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1 Dead, 2 Injured in Storage Tank Incident

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A man died Friday (January 21) after being overcome by fumes while trying to help two co-workers who lost consciousness inside a tank they were cleaning at a pharmaceutical plant north of Atwater Village, authorities said.

When Los Angeles firefighters arrived at the Baxter Healthcare Corp. about 4 a.m., one of the men had no heart rate and was not breathing although paramedics were able to restore his pulse, said Erik Scott of the LAFD.

All three were taken to hospitals, where one of the men died. The other two remain in critical condition.
The men had been cleaning the inside of a 4-foot-tall cylindrical tank with a 5-foot diameter, said the LAFD’s Brian Humphrey. The tank has a 24-inch diameter opening at the top, through which workers enter to clean it. When firefighters arrived, two men were inside and one was partially inside, Humphrey said. Firefighters pulled all three men from the “confined space” and brought them outside, he said.

LAFD Capt. Jaime Moore told the Los Angeles Times that the man who died had called 911 and then went in to help his unconscious colleagues, but was himself overcome by the fumes. The workers were using detergent to clean the container of blood plasma. They were overcome by ethanol, which was used as a separating agent for blood plasma, Moore said.

“We pulled special resources on scene, and they have the technical expertise to perform these operations,” said Moore. “Were it not for the actions they took when they got on scene, all three would be dead,” he added.

According to a company spokesperson, Baxter’s Los Angeles facility “is the world’s largest and most advanced plasma-fractionation facility, and has been in operation for more than 50 years.”

(Story from NBC Los Angeles, the LA Times and KTLA5News)
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Atmospheric Monitors: “Calibration vs. Bump Testing”

Friday, January 21, 2011

“The fact that we rely on these instruments to detect hazards that may be colorless, odorless, and very often fatal, should be reason enough to motivate us to complete a very strict schedule of instrument calibration/maintenance and pre-use bump testing.”

Here at Roco, we’re often asked for an explanation of the difference between “calibration” and “bump testing” of portable atmospheric monitors. There seems to be some confusion, specifically regarding bump testing. Some folks believe that bump testing and calibration are the same thing. Others think that bump testing is no more than allowing the monitor to run its “auto span function” during the initial startup sequence – or by running a “manual auto span” in order to zero out the display if there is any deviation from the expected values.

To preface this explanation, it is important that the user maintain and operate the monitor in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions for use. There are some general guidelines that apply to all portable atmospheric monitors and some of the information in this article is drawn from an OSHA Safety and Health Information Bulletin (SHIB) dated 5/4/2004 titled “Verification of Calibration for Direct Reading Portable Gas Monitors.”

Considering that atmospheric hazards account for the majority of confined space fatalities, it is absolutely imperative that the instruments used to detect and quantify the presence of atmospheric hazards be maintained in a reliable and ready state. Environmental factors such as shifts in temperature, humidity, vibration, and rough handling all contribute to inaccurate readings or outright failure of these instruments. Therefore it is critical to perform periodic calibration and pre-use bump testing to ensure the instruments are capable of providing accurate/reliable information to the operator.

Calibration of the monitor involves using a certified calibration gas in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. This includes exposing the instrument sensors and allowing the instrument to automatically adjust the readings to coincide with the known concentration of the calibration gas. Or, if necessary, the operator will manually adjust the readings to match the known concentration of the calibration gas.

In addition to using a certified calibration gas appropriate to the sensors being targeted, do not ever use calibration gas that has passed its expiration date. The best practice is to use calibration gas, tubing, flow rate regulators, and adapter hoods provided by the manufacturer of the instrument.

The frequency of calibration should also adhere to the manufacturer’s instructions for use; or, if more frequent, the set protocol of the user’s company or facility. Once the monitor has been calibrated, it is important to maintain a written record of the results including adjustments for calibration drift, excessive maintenance/repairs, or if an instrument is prone to inaccurate readings.

Each day prior to use, the operator should verify the instrument’s accuracy. This can be done by completing a full calibration or running a bump test, also known as a functional test. To perform a bump test, use the same calibration gas and equipment used during the full calibration and expose the instrument to the calibration gas. If the readings displayed are in an acceptable range compared to the concentrations of the calibration gas, then that is verification of instrument accuracy. If the values are not within an acceptable range, then a full calibration must be performed and repairs/replacement completed as necessary.

Modern electro-mechanical direct reading atmospheric monitors have come a long way in recent years in terms of reliability, accuracy, and ease of use. But they are still relatively fragile instruments that need to be handled and maintained with a high degree of care. The fact that we rely on these instruments to detect hazards that may be colorless, odorless, and very often fatal should be reason enough to motivate us to complete a very strict schedule of instrument calibration/maintenance and pre-use bump testing.

For more information on this subject, please refer to the November 20, 2002 ISEA position Statement “Verification of Calibration for Direct Reading Portable Gas Monitors Used In Confined Spaces”; “Are Your Gas Monitors Just expensive Paperweights?” by Joe Sprately, and James MacNeal’s article as it appears in the October 2006 issue of Occupational Safety and Health magazine.
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Roco BLOG hits outstanding numbers!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

In the past 7 months, we’ve had more than 18,000 hits on our Blog! We’d like to thank everyone for reading– and encourage you to ask a question of our Tech Panel. Or, let us know what you want to read more about – Techniques? Equipment? Standards & Regulations?

We’re here to get you the answers and information you need to do your jobs more safely and effectively – so let us know how we can help! You can email your suggestions to techpanel@rocorescue.com. Help us keep the numbers climbing in 2011 and stay in the loop!
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Industrial Rescue I/II…Practical Skills, Industrial Focus

Monday, January 03, 2011

New for 2011! Practical skills training with a focus on compliance, but without the certification testing.

We’ve had many requests for a course that provides the skills, techniques and problem-solving scenarios for industrial rescue without the NFPA certification testing. Focusing on OSHA compliance, Roco’s new Industrial Rescue I/II will prepare rescuers and rescue teams for industrial confined space and elevated rescue as well as “rescue from fall protection.” Here’s more…

INDUSTRIAL RESCUE I/II (50 Hours)

This course offers a very practical, hands-on approach to industrial rescue that will provide the skills necessary to meet OSHA compliance guidelines for a competent rescue team or rescue team member.

Participants will be taught safe, simple and proven techniques that will allow them to effectively perform confined space and elevated rescues from towers, tanks, vessels and other industrial structures. Rescues from simulated IDLH atmospheres requiring the use of Supplied Air Respirators and SCBA will also be practiced. This course is designed for all rescuers, both industrial and municipal, who may be required to handle confined space rescues in industrial settings. It also includes Rescue from Fall Protection (rescue of suspended workers) as well as OSHA Authorized Entrant, Attendant and Supervisor training.

The problem-solving scenarios can be used to document annual practice requirements in representative spaces as required by OSHA 1910.146 and as referenced in NFPA 1006. For training conducted at Roco’s training facility, scenarios will be completed in all six (6) types of confined spaces. At other sites, the number of types completed will depend on the availability of practice spaces.

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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What does it mean when my atmospheric monitor gives negative or minus readings?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

At some point, most atmospheric monitors will display a “negative” or minus reading for a flammable gas or toxic contaminant. First of all, it is not actually possible for an atmosphere to contain a “negative amount” of a substance. These negative readings usually result from improper use of the monitor.

Most monitors will “Field Zero” or “Fresh Air Calibrate” its sensors when powered on. Because of this, it is very important to power on the unit in a clean, fresh air environment away from confined spaces, running equipment or other possible contaminants. Otherwise, the monitor may falsely calibrate based on the contaminant that is present.For example, a monitor that is powered on in an atmosphere that contains 10 ppm of a contaminant and then moved to fresh air may display a reading of minus 10 ppm. Even more troublesome, if that same monitor is then brought to a confined space that actually contains 25 ppm of the contaminant, it may display a reading of only 15 ppm. As you can see, this could easily lead to the improper selection of PPE for the entrant and result in a confined space emergency.

As always, it is very important to consult with the manufacturer of your particular atmospheric monitor in order to determine how to use it properly. Don’t take any chances with this critical part of preparing for confined space entry or rescue operations.
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CMC founder Jim Frank shares some insights

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

During a recent visit out to California to work on a new and improved Roco/CMC harness, we had the opportunity to visit with Mr. Jim Frank, Founder and Chairman of CMC Rescue.

For 34 years, Jim has been active with the Santa Barbara County Search & Rescue Team. In 1978, he founded CMC Rescue to provide quality equipment for rescuers. His pioneering efforts in technical rescue have had a substantial influence on the evolution of the products and techniques used today. He currently serves on the NFPA Technical Rescue Committee, the NFPA Technical Committee on Special Operations Clothing & Equipment, the ANSI/ASSE Z359 Committee on Fall Protection, the ASTM F32 Committee on Search & Rescue, and the SPRAT Safe Practices for Rope Access Work Committee. We asked Jim to share some insight with us… particularly on his experience and involvement with the NFPA Technical Rescue Committee over the years.

Have NFPA standards had the positive impact they were supposed to have?
In our many conversations with end users, we find that the standards are still not clearly understood. Manufacturing standards such as NFPA 1983 increase the ability for the user to make intelligent decisions between various products. I’m also told that they provide the ability for departments to buy with grant money since it is a nationally recognized standard. User standards such as 1006 and 1670 provide a great framework for the knowledge needed to perform rescues. However, they do not necessarily equate to the competence and experience needed to safely and effectively perform a rescue.

NFPA 1983 concerning Rescue Equipment has been updated/changed over the years. Do you think it’s where it needs to be at this time?
Standard 1983 is continuing to grow in coverage and address a wider scope of products used in rescue. We’re now talking about adding litters and patient extrication devices where in the past it was limited to protective equipment for the firefighter or rescuer. However, the effectiveness of 1983 is completely dependent on the consumer making the decision to select “certified” products instead of accepting a product claiming to “meet or exceed” the standard or choosing a non-certified product.

Do you think the NFPA needs to consider adding professional qualifications for emergency escape for firefighters?
In general, no. While training is essential, access to emergency egress should be available the first day on the job. It could possibly be included as part of NFPA 1001 Standard for Fire Fighter Professional Qualifications.

What is the biggest change you’ve seen in rescue over recent years?

An expansion in the number of agencies getting into rescue and a growing interest in developing rescue capabilities in other countries where it has not been a tradition. In the area of equipment…lower stretch ropes, lighter hardware with better performance figures, mechanical belay devices like the Petzl ASAP, Traverse 540, and the CMC MPD. There’s also been some trend toward full-body harnesses. From a business standpoint, there has been an increase of even more off-shore products that are competing on price rather than quality and performance.

If you had to give one piece of advice to rescuers, what would it be?

Continue to hone your professional skills with up-to-date training and regular practice. The rescue technician’s skills are still the most important ingredient in a successful rescue.
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Is there a regulation requiring rescuers to use respiratory protection that is “one level higher” than that required for the entrants?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

To our knowledge, there is no regulatory requirement. However, we’ve heard this before and have used it as well when stressing the importance of proper PPE for rescuers, particularly when IDLH atmospheres may be involved. Here’s our thinking… if the entrant’s PPE did not provide adequate protection and he or she is now requiring rescue assistance, then using their “same level of protection” isn’t going to protect you either!

What triggers the use of a greater level of protection? This comes from the rescuer’s assessment of the hazards – including the use of an independent atmospheric monitor from that used by the entrant(s). That’s why it’s so important for the rescue team to provide their own atmospheric monitoring equipment. It also illustrates why written rescue preplans are so important – you need to preplan what equipment and techniques will be required well in advance of an emergency. It’s critical; the PPE selected must be adequate to protect the rescuers.

When preparing rescue preplans, you must also take into consideration any unusual hazards or circumstances that may arise from any work being done inside or near the space. For example, special cleaning solvents might be used or other hazards may be introduced into the space by the workers. Referencing and understanding the MSDS as well as “listening to what your monitor is telling you” are key factors in PPE determination.

OSHA does mention, however, if the atmospheric condition is unknown, then it should be considered IDLH and the use of positive pressure SCBA/SAR must be used. This will protect you from low O2 levels and other inhalation dangers; however, you must also consider LEL/LFL levels. Other factors include non-atmospheric conditions as well. For example, have you considered “skin absorption” hazards and what precautions must be taken?

So, the bottom line, the decision to go with breathing air for rescuers can be determined from your hazard assessment; or, in some cases, by company policy; and even required by OSHA when there’s an unknown atmosphere involved. Remember, it’s much better to be safe than sorry!
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Practice for the Unexpected

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Helpful tips from Roco Chief Instructor Pat Furr:

Is your rescue team in a rut? Do you end up practicing the same two or three rescue scenarios during your training drills? If you answered yes, then your’re probably getting bored – or, worse yet, you may be setting your team up for failure when confronted with an emergency that’s different than what you have repeatedly practiced.

Think outside the box a little. Come up with some “What ifs?” that are different than what you normally practice. Of course, you need to keep it realistic and appropriate for your response area – don’t waste your time practicing scenarios that have no chance of actually occurring. However, do challenge your team to the ”unexpected” scenario in practice before you face it in real life.

Rescue teams must also take into consideration the “types of confined spaces with respect to opening size, configuration and accessibility” within their response area when determining practice drills. OSHA requires practice from the actual or representative permit spaces at least once a year. For municipal responders, we recommend that they be prepared for all six confined space types because they never know what type of situation they may face. (Download Roco’s Confined Space Types Chart.)

If you’re the one who’s responsible for setting up proficiency training for your team, ask your team members to come up with some ideas that are different from your typical drill. You might be surprised with what they come up with. If you’re a team member, approach your training manager with some suggestions to change things up a bit. Once the idea is planted and your team starts to run a variety of training scenarios, the idea will catch on. In fact, team members may try to “outdo each other on coming up with the next new scenario.

Here at Roco, we know that one of the most popular training blocks for our students is the infamous “Yellow Brick Road.” This is a multi-station scenario where rescuers must “think on their feet” and adapt to an ever-changing situation. It is always challenging and gratifying for the teams. For those of you that have had me as an instructor, you know that I will be throwing a wrench into the mix somewhere along the road.

Of course, we all know that our victims don’t read the training manuals – they’re always coming up with new and different ways to get into trouble. If (and when) your team is faced with a rescue that is completely different than the “same old, same old,” then you will be ready to deal with the situation because you have practiced for the unexpected. As rescuers, we need to think “Semper Gumby” (Latin for “always flexible”) as one of those skill sets that doesn’t appear in the book. Remember, when it comes to your team’s practice drills, keep them guessing, but at the same time, keep it real.

If you’d like some ideas on keeping your practice sessions realistic, but challenging, contact us here at Roco.
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Municipal Response to Permit-Required Confined Spaces

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A blog reader, who is a member of a municipal rescue team assigned to an airport, expressed concern about fulfilling “timely response” obligations for permit-required confined space entries within his district. Here are some suggestions from our Tech Panel…

First of all, the departments and agencies involved must carefully consider the obligations in providing rescue response for permit-required confined spaces.

Obviously, we cannot advise on departmental policy concerning response and notification, this must be determined by management officials. However, for you as an emergency responder, we cannot stress enough the importance of preplanning and conducting a hazard analysis for all confined spaces within your response area. The information gained by the analysis will help you determine what level of “timely response” may be required for a particular type of entry.

OSHA does not set a specific response time because there are too many variables involved – plus, they don’t want to set requirements that might cause a rescue team to “rush” into entering a space to attempt a rescue. OSHA does reference how long a person might survive an IDLH atmosphere (such as an oxygen deficient atmosphere) before becoming incapacitated (4 to 6 minutes). However, even this is up to interpretation depending on the level of oxygen present. For example, an 18% O2 level vs. a 6% O2 level, both are O2 deficient but have very different response requirements for successful rescue.

Another important consideration is when an entrant is entering an IDLH environment. In this case, having a team standing by the portal, fully equipped and ready to go may be the only way to meet a timely response for that situation. OSHA’s 1910.134, Respiratory Protection, “requires that employers provide a standby person or persons capable of immediate action to rescue employee(s) wearing respiratory protection while in work areas defined as IDLH atmospheres.”

Most entries, however, are not IDLH. This means that other forms of “external” rescue (vs. internal rescue) may be appropriate. Many times, in the rush of the moment, rescuers forget about external retrieval. Guessing that many of the spaces around the airport are manholes or vaults, these can most often be handled by the confined space attendant with an external retrieval system. This would include a mechanical winch attached to a tripod with a cable attached to the entrant’s high-point dorsal connection. Of course, this decision would be based on a prior hazard analysis.

NOTE: It’s important to note that ALL entrants are required to have “an immediate means of retrieval.” Reference OSHA 1910.146 [note to paragraph (k)(1)(i)] concerning timely response: “What will be considered timely will vary according to the specific hazards involved in each entry…”

As a final note, if hazard analysis and rescue preplans have not been conducted on your potential sites as required by OSHA, we encourage you to do so. Taking the time to do so will better enable you to determine what would be considered an appropriate “timely response” for a particular type of entry. It will also better prepare you as an emergency responder should the need arise.
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Is a “tailboard briefing” enough prior to a confined space entry?

Monday, November 08, 2010

We had this question from a reader and wanted to post for all to read.

Would a proper tailboard briefing conducted before a confined space entry be sufficient for identifying hazards that may be encountered by the entrants or the rescue team?

It’s true that a tailboard briefing should be an integral part of the larger overall preplanning for a confined space entry. However, well in advance of the entry, a detailed “hazard analysis” of the space should be performed.

A hazard analysis is used to identify the types of hazards, lock-out/tag-out needs, PPE required for entry, method of entry and important rescue considerations. In fact, OSHA requires these written assessments to be completed prior to an entry being made and the confined space permit acts as a secondary written assessment performed at the time of the entry. Here are some OSHA references concerning this topic…

1910.146(c)(5)(ii)(H)
The employer shall verify that the space is safe for entry and that the pre-entry measures required by paragraph (c)(5)(ii) of this section have been taken, through a written certification that contains the date, the location of the space, and the signature of the person providing the certification. The certification shall be made before entry and shall be made available to each employee entering the space or to that employee’s authorized representative.

1910.146(d)(2)
Identify and evaluate the hazards of permit spaces before employees enter them;

1910.146(d)(3)
Develop and implement the means, procedures, and practices necessary for safe permit space entry operations;

The tailboard briefing should be used to confirm or reinforce the information already gathered in the hazard analysis. Because it deals with an individual space at the time of entry, the tailboard briefing is also a very useful tool in finding out if conditions have changed since the hazard analysis was completed.

So, the bottom line… having a detailed hazard analysis for each space that includes a detailed rescue preplan allows a rescue team to review and prepare for potential problems well in advance. Reviewing this information at a tailboard briefing just prior to the entry helps to remind everyone of the possible hazards, the proper precautions, and the potential solutions should an emergency occur.
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