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Beware the Grim Reaper of Complacency

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Special thanks to The Leader/VPPPA magazine for publishing this article in the Spring 2016 issue. Article was written by Pat Furr, VPP Coordinator, for Roco Rescue.

When I heard mention of “The Grim Reaper of Complacency",* it struck a chord in me especially considering my line of work as a safety officer and rescue instructor. In working at height, complacency is something we warn students about continually. However, when it comes to our personal safety, it can happen to all of us. No one is immune to complacency, and its effects can be devastating depending on the nature of the work being performed.


It is also not my intention to get up on a high horse and preach to you about your individual faults or shortcomings in your work or safety practices. As I said, we are ALL guilty of becoming complacent to some degree, and my hope is to remind you of that very fact so that you can find some tools that work for you to help you stay out of that grim reaper’s grip.  

There are so many factors that can lead us to become complacent. Routine work tasks and outcomes, assuming that we are doing things as safely as possible, self and team satisfaction, overconfidence, the attitude that it “won’t happen to me,” contentment, unrealistic deadlines, multi-tasking, high stress, low morale, and fatigue are just some of the primary and cumulative factors that may lead to complacency. In addition to these influences, the complacent behavior of others can be infectious and possibly cause you to think – if it’s ok for them to take shortcuts, it’s ok for me to do the same.   

Without quoting statistics, I can say with confidence that the overwhelming majority of workplace accidents are not caused by unsafe equipment or processes, but are indeed caused by unsafe worker behavior. And complacency, in its many forms, is at the root of that behavior.

Probably the most important thing that I would like for you to gain from reading this is to recognize those moments when complacency is creeping in and stop it in its tracks! Complacency places us in an emotional state where we become oblivious to danger, and therein lays its insidious nature. I will not pretend to give you all the tools you may need to beat complacency, as different tools are required for different folks for different situations. Again, the most important piece of the solution is to recognize complacency’s onset, and the second most important is to understand the potential outcome if you were to succumb to it.   

Here’s one early sign that complacency is creeping in – you find yourself distracted while performing your job. This applies not only to individual workers, but in a more global sense can happen within the company culture. When worries start to crop up, be it individual workers, or within management, the focus may center on issues other than the task at hand. When you feel this happening, stop and evaluate whether you are paying the required attention to the task at hand; and if you are not, what could the possible consequences be? Think worst case, because that is quite likely the end result!

Look for instances where you catch a misstep in your performance that you normally would not have made. For example, in my line of work as a rescuer, I’ve always used a systematic safety check of a rescue system before life loading. Once in a while I might find an unlocked carabiner, that’s one thing, but if I find that unlocked carabiner at the conclusion of the rescue scenario, that, my friend, is a red flag! My tried-and-true system failed me for one reason and one reason only…I became complacent.

Talk about the perfectly designed distraction – cell phones – you can’t live with them, and you can’t live without them. I like to call my TV set a “one-eyed-brain sucker,” and fondly refer to my cell phone as a “hand-held brain sucker.” There is a time and a place for it – and, yes they are very valuable, but if you find it has any chance of distracting you from your work and can be the cause of an unsafe condition, tighten up, don’t be complacent! Put that cell phone away until you can use it safely.

Here’s another example – observing your co-workers complacency and not addressing it. That’s being just as complacent. And worse, if an accident were to happen and your co-worker’s complacency caused them harm or harmed others, you will have to live with that missed chance to have stopped it. Fight the good fight. No one can fault you for that, and if they do, they are flat wrong.   

“The Devil’s Circle” is a term I learned from a group of Austrian mountaineers many years ago. It goes something like this. During a climbing expedition, you evaluated a slope for avalanche and determined there is a high potential for a slide. But the weather is closing in and you would have a more dangerous situation if you were to retreat the way you came versus crossing the avalanche slope to the safety of a protected camp site. You made it across the slope without triggering an avalanche. 

The very next season, you were confronted with a nearly identical situation, but with the added factor that you forgot your avalanche shovels. Based on the safe outcome of the previous year, however, you went ahead and crossed the slope. Again, without incident. And the circle begins. As the years go by and you encounter the same situations and have the same results without incidence even in the presence of adding more and more unsafe conditions, the Devil’s Circle is lulling you into a false sense of security.

The circle turns every year without an accident and you push the envelope of safety further for every lap of the circle you make – until your complacent behavior ultimately catches up to you and the avalanche occurs. You have no shovels to dig your climbing partners out, you have no avalanche beacons to locate them, you have no means to radio for help and you haven’t told anyone of your planned route. The many laps you have made along the circle with many unsafe mistakes while thinking you got away with them in the past so you’ll get away with them in the future – all of this has led to an unrecoverable disaster.   

Avoiding complacency is not automatic. We need to understand that it is always lurking, waiting to walk through that door you left open and to exert its sometimes very dire effects. And it isn’t like in the movies where it warns you of impending disaster by changing the music to the “Jaws” theme of dun tunt, Dun Tunt, DUN TUNT!, DUN TUNT!!! We need to remain alert for the signs of complacency, recognize when it is setting in and do whatever we must do to stop it. And it’s not only a personal challenge to stop it within ourselves, but to recognize and stop it within our co-workers. 

Here are just a few ideas that you may want to use to avoid complacency.


  • 1. Perform a Job Safety Analysis (JSA) before starting a task. And don’t limit this to new tasks only. You might surprise yourself by taking the time to re-accomplish a JSA on a task that you routinely perform. By breaking a task down into individual steps and isolating the hazards that are associated with each step as well as how to mitigate them, you will oftentimes realize that there is a safer way that you have been missing. Performing the JSA will also refocus you and your crew on the fact that there are hazards present and that you must be diligent in protecting yourselves from them.
  • 2. Take a minute to refocus on the hazards of the task at hand before starting. That brief pause goes a very long way in reminding you that what you are about to take on requires a level of focus that will ultimately prevent you from making a mistake.
  • 3. Report all near misses. This is the often forgotten final opportunity to share information that reminds us that many of us at times can have dangerous jobs. “Scared Straight!!”
  • 4. Challenge yourself and your co-workers to stay in the moment. Everyone wants to shine and no one wants to let the team down, so just remind each other occasionally.
  • 5. Develop new habits. Think about any and all the near misses you may have had or some you may have heard from your co-workers. Is there something that could have been done to have averted that close call? If so, share that information and practice the step(s) you would employ to avoid it going beyond a near miss.
  • 6. Actively decide to act. Hopefully deciding to do the task in a safe manner, but the point is, don’t act on auto-pilot. Instead, stop, evaluate the course you are about to take, and then “DECIDE” to proceed or not.
  • 7. If you say to yourself, “I need to remember to do this,” and it’s a critical step in ensuring safety, is it enough to rely on your memory or should you create some type of reminder? This may be your last chance, so take action to make sure you do include that critical step.

Finally, in order to avoid complacent behavior that may lead to an accident, we must first accept that we are all prone to complacency – it’s human nature. The next step is to recognize when you are on a path to complacency.

To help put the consequences into perspective, stop and ask yourself, “What is the worst case outcome of my complacency while performing this task?”

And yes, this exercise is to help you realize that many of us are in a very serious business and people can get seriously hurt or worse. Then, find out if any of the tools I have listed above may work for you in the setting you are engaged in. There are many more tools, so find the ones that work and practice them. It’s a great habit to get into – and when that habit feels too routine, avoid complacency once again by finding yet another tool. Keep it new, keep it top-of-mind and keep it safe!

Pat Furr is a chief instructor, technical consultant, VPP Coordinator and Corporate Safety Officer 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 US Air Force as a Pararescueman (PJ).

* Reference: Warning: The Killer to Your Success (“Success” Magazine)
Link is http://darrenhardy.success.com/2015/12/killer-to-your-success/

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OSHA Civil Penalties Set to Increase in August

Friday, July 08, 2016

OSHA’s maximum penalty for serious violations will increase from $7,000 to $12,471. The agency’s top penalty for willful or repeated violations will jump from $70,000 to $124,709. OSHA’s maximum penalties have not increased since 1990.

“Civil penalties should be a credible deterrent that influences behavior far and wide,” Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez said in a press release. “Adjusting our penalties to keep pace with the cost of living can lead to significant benefits for workers and can level the playing field [for] responsible employers who should not have to compete with those who don’t follow the law.”

OSHA's new penalty levels are scheduled to take effect after August 1, 2016. Any citations issued after this date will be subject to the new penalties if the related violations occurred after November 2, 2015. The interim final rules were announced June 30. Comments on the interim final rules will be due 45 days after the rules are published in the Federal Register. (Source: National Safety Council.)

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Train-Watch-Learn at Rescue Challenge 2016

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Don't miss your chance to take in all the action of real life confined space rescue scenarios created by Roco's lead instructors. This unique training event is one that is anticipated by rescue teams every year. Plus, it provides benefits to participating teams AND those that are attending as observers!

Rescue Challenge offers teams the opportunity to size-up a situation, develop action plans and execute a confined space or high-angle rescue in a controlled but realistic environment. Here's what one team participant had to say...

"Challenge pushes your team to its limit. It gives teams of all experience levels a great benchmark on their capabilities!"

The event can also be used to meet the minimum annual practice requirements of OSHA 1910.146 for all six representative spaces, while giving team members the opportunity to share ideas, experiences and techniques with other teams from across the nation. Individual skills are also put to the test in practice and testing stations. Written reports are provided to each team.

Trophies are awarded for the top performers in the Yellow Brick Road scenario and the Individual Performance Skills evaluation. For more information on how to register your team or register to observe, call 800-647-7626. Spaces are limited!

Check out some of the highlights from the 2015 Rescue Challenge below.

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Limited Edition: Roco's Patriot T-shirt

Monday, June 20, 2016


Just in time to celebrate the 4th of July, Roco's limited edition Patriot T-shirt has arrived!

This performance fit shirt is made of 100% cotton and great for showing off your American pride. It is also great for working out or just relaxing.

This limited edition shirt will only be available for a short period of time. So, don't miss your chance to purchase one today. Click here to order!

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Roco QUICK DRILL #12 Patient Packaging (Tandem Rescuers)

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Quick, efficient patient packaging is a crucial factor in every rescue. Generally, if spinal injury is suspected, two rescuers will be needed to properly manage and package the patient for movement.

In the drill below, keep time for the patient packaging portion. Then inspect for errors and correct as needed. Discuss patient handling and review methods that may reduce the overall time. For this type of drill, timekeeping can begin as soon as rescuers enter the room where the drill is being conducted or once lowered into an area to begin the packaging process.

1) Place a simulated patient/manikin in a given area. This area could be at the end of a short lower or just inside another room that will be considered a “confined space.”

2) Rescuers will enter one at a time as if being lowered into a space.

3) The person running the drill will provide patient condition information and dictate what packaging equipment will be available to the rescuers.

4) The equipment will be “lowered” to the rescuers – or simulated if using a room as the confined space.

5) Rescuers will use the equipment provided to package the patient, and then connect the patient to the retrieval/haul line.

For the next evolution, add requirements for the rescuers to maintain “immediate means of retrieval” lines at all times. Then, step it up by requiring rescuers to don SCBA/SAR during packaging (don’t forget air to the patient!). Or, dim the lights, if possible, lowering visibility and requiring the use of headlamps.

Remember, start off slow. Increase difficulty and speed/time requirements as rescuers become more comfortable and proficient. Working with your team to improve packaging skills will make them more efficient and better rescuers.

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Roco's New RescueTalk™ Podcast

Wednesday, June 08, 2016

RescueTalk™ Podcasts explore critical topics for technical, industrial and municipal rescue professionals, emergency responders and safety personnel. Learn about confined space rescue, OSHA compliance, NFPA standards, fall protection, trench rescue, off-shore considerations, rescue equipment, training and more. Get it now.
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Q&A: Fall Pro Recert

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

READER QUESTION:
I went through competent person for fall protection several years ago and since that time a lot has changed regarding the types of fall protection equipment and systems that are available. Should I get update training for this role?

ROCO TECH PANEL ANSWER:
Yes, definitely. In fact, ANSI Z359.2 states competent person training update training shall be conducted at least every two years. It is always a great idea for competent persons to stay abreast of not only any legislative changes, but also to stay current on consensus standards such as ANSI, and certainly on emerging equipment technologies. It is amazing how quickly new fall protection equipment is becoming available. It wasn’t long ago that harness mount self-retracting lanyards were just a drawing on an engineer’s desk, and now there are so many different versions it is mind boggling. OSHA’s recognition of suspension trauma as a workplace hazard to fallen suspended authorized persons has created an entire market segment for systems to help deal with this hazard. So receiving update training for this crucial role at least every two years is certainly a great idea.

READER QUESTION:
Can I complete competent person for fall protection training via an on-line course?

ROCO TECH PANEL ANSWER:
We discourage that type of course other than for learning the legislated requirements. There just is no substitute for hands-on training. One of the most important responsibilities of a competent person for fall protection is the performance of periodic equipment inspections. I can’t imagine having any way to show competency of this skill without demonstrating it to a live instructor/evaluator.

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New from OSHA: Is 911 your Confined Space Rescue Plan?

Monday, May 16, 2016

OSHA has a new Fact Sheet for “Confined Spaces in Construction” that is designed to keep workers and emergency responders safe in permit-required confined spaces.

The new document from OSHA stresses that employers must select a service that has the ability to respond and conduct rescue in a timely manner based on site conditions and potential hazards specific to the space. It also states that “an employer who relies on local emergency services for assistance is required to meet the requirements of 1926.1211-Rescue and emergency services.”

This Fact Sheet includes information for emergency response providers along with key questions to consider before making a commitment to respond. It also emphasizes the importance of preplanning while encouraging service providers to work closely with employers in order to be properly prepared for the challenges they may face.

Click here to download OSHA Fact Sheet.

“Permit-required confined spaces can present conditions that are immediately dangerous to workers’ lives or health if not properly identified, evaluated, tested and controlled.”

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New CS Types Chart & Compliance Guide

Wednesday, May 04, 2016

This helpful new guide provides information for evaluating your rescue team or prospective rescue service based on the requirements of OSHA 1910.146 and 1926 Subpart AA. It includes a Rescue Team Evaluation Checklist from Appendix F and illustrates Confined Space Types 1-6, which is based on criteria from OSHA 1910.146. Roco’s method of categorizing confined spaces by various types can be useful in establishing practice requirements for your rescue service.

Responding in a safe, effective and timely manner to the various types of permit-required confined spaces at your facility is required by OSHA regulations 1910.146 (PRCS) and 1926 Subpart AA Confined Spaces in Construction.
An effective response by your rescue service is crucial to the safety of workers who are tasked with entering confined spaces to perform their job duties.

In order to be prepared, rescue teams can use this chart to plan their practice drills to include all of the various types of confined spaces. Appendix F of 1910.146 states that rescuers may practice in representative spaces that are considered “worst case” or most restrictive with respect to internal configuration, elevation and portal size. This illustrated guide will serve as a reminder to be prepared for the unexpected when planning for confined space emergencies for the safety of the rescuers and the entrants.

Register to Receive Your Free Confined Space Rescue Types Chart & Compliance Guide

Just give us your info, and Roco will mail you a copy.


  SUBSCRIBE TO RescueTalk
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Worker Fatality Rate Highest in 7 Years!

Friday, April 22, 2016

According to latest reports, the U.S. workplace fatality rate increased in 2014 with the highest death rate in seven years. That is the first time it has done so since 2010, according to finalized data released April 21 by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The revised rate for 2014 increased to 3.4 deaths per 100,000 full-time workers for a total of 4,821 fatalities.

"This is the highest number of workers killed on the job since 2008," BLS stated.

2014 BLS Fatality Statistics:
• Private construction industry had 899, the highest since 2008.
• Oil and gas extraction industries had 144, which is the most ever recorded.
• Workers 55 and older took a sharp increase with 1,691 deaths.

Source: SAFETY+HEALTH Newsletter (4/22/16) published by the National Safety Council. 

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