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Service Life Guidelines for Rescue Equipment

Wednesday, January 20, 2016
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.

THIS INSPECTION PROCESS OFFERS GUIDELINES FOR KEEPING EQUIPMENT IN SERVICE OR RETIRING IT.

Depending on the manufacturer, you will find varying specifications for service life of rescue equipment. For example, Petzl specifically defines the “potential” service life of plastic or textile products to be no longer than 10 years. It states indefinite for metallic products. CMC, on the other hand, does not give specified times for their equipment stating, “The service life of equipment used for rescue depends greatly on the type of use and the environment of use. Because these factors vary greatly, a precise service life of the equipment cannot be provided.” However, in reference to harnesses, CMC’s cites ASTM F1740-96 as the industry standard for service life. SMC follows along the lines of CMC when stating the amount of time a product can stay in service.

Although the definition of “equipment lifespan” is very broad depending on the manufacturer, each will provide specific instructions on proper inspection of equipment and detailed explanations on when to the retire service item.

Most manufacturers follow the same general guidelines for removing equipment from service. Several general identifiers that pertain to all equipment are shown below. 

Download Roco's Quick Checklist for your convenience. →

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.

Most manufacturers will provide service for equipment items that are repairable. However, most caution against this because the cost of repair typically exceeds the cost of replacement. Any repairs attempted outside of the manufacturer may void any warranty and will release the manufacturer from any liability or responsibility. In addition, all manufacturers recommend destroying equipment once it has been retired from service to prevent items from inadvertently being recycled back into active service gear.

Manufacturers also provide indicators for different types of equipment that require it to be retired from service. These are not only capturing the general conditions mentioned above, but also bring in conditions that are specific to each category of equipment. It is important to identify these specific conditions as they are vital to the dependability and functionality of each component.

Harnesses:

Harnesses are one of the most vital components of life safety equipment. Without a certified harness in serviceable condition, the best life safety rope and hardware in pristine condition will do little to protect the user. All individuals who are required to wear harnesses to perform duties should be trained and authorized in the inspection process. Harnesses should be inspected before and after use as well as once annually by an individual deemed a competent person by the facility or department.

Since harnesses are a nylon product, they fall under the guidelines set forth by ASTM consensus standard F1740-96 and have a service life of 10 years. Manufacturers also state that hard or excessive use – as well as the conditions when a harness is used – may significantly reduce its service life. It is important to conduct routine inspections as well as keep records of harness use. This “usage” history could indicate signs that would require the equipment to be retired early.

Here are some conditions to help identify when it’s time to retire your life safety harness:

  •   The harness has surpassed 10 years since the manufacture date.
  •   Webbing shows signs of cuts, significantly worn or frayed areas, soft or hard spots.
  •   Webbing shows signs of discolored or melted fibers.
  •   Stitching shows signs of pulled threads, abrasion or breaks.
  •   Hardware shows signs of damage, sharp edges, excessive wear or improper function.
  •   If the harness has been subjected to shock loads, fall loads, or abuse.
  •   If there is any doubt about the integrity of the harness.
  • If the harness demonstrates any of these conditions, it should be removed from service and destroyed.

  • Life Safety Rope, Webbing, Anchor Straps, Accessory Cord:
       

Since these products are nylon or textile based as well, they fall under the same inspection process as harnesses. A complete inspection of life safety rope and associated products includes not only a visual inspection but a tactile (or touch) inspection as well. The tactile inspection should be done with tension on the rope, webbing or strap. 

The inspector is looking to identify any of the following conditions:

  •   Chafed, glazed or discolored surfaces (these areas should receive a more thorough inspection).
  •   Abrasions or cuts in the sheath where the core is exposed.
  •   Variation of diameter of the rope that could indicate potential damage to the core fibers.
  •   Soft or hard spots that could indicate core damage or that the fibers have been overstressed.
  •   If the rope has been subjected to shock loads, fall loads or abuse.

If any of these conditions are noted, then the item should be retired and destroyed immediately. It is important to remember that an accurate history should be maintained for all life safety rope products. The date of manufacture should be identified and recorded as products are being put into service. Equipment inspectors or users should ensure that these products do not exceed their service life. As with harnesses, the amount, type and conditions of use can drastically reduce the service life of these products.

Carabiners:

Since carabiners are metallic, they do not fall under the ASTM service life recommendation of 10 years. As long as these products are in serviceable condition and properly maintained, they have an infinite service life. Even though they do not have a dedicated service life term, it is still important to conduct the same pre/post use and annual inspections. 

Some conditions that would require the equipment, such as carabiners, to be retired from service include:

  •   Carabiner has been dropped a significant distance.
  •   Exposed to heat sufficient enough to alter the surface appearance.
  •   Cracks, distortion or deep gouges.
  •   Corrosion or deep pitted rust. (Note: Surface rust may be removed with a fine abrasive cloth and coated with a preservative such as LPS #1.)
  •   Sharp edges that could cause damage to life safety rope (minor edges may be smoothed with the same process as rust removal).
  •   Gate does not line up when closed.
  •   Gate action does not return to closed position when opened and released.
  •   Locking mechanism does not fully engage.
  •   Complete history of use cannot be determined.
  • If any of these conditions exist, the equipment should be removed from service and destroyed. Records of use and inspection should be kept on these items even though the service life of the product is infinite.
Pulleys:

Pulleys, as with carabiners, are metallic in construction and do not have a service life recommendation. They will also have an infinite service life as long as they are in serviceable condition and are properly maintained. Pulleys fall under the same inspection requirements as carabiners. 

Below are some conditions that would require such equipment to be removed from service:

  •   Pulley has been dropped a significant distance.
  •   Exposed to heat sufficient enough to alter the surface appearance.
  •   Cracks, dents or elongation at the carabiner hole on side plates.
  •   Corrosion or deep pitted rust. (Note: Surface rust may be removed with a fine abrasive cloth and coated with a preservative such as LPS #1.)
  •   Deep scratches or gouges to side plates or sheave(s).
  •   Sharp edges that could cause damage to life safety rope (minor edges may be smoothed with the same process as rust removal).
  •   Side plates that do not line up at the carabiner hole.
  •   Elongation of the side plates at the sheave pin.
  •   Side plates that do not move freely.
  •   Sheave does not turn freely or significantly rubs against side plate.
  •   If the item has been subjected to shock loads, fall loads or abuse.
  •   If the history of use or manufacture date cannot be determined.

If any of these conditions exist, the equipment should be removed from service and destroyed. Records of use and inspection should be kept on these items even though the service life of the product is infinite.

Decent control devices:

Decent control devices, if metallic, do not have a service life recommendation. If the device is constructed of plastic or other textile material, it will have a service life not to exceed 10 years. 

Below are some conditions that would require this equipment to be removed from service:

  •   Cracks, deformations or elongation to any portion of the device.
  •   Corrosion or deep pitted rust. (Note: Surface rust may be removed with a fine abrasive cloth and coated with a preservative such as LPS #1.)
  •   Deep scratches or gouges to any portion of the device.
  •   Sharp edges that could cause damage to life safety rope (minor edges may be smoothed with the same process as rust removal).
  •   Excessive wear to friction surfaces or cam (see wear indicator on some devices).
  •   If the device has been subjected to shock loads, fall loads or abuse.
  •   If the history of use or manufacture date cannot be determined.

If any of these conditions exist, the equipment should be removed from service and destroyed. Records of use and inspection should be kept on these items throughout their service life.

Ascenders:

As with previously mentioned equipment, the same inspection procedures apply to ascenders. 

Below are some of the conditions that would require ascenders to be removed from service:

  •   Cracks, deformations or elongation to any portion of the device.
  •   Corrosion or deep pitted rust. (Note: Surface rust may be removed with a fine abrasive cloth and coated with a preservative such as LPS #1.)
  •   Deep scratches or gouges to any portion of the device.
  •   Sharp edges that could cause damage to life safety rope (minor edges may be smoothed with the same process as rust removal).
  •   Fouled teeth on cam (handled type ascenders).
  •   Excessive wear to surface of cam.
  •   Damage to rivets (if applicable).

If any of these conditions exist, the equipment should be removed from service and destroyed. Records of use and inspection should be kept on these items throughout their service life.

Service history is an extremely important part of ensuring life safety equipment is properly maintained and that service life is not exceeded. Not only does this help rescue teams control inventory and operational capability of equipment by documenting each use and inspection, it also assists the teams in forecasting budget costs for the replacement of items that are nearing the end of their service life.

Maintaining records of the manufacturer’s information received when purchasing new equipment is vital to identifying and keeping track of the manufacture date. It is also important to keep this information on file for the exact procedures for inspecting and removing equipment from service. If the manufacture date of equipment, such as life safety rope and harnesses, cannot be identified; it poses 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. Also, if recordkeeping of equipment inspection and use is not a primary focus, it could potentially expose team members to operating with unsafe equipment due to abuse or excessive/extreme conditions that go undetected.

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 brought in to assist in determining the condition and estimated service life of rescue equipment. For assistance from our rescue equipment professionals, call us at 800-647-7626.

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NFPA Issues New Guide for Confined Spaces

Thursday, January 07, 2016
“Up until now, requesting or researching OSHA Letters of Interpretation or checking with other safety professionals was the means to get a clearer picture of ‘how’ to accomplish safe and compliant confined space entry. NFPA's Guide for Safe Confined Space Entry (NFPA350) helps to bridge that area from regulation to compliance. It is a ‘must have’ resource for safety professionals, confined space owners/workers and rescuers as well,”  states, Dennis O'Connell, Director of Training for Roco Rescue, who served as an alternate committee member for NFPA 350.

Here's more from NFPA on their new guide...

Every year, confined space incidents result in worker deaths, injuries, and serious illnesses. The danger is widespread because all facilities can have confined spaces - from commercial buildings and hospitals to public works, utilities, and chemical/industrial facilities. By U.S. law, employees must comply with applicable regulations such as OSHA's 29 CFR 1910.146 and 29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA to ensure personnel safety. However, these regulations tell you 'what' to do, not 'how' to identify, evaluate, and control confined space hazards or conduct rescue response.

NFPA has just introduced NFPA 350: Guide for Safe Confined Space Entry and Work. This all-new guide is essential for anyone who enters confined spaces, along with facility managers, code officials, and safety personnel. NFPA 350 explains how to protect workers who enter into confined spaces for inspection or testing, or to perform associated work. Provisions address the full range of special hazards, including those present in water treatment, petrochemical, and agricultural facilities. It provides information to assist companies that need to comply with OSHA's Permit-Rquired Confined Spaces (29 CFR 1910.146) among other standards. In addition, NFPA 350 helps fire service and emergency services personnel develop and evaluate plans for confined space rescue in conjunction with NFPA 1670: Standard on Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents.

This guide will help you be prepared to recognize, evaluate, and control confined space entry hazards. Follow practices developed by experts for: 

    • • Identification of Confined Spaces
    • • Evaluation of Hazards
    • • Atmospheric Monitoring
    • • Hazard Elimination and Control
    • • Ventilation
    • • Rescue and Rescue Planning
    • • Confined Space Personnel Duties, Responsibilities, and Competencies
    • • Pre-Entry Evaluation Forms and Permits
    • • Management of Change
    • • Prevention Through Design
    • • OSHA Alternate Entry Procedures and Reclassification (Annex C)

As an added note, NFPA 350 looks at all confined spaces from a different prospective- i.e., all spaces are treated as "permit required" until it is proven that entry is safe or the proper precautions have been taken. This guide's impact in confined space work and rescue will be significant in reducing risk and meeting compliance issues. For more information, visit NFPA.org.

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Gravedigger Engulfed In Cave-in of Unguarded Grave

Monday, January 04, 2016
“A Trench is a Trench is a Trench”

An employee of a cemetery in Farmingdale, New York, was seriously injured on May 7, 2015, when the walls of the grave opening in which he was working collapsed and buried him up to his waist.

An inspection by the Long Island Area Office of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that the excavation and its support systems lacked adequate protection against cave-ins and the excavation had not been inspected to identify such deficiencies. Other hazards included damaged equipment and the placement of excavated soil on the edge of the unprotected trench. These conditions exposed employees to the hazards of cave-in, engulfment and struck-by injuries.

This worker literally came close to an early grave because the cemetery failed to provide proper excavation protections. 

“This cave-in could have been prevented if proper and legally required trenching safety procedures had been followed by the employer,” said Anthony Ciuffo, OSHA’s Long island (NY) area director. “It is imperative that cemeteries ensure that workers at all its cemeteries are protected against cave-in hazards and ensure that an incident such as this does not happen again in the future.”

OSHA cited the company on Nov. 5, 2015, for two willful and three serious violations of workplace safety standards.

Roco Comments from Dennis O’Connell, Director of Training:

You may think of this is an unusual circumstance, a once in a lifetime event. Sorry, but you’re wrong. During my tenure as a rescuer in NYC, I responded to a number of these jobs, and they present some additional hazards that are not associated with most trench rescue jobs.

You can call it what you want, but a grave is a trench. And the location can make a big difference in terms of hazards presented. For example, I have a house in NY and one in Louisiana – in South Louisiana, we try to bury people above ground, if possible! However, in places like NY, cemetery space is so limited. It’s like high-rises in the city, our cemetery family plots bury multiple family members usually 3 on top of the other, which is referred to as a triple depth grave. This pushes the grave depth to about 8 feet for the first entombment.

So, no matter what you call it – a trench is a trench, and we need to follow OSHA 1926.651-652 requirements for protecting workers. Let’s look at some of the grave/trench basics before we move on to the specific grave hazard. If we dig an excavation that is longer than it is wide, it is a considered a trench – if it is 4’ or deeper, you need to have a ladder or other means of egress for workers; if it is 5’ or deeper, you need to install a protective system.

You must have a Competent Person, as defined by OSHA, to determine what system is adequate and that it is installed properly. They must also inspect the trench and surrounding area for hazards before workers can enter the trench. Of course, there’s a lot more to digging a trench and the responsibilities of the competent person but you get the idea.

Also, just because a trench is only 7’ long and 3’ wide, this does not change the rules or responsibilities associated with digging a trench. If you’re digging a trench, you need to have that competent person; you need to understand the requirements of 1926.651-652; and you need to know who will respond if you have a trench emergency. Keep in mind, most municipal departments, especially volunteer departments, do not have the training or equipment to respond to a trench collapse.

Ok, the added hazard to a grave collapse rescue is the headstone at the end of the grave – depending on the size, they can weigh over 1,000lbs. If it has fallen in the grave on top of the victim, then you will need to use technical rescue techniques and equipment to lift and free the victim. If it is still on the edge, you will need to support, stabilize or remove it before rescuers can work under it. So, even an innocent grave, can be the scene of a complicated technical trench rescue.

Bottom line… if you are digging trenches for whatever reason, or you have contractors digging trenches on your property, you need to be aware of the requirements of 1926.651-652, have a “competent person,” and identify who you are going to call if a collapse happens.

FYI, you need to have 2.9 feet of soil above the casket top. Some say that it’s a public health law. Between you and me, I think it’s to keep Zombies from escaping!

Here is an OSHA fact sheet to help you better understand some of the requirements. OSHA Fact Sheet - Trenching and Excavation Safety

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Worth the Wait...OSHA’s Confined Space Standard for Construction

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

In our opinion, the new OSHA regulation for Confined Spaces in Construction (Subpart AA of 1926) was worth the wait! This new standard is well thought out and includes some significant as well as subtle differences from the General Industry Permit Required Confined Space Standard 1910.146.

In this article, we will point out additional requirements for compliance for construction activities involving confined spaces. With the exception of residential construction, the final rule became fully enforceable as of October 2, 2015.   

These additional requirements instituted by OSHA are due to the dynamic nature of the construction environment. Dynamic in terms of the continuously evolving configuration of the workplace, and also in the diverse and ever-changing makeup of employers and employees depending on the phase of construction. We feel the most significant differences are not complete shifts in an administrative or operational approach to conducting safe permit required confined space operations, but more of an increased emphasis and clarification of the requirements that were already in place in the General Industry regulations.

“We believe the new standard offers an increased emphasis and clarification of the requirements that were already in place in the General Industry regulations.”

Please pay particular attention and review 1926 Subpart AA for requirements to ensure clear communication and coordination between the varied entities that work in or adjacent to the construction areas that have confined spaces. The lack of accurate communication and coordination continues to be a cause of confined space fatalities.

The need to communicate with the controlling contractor and entry employers regarding any operations that may have introduced a hazard into a confined space is of paramount importance. The failure to do so has repeatedly led to disaster for unsuspecting follow-on entrants into those confined spaces. Likewise, understanding and communicating the types of operations adjacent to, or in the proximity of confined spaces that may negatively affect that entry operation, must be coordinated and communicated.

Also, several new roles and responsibilities have been added to the confined space regulations. One of the most important new roles is that of the “competent person” for confined spaces.

Having a dedicated individual (Competent Person) who has the expertise and background to perform this critical function will undoubtedly result in lives saved.

OSHA has also added clarification to the need to ensure that the designated confined space rescue service is not only available at the time entry operations commence, but also that rescue service must now agree to notify the entry employer if a situation arises that renders them unable to respond to an emergency.


So let’s take a look at some of the particulars of these new requirements and clarifications.

1. Allows an Entry Permit to be suspended, instead of cancelled in the event of changes from the entry conditions list. Ref: 1926.1205(e)(2)

This differs from 1910.146(e)(5) which requires an employer to terminate entry and cancel the entry permit. This change has specific requirements and limits. Suspending a permit is only allowed when a condition that is not allowed under the entry permit arises in or near the permit space and that condition is: (a) temporary in nature; (b) does not change the configuration of the space; and/or, (c) does not create any new hazards within it.

The first action of the entry supervisor must be to terminate entry and ensure all authorized entrants have safely evacuated the space. At that point, the entry supervisor can suspend or cancel the entry permit. Prior to authorizing reentry, the entry supervisor must fully reassess the space before allowing reentry.

2. Includes more detailed provisions requiring coordinated activities when there are multiple employers at the worksite.

This is an important difference compared to the General Industry regulation. It is required due to the ever-changing makeup of the construction workforce and most especially when the need for workers from multiple employers must enter permit spaces at the same time, or perform work activities in the vicinity of the permit space – thus, the potential to introduce new hazards to the space that all employers on site must be aware of and prepare for.

This final provision differs from 1910.146(d)(11) by specifically addressing the need to coordinate work activities through the controlling contractor, as well as with employers working outside the permit space when their work could foreseeably affect conditions within a confined space. The new construction industry standard goes far beyond by outlining the need for coordinated activities between multiple employers by identifying specific roles – host employer, controlling contractor and the entry employer. (Refer to Chart.)

OSHA 1926.1203 General Requirements paragraph (h) includes specific communication and coordination requirements between the various employers and contractors. The host employer must provide certain information they may have about confined spaces to the controlling contractor.

Required information includes items such as:
(a) The location of known permit spaces;
(b) The nature of hazards in those identified permit spaces;
(c) The reason for classifying the space as permit required; and,
(d) Any additional precautions that the host employer, any other controlling contractor, or entry employer have previously employed to protect their employees must be provided.

It is also incumbent upon the controlling contractor to obtain information from the host employer regarding the hazards associated with the permit spaces and any information on previous entry operations into that permit space.

The controlling contractor is responsible for passing information to any entry employer that may authorize entry into that permit space as well to any other entity at the worksite that could foreseeably create a hazard that may affect that confined space.

The entry employer must obtain from the controlling contractor all the information regarding the particular permit space hazards and entry operation information. Additionally, the entry employer must inform the controlling contractor of the provisions of their permit required confined space program and any hazards they expect to confront or create during their entry operations.

It is also very important that the controlling contractor and all entry employers coordinate their activities when multiple entry employers have entrants in the same space, or when other activities around the permit space may create a hazard that affects the confined space entry operation.

At the completion of entry operations, it is equally important that all entities including entry employers and controlling contractors communicate information regarding the particulars of any given entry. This information must include the permit space program followed during the entry operation as well as any hazards confronted or created during entry. Of particular importance is to communicate any hazards created within the confined space that may still be in place. The controlling contractor in turn communicates all of this information to the host employer.

3. Requires a Competent Person to evaluate the work site and identify confined spaces, including permit spaces.

Along with the increased need for strong communications and coordination, the addition of the role of competent person for confined spaces may be one of the most important differences between the general industry standard and the construction standard.

It may seem to be a subtle difference in the two standards’ requirements, but now there is a specific role, or an identified position for conducting an evaluation of the worksite to determine the presence of confined spaces, a determination of the known or potential hazards associated with those confined spaces, and that has the authority to eliminate the identified hazards.

The competent person for confined spaces must have a high degree of expertise in identifying confined spaces and to make an accurate determination of the nature of any known or potential hazards associated with the confined space that would trigger it to be classified a permit space. In the event that the configuration or use of a non-permit required confined space changes, or a new hazard is introduced, the entry employer must have the competent person reevaluate that space to determine if it has become a permit required confined space. This is also true for any confined space that may not have initially been adequately evaluated to identify any known or potential hazards that would require that space to be classified a permit required confined space.

4. Designated rescue service must agree to notify the entry employer immediately if it becomes unavailable.

Although it has always been implied in the general industry standard that the entry supervisor would ensure the designated rescue service is available during entry operations, 1926.1211 explicitly requires an employer to designate a rescue service – in turn, the rescue service agrees to notify the entry employer immediately if they become unavailable to respond.

5. Provide an early warning system for non-isolated engulfment hazards.

This is primarily for sanitary and storm drain entry operations, but is equally important for any entry operations of a similar nature. The type of early warning systems can be as simple as posting an individual as an “upstream watch” to more complex systems such as electronic sensors or camera systems. Whatever system is used to detect an impending engulfment hazard, it must include a means of communications to provide advanced warning to the downstream entrants in time to safely evacuate the space.

We encourage our readers to spend time studying the new regulation, and in particular understanding the points we have highlighted in this article as well as in our downloadable Confined Spaces in Construction Safety Poster. If you have questions, or if we may be of service, please contact us at 800-647-7626.

 

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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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