Roco Rescue



Rescue Tech II Class: December 2011

Friday, January 06, 2012

We finished out the year with some great students in the Rescue Tech II course on December 12th-16th. In fact, three of the students came all the way from South Korea! Others were from Canada, Mississippi, South Carolina, Missouri and a couple of locals. To all our students, thank you for joining us in 2011 – we look forward to seeing you again soon!

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Tower Rescue: Essential Training in a Global Landscape

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

It is becoming more and more difficult to find a hilltop or a ridge in America that does not have some type of telecom tower placed on it. Likewise, there are many other types of towers popping up across the countryside and in our urban and suburban areas. Everything from wind turbine towers to high tension transmission line towers.

In this piece, Roco Chief Pat Furr shares his experience in Tower Rescue.Furr is from Burlington, Vermont, and served 20 years in the U.S. Air Force as a Pararescueman (PJ). His background includes eight years as a member of the 71st Pararescue team in Anchorage, Alaska, where he specialized in mountain, and glacier rescue. He summited Mt. McKinley and augmented the National Park Service mountain rescue team and spent two tours of duty in Iceland where he put in multiple first ascent ice routes. Furr joined Roco in 2000, where he leads our Fall Protection and Tower Work & Rescue programs and serves as a Technical Rescue Consultant.

Tech Towers Demand Human Interaction

It is becoming more and more difficult to find a hilltop or a ridge in America that does not have some type of telecom tower placed on it. Likewise, there are many other typesof towers popping up across the countryside and in our urban and suburban areas. Everything from wind turbine towers to high tension transmission line towers.

One thing that is common to nearly all of these towers is that someone at some point must climb them. This is true during the initial erection of the tower, and at various times during maintenance, inspections, and equipment installations.

Sad Stats – Tower Work Claims 100 Fatalities a Year

The workers that climb these structures are a unique breed. They require specialized skills and equipment for the safe performance of their jobs. It is certainly a risky business and it is good to have both legislated (OSHA) and consensus standards like the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) to provide guidance to help ensure safe work practices at height. Unfortunately, accidents are still happening on these structures. With the proliferation of cell towers across the nation, it is only logical that a corresponding increase in accidents is occurring. In fact, cell tower and other communication tower climbers have a fatality rate approaching 100 deaths per 100,000 workers annually.

If you are an employer of tower climbers, or if you are responsible to respond to a tower emergency as part of a municipal or rural emergency service, are you prepared to perform tower rescue? Have you trained for and practiced these types of rescues to ensure that you have the skills and equipment necessary to provide safe and efficient rescue? Most rural communities do not have ladder trucks as part of their equipment inventory. Even if they did, ladder trucks have a limited height range and most probably won’t provide adequate range to reach the victim anyway.

Easy to Learn

Tower rescue is not that complicated. In fact, it is quite straight forward as compared to other types of technical rescue such as confined space rescue, trench rescue, or structural collapse rescue. But even then, it still requires specialized training and equipment. The most obvious need is for much longer ropes than what you would require for most other types of rescues. Additionally, the need to be able to provide “one-on-one” rescue of a stricken co-worker is typical. The days of sending a single worker out to a tower climbing job are becoming less common, but there are still employers who see no problem sending a single climber out to change the lamp on a 1200-foot guyed tower.

Fortunately, in the time I have been involved with tower work and rescue, it is becoming more likely that the employer has at least a “buddy system” in place as part of their standard procedures. And, some employers now require a minimum of a three-person crew to provide a “team-on-one” rescue capability. Yes, two rescuers do qualify as a team rescue. Having two rescuers makes the task so much easier and safer than a single rescuer.

Physical Demands

One of the biggest wake-up calls for new tower climbers (and rescuers) is the level of physical fitness required to climb a significant height, especially if the weather is extremely hot or cold. Most folks have little trouble climbing a vertical or near vertical structure up to one or two hundred feet, especially if they are able to use a reliable vertical lifeline and climbing pegs. But if the height exceeds a couple hundred feet, or especially if the climb is protected with a Y-Lanyard instead of a vertical lifeline, then the task can become exhausting if proper technique is not used. Developing a “leapfrog rhythm” with the Y-lanyard or grasping the vertical posts instead of the horizontal sections on a guyed tower make a huge difference in reducing fatigue or forearm cramping.

Two Makes a Team

The techniques required for rescuing an injured or suspended worker from the tower are simple adaptations of existing rescue technique used for other rescue duties. The primary tasks require an ability to lift the victim a short ways to “un-tension” their fall arrest lanyard or work positioning system if they are suspended, and then providing a means to lower the victim to the ground. Depending on the height of the incident, the lower may be accomplished with one pitch of rope. For incidents where the height exceeds the length of the rope, a multi-pitch lower may be required. This is where having a minimum of two rescuers really pays off. Even better if the rescue rope is of sufficient length, one rescuer can operate the lift and lower from the ground, while the second rescuer performs minimal rigging at height.

Strategies for Success

There are a couple of strategies in providing rescue capability for towers. One mindset is to use a build-as-you-go rescue system that can be tailored for the specific structure and incident encountered. A second way is to use pre-built systems in an attempt to cover all situations. Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages. Generally, build-as-you-go systems require marginally more initial training and may not have the same degree of skill retention as pre-built systems. But their advantage is the system can be tailored to fit the situation more readily and the components of the system can also be used for planned work activities. Pre-built systems have a slightly higher rate of skill retention and are ready to be employed as soon as they are put into service. They are, however, limited to a specific function and are not typically used for any other purpose other than for rescue. These pre-built systems are typically packaged in a protective pouch and can be fairly bulky. Thus, they’re typically left at ground level and must be retrieved before a rescue can commence.

At Roco, we rely on a combination of both approaches. Understanding that build-as-you-go systems require a slightly higher degree of proficiency than most pre-built systems, we use very basic techniques that have proven to be retainable, effective, and very safe.

We advocate that the tower climbers have the minimum components required to construct a build-as-you-go rescue system clipped to their harness at all times while on the tower. Simply adding the rescue rope to the system provides a tower rescue capability without the need to rely on a pre-built system. However, for instances where a pre-built system makes the task easier, we have a lightweight and versatile system that works especially well in the event a line transfer while on rappel is required.

Whatever means you decide on to provide a tower rescue capability, as either a tower worker or as part of an emergency response team, it is absolutely imperative that you adhere to safe work practices while climbing by always using 100% fall protection. Seek out and attend professional tower rescue training; and, finally, ensure that the tower climbing/rescue equipment is in serviceable condition and is ready and available to be employed. For those of you in deer and elk country, be especially diligent to ensure that your pre-built system is where it’s supposed to be when hunting season comes around. Not only are they great for rescue, but they come in handy at the hunting camp also.

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The Petzl story – It’s in the DNA

Thursday, December 15, 2011

This is how Petzl began, in my father’s 75 square meter workshop. My family – my father, mother, brother, wife, and I – designed the first tools for verticality and the first underground lamps, which lead, in 1972, to the Petzl headlamp.

Roco recently had the opportunity to interview Paul Petzl, President of Petzl. He shared with us some insight on the history and success of his company, which is headquartered in Crolles, France. We know your father Fernand, a cave explorer, started the company in the mid 1970’s. But isn’t it true that the beginnings of Petzl go back farther than that?

Fernand Petzl was born in 1913. He was a passionate caver all his life. In the 1930s, he and his brothers explored the caves of the Dent de Crolles, near Grenoble. Then, in 1936, he met Pierre Chevalier; together, they explored and charted the first 17 km of galleries there and obtained the first depth record in the world of caving. It was Chevalier who had the idea to make the first nylon rope, for use in caving, which he tested with my father in the Dent de Crolles.

The early 1950s was a very active time in caving. Fernand was appointed leader of the Gouffre Berger international expedition, which reached a depth of 1,122 meters, a new world record. From 1960 to 1970, Fernand put a lot into cave rescue, developing in his small workshop some unique but very handy objects, such as a litter, a pulley, and other systems to facilitate underground rescue.

In 1969, Fernand, with my brother Peter, started manufacturing a descender and a belay device designed by a caver named Bruno Dressler. This time was also a turning point in caving, as ropes replaced ladders as the sole means of vertical movement. This technique had already been developed by Jumar, for mountaineering, but cavers took the technique and adapted it for underground use. And this is how Petzl began…in my father’s 75 square meter workshop. My family – my father, mother, brother, wife, and I – designed the first tools for verticality and the first underground lamps, which lead, in 1972, to the Petzl headlamp.

What is the most innovative device Petzl has ever created?

Simplicity and efficiency for the user have always been primary goals in Petzl innovations. For example, on the first headlamp we designed, we put the battery on the elastic headband. This might seem obvious to experienced users, but we were the first to do it. When Fernand invented the SHUNT, a mechanical prussic, he created a device that could ascend or descend on one or two ropes, even if those ropes were muddy or frozen. We also created the TIBLOC, the lightest ascender in the world, with no moving parts.

But the GRIGRI is without a doubt the most iconic Petzl tool, which was first designed for climbing and later adapted for professional use. The EXO and the GRILLION are both based on the GRIGRI’s design. The EXO is currently being used by fire departments around the United States as a solution for emergency escape and descent, while the GRILLON is a positioning lanyard for professionals. I would never have imagined that the GRIGRI would be so useful for so many different types of customers. It’s because of our customers, who have used this tool in various capacities, that we’ve been able to adapt it so well. In fact, Petzl does not seek primarily to meet the market, but to solve a problem. It is an approach guided more by the solution than by business. This is probably why we have been such an innovative company – and our innovations have helped progression across many disciplines.

Here at Roco, we are big fans of the Petzl ID, and so are our students. We know that one of your focal points is innovation. Are you working on other decent control devices?

I think it’s important to understand why we designed the ID in the first place: Petzl began working with rope-access workers in the 1990s, when this professional activity was just getting started. At this time, most rope-access companies were run by cavers, a group we knew well. It was easy with them; we spoke the same language. But things changed when we encountered more traditional professionals. We were not recognized – indeed, we were rejected as acrobats, people interested only in fun, not professionals. And, at first, most of these professionals rejected the rope as a means of vertical movement. So, we imagined a solution to convert them – a descender that was both reliable and that would reduce the possibility of user error as much as possible.

Today, the ID is used by professionals worldwide and has become a key component in technical rescue applications. Since its launch in 2000, we have made several modifications to the product based on user feedback. One modification involved adding a button on the descent handle, offering increased control when operating on inclines. And, in response to a specific request coming from the North American fire/rescue market, we removed the safety catch from the ID-L side plate, allowing the device to meet the general-use requirements of NFPA 1983. In early 2010, we launched a new descent-control device called the RIG. The design and functionality of this device is geared towards experienced rope-access technicians, who require a simple descender for day-to-day use in many different types of environment. Put simply, we’re always innovating. Developing solutions to help people access the vertical world is at the core of our mission, and we’re just getting started. In fact, we’re currently building a new facility for our R&D division.

In your corporate video, you say how important it is to work with end-users in the development of products. How do climbers, mountaineers, cavers and working at height professionals get ideas to you?

When Petzl is considering new products, prototype samples are sent to Petzl prescriptors – experts in their fields who can provide very specific feedback on product design and functionality. This occurs years before we finalize the product. We also appreciate and consider the constant feedback we receive from end-users via the contact form on our website or other channels.

Because we offer solutions for professionals and those in the sport world, we’re able to cross-pollinate, taking the best ideas from all across the vertical world. I think that the best example of this is the GRIGRI, which was designed first for the caver, then adapted for the climber, then for the arborist, and finally for fire departments around the United States. It is often the user who sees the possible uses of the product. It is the excellent relationship we’ve had with our end-users that has inspired our curiosity and driven our desire to please. It is a field-based approach used by our R&D engineers, who are passionate about verticality in the sport and professional realms.

Several products relative to rescue are now tested to the NFPA 1983 standard here in the United States. Do you see more Petzl products having US certifications in the future?

Many of our key rescue products, including harnesses, ropes, pulleys, connectors, descenders and ascenders, are certified to meet NFPA 1983 standards. Because Petzl is a global company, it is challenging to meet the domestic certification requirements of the more than 50 countries in which we distribute our products. Our hope is that international standards, such as ISO will become more universally adopted in the countries in which we distribute. For example, our NAVAHO BOD harness currently carries four different certifications from four different bodies: EN, CSA, ANSI, and NFPA. This creates a lengthy list of equipment performance and labeling requirements on such products.

Tell us about the Petzl Foundation and the Petzl Institute.

The three founding pillars of Petzl are to create innovative tools, to share expertise as widely as possible, and to share the success of the company with our employees and communities. The Petzl Foundation springs from the third pillar, as it seeks to share our business success with our communities. After all, it is our communities that enable us to exist.

I decided to create the Foundation after hearing of a wonderful initiative led by Petzl America. Thanks to a larger national effort, they were able to help preserve access for climbers to Utah’s Castleton Tower. I realized then that the Foundation could be a powerful tool for good, operating outside of the business framework and competitive constraints of our company. The Foundation has already invested 1.3 million Euro in 40 projects.

After two years, I decided to invest 10% of our profits in the Foundation, to support projects that serve our communities in three core areas: safety awareness, environmental protection and preservation, and fundamental research. The Foundation’s Board of Directors is comprised of members with varied background but who share the same goal, which is to contribute to the common good.

Among the Foundation’s most iconic projects is a guide training we developed for Nepali people in Nepal. We’ve also developed training documentation for firefighters and mountaineers. We developed crevasse safety training, helped protect birds of prey living in cliff-side environments, and funded studies to better understand ice flow and formation. We contributed to save the oldest hut in the Alps, the Refuge of the Eagle, from destruction. We proposed a solution that would improve safety in the Goûter corridor, the main access to Mont Blanc. (To date, more than 200 deaths have been recorded in the corridor.)

Since Petzl’s creation 40 years ago, we have always wanted to share with our customers what we learned and what we received from them. With the construction of our V.axess center, we have moved in the direction of our second pillar, which is the sharing of knowledge and expertise. V.axess, The Petzl Institute, will help bring more expertise to the Petzl distribution network and to their customers. The idea is to always move toward a better understanding of the risks that exist in the vertical world.

I wouldn’t want to conclude the interview without asking about your wife, Catherine. Does she still play a part in managing the business?

Without Catherine, I would not have become Paul PETZL, and PETZL would not have achieved financial security. She was in charge of the business administration, home life, raising the children, and, especially, she has supported all my dreams. She is still a part of the business on a daily basis. As she says, it’s her pleasure to satisfy her customers, so they receive their orders on time and in the right quantities. And, this is no easy job…because of the success of our products, they are not always available!
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Trench Rescue…A thinking game

Monday, December 12, 2011

Roco Chief Instructor Randy Miller explains that trench collapse injuries and/or death is way too common in civil construction, and industrial maintenance projects. The sluggish economy entices organizations to cut corners, after all – time is money. This trend also extends to the homeowner and weekend warrior. Rather than hiring a certified/trained “trench” professional , do-it- yourself or do-it-with-the-resources on-hand seems the more practical. This breeds disaster.

Miller explains, “REMEMBER: It’s not IF it’s going to collapse again, but WHEN it’s going to collapse again.”

Watch this new video on the importance of Trench Rescue Training, where Miller describes hazards of trench work, and offers 5 tips for safer trench rescue practices.

Five helpful tips for Trench rescue:

1. Personal accountability – Know where all your rescuers are at all times.

2. Keep the area clear – Often the first reaction in a trench collapse is to look, which adds more weight on the sides of the trench, increasing the likelihood of collapse.

3. Work from a safe area – Spread out the weight around the trench (e.g. laying wood down around the trench before stepping near or around it).

4. The best trench rescue is a “non-entry” rescue – If possible, get the trapped victim to begin digging himself out by giving him the right tools, right away. This gives the victim something to focus on while first responders develop an action plan.

5. Donʼt get in over your head – If you are not trained, wait. Donʼt create more victims.

Miller urges all first responders (EMS, fire department, police department, and industrial rescue teams) to receive at minimum an Awareness level of training in Trench Rescue.  First line supervisors are encouraged to advance to the Technician level training.

Roco offers a 20-hour Trench Rescue Technician training course. 
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Wednesday, December 07, 2011

We’ve had so many requests for “advanced-level scenario training” that we’ve added Rescue IV to our 2011 schedule. You can add new techniques to your rescue toolbox while putting your problem-solving skills to the test.Challenging confined space and high-angle evolutions, including Roco’s“Yellow Brick Road” multi-station scenario, will give rescuers and rescue teams the most realistic rescue experience possible. This 40-hour course will challenge participants in a wide variety of confined space and high angle rescue scenarios.

Prerequisite: Rescue I-Plus or Industrial I/II

Challenging confined space and high-angle evolutions, including Roco’s “Yellow Brick Road” multi-station scenario, will give rescuers and rescue teams the most realistic rescue experience possible. This 40-hour course will challenge participants in a wide variety of confined space and high angle rescue scenarios.Advanced problem-solving skills and additional techniques will equip rescuers to function more effectively in time-critical emergency situations. This 40-hour course will challenge individual rescuers and rescue teams in a wide variety of confined space and high angle rescue scenarios. These scenarios will increase in complexity to include simulated IDLH and non-IDLH atmospheres, using both SCBA and SAR air equipment. For training conducted at Roco’s training facility, practice scenarios will be completed in all six (6) types of representative confined spaces. At other sites, the number of types completed will depend on the availability of practice spaces.This course will provide documented confined space practice scenarios in accordance with OSHA 1910.146 and as referenced in NPFA 1006.

OSHA 1910.146(k)(2)(iv)

Ensure that affected employees practice making permit space rescues at least once every 12 months, by means of simulated rescue operations in which they remove dummies, manikins, or actual persons from the actual permit spaces or from representative permit spaces. Representative permit spaces shall, with respect to opening size, configuration, and accessibility, simulate the types of permit spaces from which rescue is to be performed.

NFPA 1006 A.3.3.38 Confined Space Type

Figure A.3.3.38* shows predefined types of confined spaces normally found in an industrial setting. Classifying spaces by “types” can be used to prepare a rescue training plan to include representative permit spaces for simulated rescue practice as specified by OSHA. (*Roco Confined Space Types Chart)
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Preparing for the Forgotten Hazard: Rescue from Fall Protection

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

UPDATE: OSHA recently unveiled its top 10 most frequently cited violations for 2010, and topping the list is Fall Protection. With 7,139 violations, Fall Protection is still at the top, switching places with last year’s first place holder, Scaffolding. OSHA reported that 260 workers died in 2010 from falls, which continues to be the leading cause of death in construction. So, you’ve developed an exemplary employee safety program and the shining gem is your fall protection program.

Using an organized approach and ANSI guidance for completing a “Fall Hazard Survey Report,” you have identified all the areas that workers are exposed to falls from height. Adhering to the hierarchy of fall protection, you’ve also been able to engineer out many of these fall hazards by bringing the work to the ground. Outstanding! For several of the remaining areas, you’ve installed passive fall restraint systems like guard rails and parapets. Great! Still, there are several areas that could not be protected by engineering out the hazard or providing passive restraint.

For some of these areas you are able to protect your employees from falls with active restraint, using body support and a restraint lanyard connected to a suitable anchor that prevents the worker from falling. Good. But, there are still a few remaining areas that you could not protect your employees from falls using the lower hierarchy solutions, and the only feasible solution was the use of personal fall arrest systems (PFAS). OK. You are still providing a compliant and possibly the most logical and feasible program that will provide a high degree of fall protection for your work force. Job well done! Or is it?

By taking the steps covered above and using the “Hierarchy of Fall Protection,” the employer is doing exactly what OSHA expects of them to protect their employees from the devastating injuries resulting from falls. However, there is one more piece to the puzzle…what are the potential outcomes and OSHA expectations after an employee falls? Especially if the employee is using PFAS.

OSHA’s Fall Protection regulations state that the employer shall provide prompt rescue in the event of a fall, or shall assure that employees are able to rescue themselves (OSHA 1926.502 and 1910.66 app. C). Although both regulations include “self-rescue” as the first choice in most cases — can we really rely on a worker to self-rescue in the event of a fall? What if the worker is injured during the fall, or what if a sudden medical emergency caused the fall? Are we confident that the individual will be able to perform self-rescue? In our opinion, relying on an employee to provide self-rescue after a fall does not fully meet the spirit of OSHA Fall Protection regulations. In fact, we feel that the only way to provide 100% rescue coverage is to assume that self-rescue is not a reliable option.

The irony is that an employer with an inadequate fall protection program may not face the need for a fallen/suspended worker rescue capability. In this environment, if the employee falls and has no PFAS, there is probably no need for rescue; it is more likely now a recovery. At this point, what the employee really needs is a “help wanted” ad to replace the employee and a very good lawyer.

Just a few years ago it was fairly common for employers not to be aware of the “after fall” hazards created by the PFAS. The understanding was that the PFAS did its job and the emergency was averted. However, in 2004, OSHA published a Safety and Health Information Bulletin (SHIB 03-24-2004 updated 2011 that provided advice and information on suspension trauma/orthostatic intolerance. In fact, the bulletin states that “research indicates that suspension…can result in unconsciousness, followed by death, in less than 30 minutes.” As a recognized hazard, an understanding of suspension trauma makes it clear that post fall arrest suspended workers are still at risk of serious and possibly fatal injury even in the absence of primary injury prior to, or during the fall.

Although OSHA regulations do not assign a specific time criteria to what constitutes “prompt rescue,” ANSI Z359.2 does. ANSI recommends that “physical or verbal” contact be made with the fallen worker within four (4) to six (6) minutes. Notice that ANSI includes verbal contact in their recommendation. It makes sense that if verbal contact is established, the fallen worker’s condition can be assessed and a determination made on the general urgency of the situation. For example, if responders can establish verbal contact with the fallen/suspended worker, and the victim is alert and oriented, has normal or near normal breathing function, and has no obvious signs of bleeding, then the rescue can be approached in a measured manner. Responders should also remind the suspended worker to “bicycle” their legs — or to deploy any system that is designed to delay the onset of suspension trauma. Obviously, the victim needs to be rescued in a safe and expeditious manner before the onset of suspension trauma, if possible.

However, if the victim is unresponsive, or showing signs of breathing difficulty, or active bleeding, then the sense of urgency should be elevated and the victim must be rescued ASAP. This presents a true dilemma for the employer who has not included a prompt rescue capability in their comprehensive fall protection program.

In fact, it is common to refer to a PFAS system as having four components:

(1) A fall arrest harness.
(2) An energy absorbing lanyard.
(3) A suitable fall arrest anchor.
(4) Rescue.

A great way to ensure that a prompt rescue capability is available in the event of a fallen/suspended worker is to complete a “Fallen Worker Rescue Preplan” for all areas where employees are working at height. For general industry facilities, which tend to be fairly static, this can be done initially with periodic review and updates as needed. For the typical construction industry with its dynamic activities, a much more diligent and regular review of rescue needs and rescue plans may be needed.

Employers have a few options in developing a prompt rescue of fallen/suspended worker capability. Coordinating with municipal emergency responders is one option. Contracting third party professional rescue services is another possibility — especially during turnaround activities or major reconfigurations/additions. Or, the employer can choose to develop an in-house rescue capability made up of their own employees that are trained and equipped to perform the types of rescues that they may be confronted with at their facility.

Whichever option the employer chooses, it is of utmost importance that the employer vets the rescuers, even their own in-house assets, to ensure that they can actually perform the types of rescue, including the worst case that they may be responding to. For those using an outside rescue service, it is a great practice to invite the rescuers to the facility for the purpose of rescue planning and a performance evaluation of their capabilities. It is very common for outside rescuers to be caught off guard when confronted with unique structural or victim access constraints upon seeing the facility for the first time. This may be so significant that the rescuers find themselves unequipped or lacking in the skills required to provide rescue.

The recent advent of pre-engineered rescue systems has also lulled many employers into the belief that these systems will provide an all-encompassing rescue capability. While most of these “Plug–and–Play” systems do provide a certain level of performance, they also have limitations, especially if access to the fallen/suspended worker requires a rescuer to be put on line to make physical contact with the victim. In this case, it is quite likely that the employer may need to consider a technical rescue capability exceeding the capabilities of a pre-engineered rescue system.

The need for a more technical rescue approach can only be determined after a thorough evaluation of rescue needs based on Fallen Worker Rescue Preplans. We often refer to this as a fallen worker “walk-about” where knowledgeable representatives of the employer (usually the competent person or the competent rescuer) tour the facility to develop Fallen Worker Rescue Preplans. These individuals will need a thorough understanding of the work processes, the areas of workers at height, the access routes, the types of PPE/PFAS being used, and most importantly, an understanding of the techniques and equipment necessary to affect a safe and prompt rescue.

Once the Fallen Worker Rescue Preplans have been completed, they become part of the comprehensive fall protection program and should be reviewed and updated as necessary.  With the seemingly continuous advent of new rescue equipment and techniques, it would be a great idea to review your preplans to see if there are opportunities to add these innovations, especially if they provide a safer and more efficient means of rescue.

In summary, it is of utmost importance for employers to ensure that their workers at height (especially if using PFAS) are afforded prompt rescue should they fall and remain suspended from their PFAS system. Whether the employer chooses an outside rescue service or elects to develop an in-house team, they should ensure that the rescue team can perform any and all types of rescues they may be summoned to. If a pre-engineered rescue system or a technical rescue capability is determined to be the most appropriate route, ensure that the rescuers receive thorough, high quality training on the types of systems they will need to employ.

If you would like more information or need assistance in preparing your Fallen Worker Rescue Preplans, please call Roco at 800-647-7626.
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Teaching from Experience… Roco Chief Randy Miller

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Randy Miller, Roco’s Chief Instructor and Trench/Structural Collapse guru knew at an early age rescue was his calling. It all began when he joined the Hagerman volunteer fire department in his late teens, and went on to study at Florida State Fire College in Ocala and the University of Florida in Gainesville. Since then, Miller has served as a firefighter, fire chief, paramedic, police officer and rescue team manager to name a few.

Miller is the real thing. He has been boots on the ground in this century’s most morbid natural disasters including; September 11, Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake. He lives in Long Island, New York with his wife and 3 young sons. Besides being a Chief Instructor for Roco, he is a detective with the NYPD’s Emergency Service Unit (ESU), a Rescue Team Manager for New York Task Force One (National Urban Search and Rescue Team), and is still volunteering at the Hagerman (Long Island) Fire Department.

During an  interview with Miller he laughed as he described himself as a typical Type A personality…always wanting more, and never busy enough. We believe!

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Corpus Christi Firefighters Save Man Trapped in Grain Bin

Friday, November 04, 2011

How do you rescue a man stuck in grain to just above his waist?  Very carefully — and slowly — said Corpus Christi, Texas, firefighters who built a special wooden box that enclosed the trapped man. They were then able to lower the grain level around the worker enough to pull him to safety, hours after he became stuck in a grain elevator. Thirty firefighters, rotating in teams, spent about five hours in the delicate rescue effort at the Corpus Christi Grain Co., said Assistant Fire Chief Randy Paige.

CNN reported this dramatic grain rescue by the Corpus Christi Fire Department back in April. OSHA has just announced significant penalties and multiple violations for theTexas grain company. Here’s more…

How do you rescue a man stuck in grain to just above his waist?  Very carefully — and slowly — said Corpus Christi, Texas, firefighters who built a special wooden box that enclosed the trapped man. They were then able to lower the grain level around the worker enough to pull him to safety, hours after he became stuck in a grain elevator. Thirty firefighters, rotating in teams, spent about five hours in the delicate rescue effort at the Corpus Christi Grain Co., said Assistant Fire Chief Randy Paige.

The 50-year-old unidentified man was alone inside the grain elevator when he became stuck, said Paige, who did not know what the employee was doing inside or what variety of grain was in the structure. The man was discovered more than an hour later by co-workers, and the rescue began, with a successful conclusion around 8:30 p.m. The man was taken Wednesday night to a local hospital for observation and was in stable condition, Paige told CNN. The man did not complain of injuries.

Firefighters who arrived on the scene opened a hatch on the side of the round elevator, which is about 100 feet in diameter and about 75 feet tall, officials said. They could see the employee who was a few feet above ground level in the tank. He also was standing above valves that release grain to an area below ground, Paige said. As they got to work, they also saw that the grain rose in a “V” shape along the tank’s walls to about 50 feet above the worker, who was in the middle of the elevator, Paige said.

“This stuff is real fine and granular and he was unable to move,” the chief said. Crews used plywood to build wood shoring that was about the shape of a small closet. They put it in position around the employee. When they opened the valve, the grain dropped and they were able to pluck the employee to safety. “We had to be very careful and slow at this,” said Paige. “We were worried about an avalanche effect.”

The fire official was proud of his team, which had three members inside the tank at all times. They had to deal with warm temperatures and were able to get fluids, by water and intravenously, to the trapped man. “Luckily, the dust was not too bad.” It all came down to training and resourcefulness, Paige said.

What were the other options? Plan B called for using a hoisting device at the top of the elevator, but crews were worried about the stress on the employee’s body if they tried to pull him up. Plan C involved a vacuum truck that would have removed the grain.”Luckily, Plan A worked on this one,” said Paige.

OSHA has cited Corpus Christi Grain Co. in Corpus Christi, Texas, for six willful and 20 serious violations with total proposed penalties of $258,900. OSHA‘s Corpus Christi Area Office initiated its inspection at the company’s facility after it was reported that a worker was engulfed while emptying grain from a storage bin. The employee was rescued due to the exceptional efforts of the Corpus Christi Fire Department.

“Employees working in grain storage buildings are exposed to dangerous conditions, and proper safety measures must be taken,” said Michael Rivera, director of OSHA’sCorpus Christi office. “If OSHA’s standards were followed, it is possible this unfortunate incident could have been avoided.”

The willful violations include failing to provide personal protective equipment, such as a body harness and life line, for employees working with stored grain; perform lockout/tagout procedures for the energy sources of equipment, such as augers and conveyors, while workers are inside the grain bins; and have a competent attendant present with rescue equipment when workers enter grain storage bins.

The serious violations include failing to ensure that employees are trained on the hazards associated with grain handling, cover openings with grates in grain bins, ensure that workroom floors are clear of combustible dust, and provide a preventive maintenance schedule for machinery.

Iowa Fatality Assessment & Control (FACE) Program
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Confined Space Fatalities…a closer look at the numbers

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

At some point during just about every Roco CSRT Rescue Stand-By job, someone will ask us why we are there. After we tell them that we’re there to make sure all the workers go home safely (and explain some of the basic requirements of OSHA’s 1910.146 regulation), they will normally add, “Well, we’re glad you’re here!”When asked how often we have to do a rescue, we’ll tell them that it’s not often – because our goal is to make sure a rescue never has to happen. With careful pre-planning and proper entry procedures, an entry rescue should not be needed. 

As we all know, however, things go wrong – especially in a confined space. And that’s when a Stand-by Rescue Team can make all the difference in the world – especially to the worker(s) in the hole.

With a facility that plans for confined space entry and routinely follows all safety precautions, employees just might not realize how common these confined space emergencies can be. With that in mind, we decided to do some very basic analyses of statistics from the Department of Labor. In looking at permit-required confined space incidents from 2005 through 2009, we found some of these statistics to be surprising.

Here’s what we found… during the 5-year period (2005-2009), there were a total of 481 fatalities. This averages to about 96.2 fatalities per year (or 1.85 fatalities per week). If you carry this logic forward, it equates to 1 fatality about every 4 days. And keep in mind that this data only covers incidents with at least one fatality or death, so these numbers don’t include all of those incidents that resulted in serious injuries or illnesses.

These fatalities occurred in 28 states…with just about every age group other than the very young and the very old equally represented. Over 61% (or 298) of these incidents occurred during construction, repairing or cleaning activities. For 203 of the fatalities, the victim worked in the construction industry regularly; however, 17% (or 83) of the victims were in management positions.

Over 61% of confined space entry fatalities occurred during construction, repairing or cleaning activities.

One of the most surprising statistics had to do with the causes of these fatalities. Generally, you would assume that the most common cause of confined space emergencieswould be atmospheric hazards. However, during this particular period, that was not the case. The largest cause by a significant measure was “Physical Hazards.” This broad term encompasses a lot of territory including, “struck by”; “caught in”; “collapses”; and “falls.” Physical hazards accounted for 294 or 61% of the fatalities. Atmospheric hazards (including fires) accounted for 160 or 33% of the incidents.

These numbers serve to remind us how important proper safety precautions are when it comes to confined spaces. For emergency responders, atmospheric hazards are always on our minds – however, from this, we also must consider the many physical hazards that are often found in confined spaces – especially when construction or maintenance activities are in process.
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When should I retire my rescue rope?

Monday, October 24, 2011

Unfortunately, there’s not a reasonably priced “non-destructive” test to determine a particular rope’s strength. Your best bet is to have trained personnel using the rope, keep good rope use logs and inspect the rope after every use. It’s always best to refer to your rope manufacturer for proper care, inspection and replacement, so that’s what we did.

Here’s what Steve Hudson, President of PMI Rope, had to say.
He first referenced the product literature that’s included with PMI rope that states:

- Any rope whose strength may have been compromised during use.
- Any rope which is subjected to uncontrolled or excessive loading.
- Any rope which is greater than 10 years old, regardless of history and usage.
- Any rope whose history and past usage you are uncertain about.

While these are simple statements, I realize that it is difficult to determine what is “excessive loading” or what is “compromised.” And, if you think it’s hard to look at a rope after an operation and tell if it was compromised or not – think how hard it is for us at the factory to know without being there or having the rope to look at.

Unfortunately, there’s not a reasonably priced “non-destructive” test to determine a particular rope’s strength. Your best bet is to have trained personnel using the rope, keep good rope use logs and inspect the rope after every use. Anytime you have lost faith in what you know about the rope’s condition, for any reason, you should retire it.

A PMI rope, if properly cared for, should last at least 5 years of regular rescue training use and longer than that with intermittent use. By 10 years, it’s simply time to replace it. There are just too many things in the environment that the rope might pick up and are potentially harmful to the yarn.

And, as always, when in doubt, throw it out… CUT RETIRED ROPE into short lengths which will discourage future use – or discard it entirely. A retired rope should not be stored, kept or maintained in such a way that it could inadvertently be used as a lifeline. In some cases, when only a single point or a small area of a rope has been damaged and the remainder of the rope is in good condition, the user may elect to cut that section out of the rope and continue to use the remaining sections. This is a judgment call and such a decision is left to the user’s discretion.

Again, never take chances – if you’re not sure about the integrity of a rope, throw it out!

Quick Reference for Rope Retirement:

  •     Extensive Use (e.g. Roco’s training rope) – replace every two (2) years or as needed.
  •     Occasional Use (e.g. once a month) – replace every five (5) years or as needed.
  •     Regardless of Use – replace every ten (10) years.
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