Roco Rescue



Roco QUICK DRILL #9 - Belay Systems

Monday, November 30, 2015

Due to their relative simplicity, belay systems rarely see the dedicated training that is often given to the other elements of rescue, such as mechanical advantage or patient packaging. Just because you can rig a 540 Belay Device or tie a Munter Hitch does not necessarily mean you are proficient in their use.

It is important that the belayer can choose the proper belay system for the anticipated load and situation as well as understand the pros and cons of each system. Rescue teams must also be able to properly rig the system, troubleshoot any problems that might arise, catch the load and be able to safely transition from the "catch" to an emergency lowering system, if needed. 

There is a certain degree of finesse and anticipation involved with efficient belaying. It is an important skill only acquired through practice. Allotting more time to belay-specific training will provide payoff in smoother, safer operations during your next rescue.

1. As a team, discuss the belay needs of your environment (type of device or hitch, need for confined space rigging, high-point/low-point usage, one-person/two-person loads, etc.).

2. Divide your team into pairs and have each pair rig a specified device or hitch as a horizontal ground station.

3. While one member operates the device, the other attaches to the working end of the belay line and walks backwards to simulate a moving load. The team member on the line can also simulate a sudden load being applied to the rope at random intervals for the belayer to catch by pulling quickly on the working end of the rope.

4. If using the 540 Belay Device, develop proficiency in releasing a "stuck" load.

5. When using a Munter, work on body/hand position and tying off the Munter with a mule knot and releasing the mule knot while under load.

6. With tandem prusiks, practice converting to a lower system.

7. No matter what device or system, focus on maintaining a steady rate of rope progress through the device, while maintaining the proper amount of slack in the system (maximum 18 inches).

8. Have members switch positions and/or devices as they work on proficiency.

9. If time and training space allow, rig simple lower/haul scenarios where the emphasis will be on belay practice. In these scenarios, focus on the following:
       • Communication between the Rescue Master and the Belayer.
       • Maintaining the appropriate amount of slack in the belay system (no more than 18 inches).

Efficient belay skills are often taken for granted. Be sure to master the use of these critical, lifesaving systems!

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Training to Become a Fall Pro 'Pro' Is a Never-Ending Journey

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Article by Pat Furr, as printed in OH&S, November 2015

Whatever training you attend and complete should be viewed as the launching point to get you started on learning everything you can about fall protection.

Gravity doesn't need to go to school. She is a master at pulling all objects toward the center of our blue planet and has been doing so since the dawn of time. So, yep, she is the grand master. Whereas we mere mortals are still learning how to counter her effects. Part of our learning is how to protect our workers at height from falling into her grasp. And OSHA recognizes we are still learning and thus requires employers to provide appropriate training to protect their workers at height—as well as from the grand master's constant grip.

There are several roles and responsibilities within any comprehensive fall protection program, and there are just as many courses of instruction that provide a baseline of knowledge and skills designed to get the individuals occupying these positions started or to enhance their ability to perform in these roles. But no single course of instruction currently covers, nor will one ever cover, every bit of knowledge needed for every work at height situation.

There is an old joke that goes like this: "What do you call the bottom graduate of medical school?" The answer is, "Doctor, of course."

What does that have to do with fall protection training, you may ask? Well, the rest of the story is that very often that bottom medical school graduate goes on to become a leader in his or her specialty. And that happens because they practice. That's why they call it practicing medicine, I suppose.

So this is where it will begin to make sense. Fall protection training is the beginning and should not and cannot be thought of as the "end all" for whatever role and responsibility for which you are training. Whatever training you attend and complete should be viewed as the launching point to get you started on learning everything you can about fall protection. This includes compliance requirements; fall protection system capabilities and limitations; the dynamics of a fall, including clearance requirements and swing fall; post-fall rescue; and, as importantly, what is the best fit for your Authorized Persons.

Gaining the knowledge and understanding of these and many other facets of fall protection requires continuous self-study and research. It also requires getting out and visiting your facility to find out what the structural geometry is and to learn about the processes, as well as the Authorized Persons' needs and concerns.

During the past 35 years, I have attended training for all sorts of occupational duties, and the one common denominator has been that all of them provide a foundation to build from. For the most part, I felt I could function in the role I was being trained for, but I would equate it to functioning at the "apprentice" or "journeyman" level. I knew I still had much to learn before mastering the task.

This is especially true for fall protection training. To learn every single OSHA requirement regarding fall protection is a very tall order. I don't know of any fall protection Competent Person course that covers it all or would attempt to cover it all. And to know the particular challenges of every location where work is performed at height can only be gained through experience. In order to move toward mastering the craft, it is important to take the initiative to learn beyond the formal training.

However, self-study is so much easier than it was 15 or 20 years ago. The ease of accessing OSHA standards, letters of interpretation, summaries and explanations of final rules, and other OSHA resources pertaining to fall protection on the World Wide Web opens up a wealth of information.

It is also my good fortune that I visit many different client sites where I encounter a smorgasbord of fall protection challenges that provide learning opportunities. Oftentimes, I am able to recite the information nearly verbatim that pertains to the issue, but as often as not, I need to do some research to locate the answer or to refresh my memory once again. This is expected and, in lieu of a photographic memory, there is just too much information to learn and retain with 100 percent accuracy.

With the emerging technologies in manufacturing and design of fall protection equipment and systems, it is often a great learning exercise to visit some of the leading equipment manufacturers' and retailers' online catalogs. It is actually pretty exciting to peruse these sites and see many of these modern solutions. And the equipment isn't limited to lanyards and body support, either: There are solutions such as temporary or permanent retro-fitted guardrail systems, harness mount SRLs, nonpenetrating anchor connectors, temporary user-installed horizontal lifelines, and the list goes on. Inviting a fall protection dealer representative to your site may prove to be very educational and beneficial time spent.

Sharing Lessons Learned

Back in my military days, we had a program known as "CROSSTELL," which was a formal messaging system designed to share lessons learned and to disseminate new ideas or techniques between common users. Within the private sector there are similar programs known as BKP (best known practices) or BKM (best known methods) that often provide a vehicle to share useful information within a common industry or within a single corporation. The warning here is to cross-check the BKM or BKP to ensure it is indeed compliant with any applicable legislated requirements. And if you develop what you feel is a BKM or BKP, don’t be bashful about sharing.

Much of the continuing education we have talked about so far is in "black and white" in the form of regulations or interpretations, or a form of equipment that has accompanying printed user instructions. The intangibles are often the most difficult and dynamic pieces of the puzzle to learn. Getting out into the work environment is a very big part of your ongoing self-education.

Performing a fall hazard survey as outlined in ANSI Z359.2 is a great starting point for learning the various means of protecting workers from falls. Always keeping the hierarchy of fall protection in mind, performing a comprehensive assessment of the known and potential areas for work at height will definitely provide an education. Now is the time to take your knowledge of compliance requirements, the BKM/BKPs, a broad knowledge of the equipment that is available, and then determine what will work best for the configuration of the structure, the environmental conditions, and also through interviewing the workers who will be employing the equipment to learn what their needs are. Will they need equipment that provides a high degree of mobility? Are they concerned about heavy or bulky equipment or exposed to hot working environments? Do they need equipment that can be set up and taken down quickly to facilitate moving from point to point? This can only be determined by talking to and listening to the Authorized Persons and their foremen.

By considering a formal fall protection course of instruction the endpoint for your fall protection training, no matter what capacity you are working in, is doing a disservice to your co-workers and to yourself. Accepting the onus of continuing your "training" through self-study, visiting the equipment offerings, and assessing the working environment and the needs of the workers to do their jobs is all a part of your continuing—ongoing—fall protection education.

About the Author

Pat Furr is a chief instructor, technical consultant and VPP Coordinator for Roco Rescue, Inc. As a chief instructor, he teaches a wide variety of technical rescue classes, including Confined Space Rescue, Rope Access, Tower Work/Rescue, Fall Protection, and Suspended Worker Rescue. In his role as technical consultant, he is involved in research and development, writing articles, and presenting at national conferences. He is also a new member of the NFPA 1006 Technical Rescuer Professional Qualifications Standard. Prior to joining Roco in 2000, he served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force as a Pararescueman (PJ).

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Protecting the Safety of Firefighters - Updated OSHA Publication

Thursday, November 05, 2015

WASHINGTON - Firefighting is urgent and stressful work, and decisions are often made without vital information on the hazards that exist. Recently, a Denver firefighter died after falling 25 feet through a skylight. OSHA's newly revised manual on "Fire Service Features of Buildings" addresses this and many other types of building-related hazards for emergency responders. 

"Structural fires present hazards that can result in serious injury or death for emergency personnel who respond to them," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. "This revised manual offers practical and relevant information to help emergency responders stay safe while doing their jobs."

The revised manual explains how fire personnel can resolve an incident sooner and in a safer manner if a building design is tailored to meet their needs during an emergency. The manual includes: new chapters on water supply and integrating design elements to protect fire personnel during a building's construction, occupancy and demolition phases; new sections on energy conservation, emergency power, and room and floor numbering; and additional photos to help explain concepts.

The manual is aimed at helping emergency responders during fires and other emergencies such as hazardous material releases, emergency medical care, non-fire rescues and terrorist attacks.

To better protect emergency responders in these situations, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration has revised its manual, Fire Service Features of Buildings and Fire Protection Systems*.

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Two New York contractors indicted for manslaughter after worker is killed in trench collapse

Monday, October 19, 2015

OSHA reports that two workers are killed every month in trench collapses. Just recently, OSHA cited two contractors following a trench collapse that buried 22-year-old laborer Carlos Moncayo beneath tons of soil and debris at a Manhattan construction site. OSHA found that Moncayo's death could have been prevented if the general contractor and subcontractor had provided cave-in protection for the trench or braced an adjacent section of undermined and unsupported sidewalk. In connection with Moncayo's death, officials from both companies were indicted for manslaughter and other charges in the New York State Supreme Court on Aug. 5.

"Managers from these companies were aware of these deadly hazards and did not remove employees from the trench, even after warnings from project safety officials." 

OSHA issued each employer two citations for willful violations of workplace safety standards on Oct. 5. Proposed fines total $280,000 – $140,000 for each company – the maximum allowable fines under the Occupational Safety and Health Act. A willful violation is committed with intentional, knowing or voluntary disregard for the law's requirements, or with plain indifference to worker safety and health. 

"Carlos Moncayo was a person, not a statistic. His death was completely avoidable. Had the trench been guarded properly against collapse, he would not have died in the cave-in. This unconscionable behavior needlessly and shamefully cost a man his life."
Quotes by Kay Gee, OSHA Area Director-Manhattan

Updated OSHA guide on Trenching and Excavation Safety

Trench and excavation work are among the most hazardous operations in construction. Because one cubic yard of soil can weigh as much as a car, an unprotected trench can be an early grave. OSHA's updated guide to Trenching and Excavation Safety highlights key elements of the applicable workplace standards and describes safe practices that employers can follow to protect workers from cave-ins and other hazards. A new section in the updated guide addresses safety factors that an employer should consider when bidding on a job. Expanded sections describe maintaining materials and equipment used for worker protection systems as well as additional hazards associated with excavations.

Remember, an unprotected trench can become an early grave. Learn how to keep workers safe. Download these OSHA Guides for details.

OSHA Guide to Trenching and Excavation Safety
Trenching and Excavation Safety Fact Sheet

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Rescue Challenge 2015 off to a great start

Wednesday, October 07, 2015


A big Louisiana welcome to the six industrial rescue teams participating in this year's Challenge. Here are the "before" shots. Good luck and good learning!

Rescue Team Calumet – Superior, WI

Rescue Team Exxon Plastics – Baton Rouge, LA

Rescue Team Lion Oil – El Dorado, AR

Rescue Team Shell-Geismar – Geismar, LA

Rescue Team Valero – Wilmington, CA

Rescue Team Motiva-Convent – Convent, LA

Challenge Evaluators with Kay Goodwyn, Roco’s president

left to right: Jason Stubbs, Kenny Greene, Randy Crews, Jim Breen, Kenney Moore, Kay Goodwyn, Dominic Velasquez, Terrell Huber, Mike Adams, Randy Miller, Homero Garcia, Dwaynne Ardeneaux, Eddie Chapa, Chad Roberson, Troy Gardner, Bobby Kauer, Dennis O’Connell

Here's the photo gallery

Rescue Team Calumet – Superior, WI

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Annual Equipment Inspections for Rescue Teams

Monday, September 14, 2015

Roco is now offering an on-site inspection service for rescue gear used by emergency response teams. Save time and manpower by having our rescue professionals perform your annual equipment inspections.

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

This service will include 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 annual1 inspection by a competent person.

Reporting documentation will include 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. 

A full report of findings will be provided to include storage conditions, accessibility of equipment to responders, and any other recommendations to improve overall team performance. 

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. Please note that equipment recommendations will NOT be provided unless requested to do so.

For more information or to schedule dates, call us at 800-647-7626 or email

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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OSHA Memorandum on Confined Spaces in Construction

Sunday, September 13, 2015

This memorandum provides guidance on the enforcement of the Confined Spaces in Construction standard published on May 4, 2015. The new standard goes into effect on August 3, 2015. Requests for an extension of the effective date have indicated a need for additional time for training and the acquisition of equipment necessary to comply with the new standard. OSHA will not delay the effective date, but instead will postpone full enforcement of the new standard for 60 days from the effective date of August 3, 2015 to October 2, 2015.

During this 60-day period, OSHA will not issue citations to an employer making good faith efforts to comply with the new standard, as long as the employer is in compliance with either the training requirements of the new standard, found at 29 CFR 1926.1207, or the training requirements found at former 29 CFR 1926.21(b)(6)(i), which is provided:

All employees required to enter into confined or enclosed spaces shall be instructed as to the nature of the hazards involved, the necessary precautions to be taken, and in the use of protective and emergency equipment required. The employer shall comply with any specific regulations that apply to work in dangerous or potentially dangerous areas.

Employers who fail to train their employees consistent with either 29 CFR 1926.1207 or 1926.21(b)(6)(i) would properly be cited for violation of 1926.1207(a). Factors OSHA will consider when evaluating whether an employer is engaged in good faith efforts to comply with the new standard include:

  • If the employer has not trained its employees as required under the new standard, whether the employer has scheduled such training,
  • If the employer does not have the equipment required for compliance with the new standard, including personal protective equipment, whether the employer has ordered or otherwise arranged to obtain such equipment required for compliance and is taking alternative measures to protect employees from confined space hazards, and
  • Whether the employer has engaged in any additional efforts to educate workers about confined space hazards and protect workers from those hazards.

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Roco QUICK DRILL #8 - Petzl ID

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Maintain Proficiency with Ground Station Drills

The Petzl ID is a great device. However, as with any device or technique, if you don’t practice, you risk forgetting some of the basic principles and functions involved in its proper use. Using quick and easy-to-set-up ground stations will help to keep proficiency levels up while reducing risk, logistics, and time required.

Here are some drills and ground station ideas that will help the Petzl ID operator stay proficient. Keep in mind, these hands-on ground stations can often be applied to other devices and techniques as well – not every training session requires suspending rescuers!

Station Set-Up

Choose a solid anchor at ground level with about 10 feet of space to move and pull rope. This can be done in a classroom, apparatus bay or other area since the drill is about proficiency in using the ID and its different functions.

Taking-in Slack “TENSION”

Have the participant load and anchor the device as a lower. Pull at least 5-to-10 feet of slack out of the device and have participant pull the slack out of the system through the device as if setting a plumb point.

Have the operator stand in front of the ID, facing the anchor. Hold the two ends of the rope in front of the device and close together. This will prevent the safety cam from grabbing the rope while the participant strips rope on the standing end of the device (the 11 O’clock) to take-in (tension) slack.

Remember, taking in slack (tensioning) is also important when starting a Z-rig haul as the system may not automatically start stripping/cleaning the rope through the device if it should be locked. In this case, the load would not be captured and any progress gained would be lost or dropped if the haul team let go of the haul line. This may also occur initially with a 5:1 Z-rig, even if the device is unlocked, until the full load is on the system.

Giving-out Slack “SLACK”

To give out (or feed) slack, have the operator remain in the descent control position (behind the device). Keeping the device with the top or bottom plates facing the ground, simply use the left hand to turn the body of the ID perpendicular to the direction of the load travel as rope is pulled with the right hand from the 7 O’clock position of the ID. Simulate adjusting a plumb point or feeding slack once a lower is complete and the patient is on the ground.

Rappel Ground Exercise

Have participants anchor the rope for a rappel and attach the ID to the rope and their harnesses. Have them lean away from the anchor and walk backwards while using the device to control speed. Review hand and body positions and have operators pull the ID into panic mode and reset. Direct participants to let go of the rope in order to build confidence in the automatic braking of the device. Also, have them practice tensioning and feeding slack (adjusting rappel plumb point) while in the rappel mode.

This drill may seem too simple to be of any benefit, but how many of us have watched our teammate fumble with loading, or fumble while trying to adjust the tension or give slack on an anchored ID? The more hands-on time operating this device, the better! Practicing a technique at ground level will help rescuers be more proficient when they “live load” a system during training, or when performing a real rescue.

The Petzl ID Video

Review the features of the popular rescue tool with Roco Chief Dennis O'Connell.

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Six Egregious Violations filed by OSHA for Houston Trench Incident

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

One minute a worker was working in the 8-foot trench below ground. The next, he was being buried in it. His co-workers came to his rescue, digging him out with their bare hands. Moments after they pulled the injured man to safety, the unprotected trench collapsed again. His injuries were serious and led to his hospitalization.

What’s more, the man's Houston-area employer knew the Richmond, Texas, excavation site was dangerous, but failed to protect its workers.

OSHA has since cited the company for 16 safety violations, including six egregious willful violations for failing to protect workers inside an excavation from a cave-in. The company faces penalties totaling $423,900.

"For more than 2,500 years, man has known how to prevent deadly trench collapses. It is absolutely unacceptable that employers continue to endanger the lives of workers in trenches," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. In addition to the willful violations, the company was cited for nine serious violations, including failing to remove debris from the edge of the excavation. The company also did not provide a safe means to get in and out of the excavation for workers or conduct atmospheric testing inside excavations after a sewer leak.

"Trench cave-ins are preventable," said John Hermanson, OSHA's regional administrator in Dallas. "There are long-established, basic precautions. They're not new, and they're not secret. This company knew its trenches weren't safe, but still put its workers in harm's way."

OSHA has also placed the company in its Severe Violator Enforcement Program. The program concentrates resources on inspecting employers who have demonstrated indifference towards creating a safe and healthy workplace by committing willful or repeated violations, and/or failing to abate known hazards. It also mandates follow-up inspections to ensure compliance with the law.

(Excerpts, photos and videos from a story by Safety News Alert)
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