected to tension and slack repeatedly. Will the knot be able to untie itself if it is cycled between tension and slack? (i.e., Square Knot vs. Figure-8 Bend) We know that a Butterfly Knot performs much better than a Figure-8 on-a-Bight if the knot is to be pulled in more than two directions. But what about some of the lessons learned over time that we know will make a difference in which knot to select based on other considerations. How difficult is it to untie a Figure-8 on-a-Bight after it has been loaded wet vs. a Two Loop Figure-8?

Tying a fixed line for a rappel? There are several choices to tie a fixed line instead of clipping it to an anchor strap. The Bowline, Clove Hitch, Figure-8 Follow-Through will all work, but if the line goes in and out of tension, how secure is the Clove Hitch compared to the Bowline or Figure-8? If security isn’t a concern, it will be easier to untie the Clove Hitch after it has been loaded followed by the Bowline, with the Figure-8 probably being the most difficult to untie, especially if the rope is wet.

Tying an anchor around a very large object? You will use up a lot more rope and time tying a Clove Hitch vs. a Figure-8 Follow-Through or a Bowline.

How will a knot handle a sustained load or shock load?

If you anticipate a heavy load on a Prusik Knot, consider making it a triple wrap instead of double. This will give you more friction, and it will definitely make it easier to untie later on. A little trick I use to loosen a loaded Prusik is to “push the bar.” By that, I mean to push the section of the knot that runs parallel to the rope that it is tied around away from the main line, which will loosen the knot.

The Water Knot is great for tying webbing together to form a runner or sling. But if it is really loaded, it can be a bear to untie. Try this, turn the knot so it is oriented vertically along its axis and place it between the palms of your hands. Rub your palms together squeezing on the knot and really be aggressive. After a few seconds, see if you are able to work a little looseness into the knot to start untying it. Same thing with a Figure-8 on-a-Bight, grasp the knot with both hands beside each other with half of the knot in each hand. Then, bend the knot back and forth as if you were activating a chem-light. Do this several times and see if you are able to milk a little slack into one side of the knot to start working it loose. Try to push slack into the knot instead of pulling the knot apart. Attack different parts of the knot until you see some movement.

Fighting untying knots?

If you are fighting untying knots on a regular basis, it may be time to add a marlin spike to your kit. A marlin spike is a tapered tool that finishes with a blunt or flat tip. They have been around since ancient times and may be useful to get that first bit of looseness into the tight knot. The warning here is to never place the knot in a position that the spike could slip and puncture your leg or arm, always push the spike away from your body.

If you know you’re going to really load up your knot and especially if the rope is wet, consider clipping a carabiner into the bends of your knot between the lays. This works really well for the Figure-8 on-a-bight or follow-through. Once you are done with that knot, remove the carabiner – this may provide enough slack to work the knot out.

We generally advocate stuffing rope into a bag and working out of the bag, but sometimes we “coil” the rope to go from point A to point B. How often has this led to a bird’s nest of rope? To help prevent a coiled rope from tangling, hold the coil up in one arm and let it hang free. Uncoil the rope with the other hand not allowing the lines to cross. By holding the coil up, gravity will show you which sections are crossing. You will then be able to keep the line straighter than if you dropped the entire coil to the ground and just started pulling rope.

So, you can see there is a lot to think about and consider when choosing what knot you should use and why. As we said earlier, there are hundreds of knots to choose from and many of them do the same jobs. And many are called different names in different books. The key is to identify the category, the application and the circumstances where the knot will be used. Then consider the above and you should be able to identify the proper knot for the job at hand.

Visit our Resources page for videos on knot tying and much more! http://www.rocorescue.com/resources_videos

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