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Technical Rescue Incident Preparedness: Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment

Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Reported by James Breen, Special Projects Manager for Roco Rescue, Inc.

Whether you’re a relatively new or a well-established Technical Search and Rescue (TSAR) organization, following an established Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment process is a great way to ensure you’re prepared for the “Big One."

The “Big One” is that incident where you’re called upon to deliver on the organizational investment of having a TSAR capability. A great deal of organizational time, money, and effort is invested in developing, maintaining, and deploying a Rescue Team. Plant Administrators, Fire Chiefs, and elected officials (private board members or public officials) want to see a return on that investment when their rescue service is called into action to save a life.  

The purpose of this article is to assist the Rescue Team Leader (RTL) and aspiring RTL (because we should always be developing our replacement) in establishing a Rescue Team, developing a new TSAR capability, or ensuring an established Rescue Team is adequately prepared for the “Big One."

Firstly, if there is a potential for a TSAR incident to occur within your jurisdiction, NFPA 1670 requires the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) to address a number of “General Requirements” found in Chapter 4. The review and completion of these requirements are usually a function of the Rescue Team Leader along with key management personnel who authorize, budget, schedule, and equip the Rescue Team.

The format of Chapter 4 is useful for all Rescue Teams, whether newly formed or long established. It is an excellent tool for ensuring some of the foundational aspects of preparedness and organizational structure are (or have been) properly established.  Most “senior rescuers” (not those on Medicare but those that have the respect, time, and experience that makes them leaders in technical rescue) will tell you that the TSAR incident potential, including their hazards and risks, change as industrial processes are updated, installed, or eliminated. 

Key to all emergency response success is planning and preparation. However, incident preparation should be driven by the types of emergency incidents that have a potential for occurring within a given jurisdiction. This is the starting point for determining rescue capabilities, SOP/SOG’s, staffing, training, and equipment. 

The Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment is one method for assessing incident potential. NFPA defines:

•  Hazard Identification - The process of identifying situations or conditions that have the potential to cause injury to people, damage to property, or damage to the environment. 

•  Risk Assessment - An assessment of the likelihood, vulnerability, and magnitude of incidents that could result from the exposure to hazards. 

This process identifies the possibility of conducting TSAR operations within a jurisdiction by evaluating environmental, physical, social, and cultural factors that influence the scope, frequency and magnitude of a potential TSAR incident. It also addresses the impact the incident has on the AHJ to respond and conduct operations while minimizing threats to rescuers (NPFA 1670, 4.2.1 and 4.2.2). The standard lists a number of scientific methodologies in its annex but in the spirit of keeping it, we’ll approach this process using a Preliminary Checklist. (See Sample Checklist.)

Once completed, the checklist may have entries that require further analysis, identify a need to develop or expand a capability, or require entering into an agreement with an external resource. 

This checklist is for day-to-day incident responses under predictable jurisdictional response conditions and should not be used for disaster scenarios where large scale regional and federal resources will be required to mitigate the incident. These scenarios should be addressed through Emergency Response Plans. 

Most fire departments and other emergency response organizations want to maintain a response capability that match potential incidents in order to be operationally effective, provide for rescuer safety, and have positive incident outcomes.  

A Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment is an excellent way to evaluate your organization’s preparedness level for technical rescue incidents based the potential for one to occur; it also aids in the development of specific capability. 

About the Author: James (Jim) Breen is Special Projects Manager for Roco Rescue where he handles a wide variety of projects and provides program support, while still engaging in instructional services. Jim previously served for over 23 years with the Albuquerque Fire Department and retired as the agency's Fire Chief in 2013. He previously had served as a Battalion Commander for the city’s busiest battalion, and has extensive experience in Incident Command and Heavy Rescue Operations. He is a former USAF Pararescueman and a Rescue Squad Manager and Task Force Leader with NMTF-1 where he was deployed to several national disasters.

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Incident: Alaska Calls for Increased Focus on Trench Safety

Monday, July 06, 2015

In response to the death of a 23-year-old construction worker in a trenching incident in Anchorage, the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development is highlighting the importance of training workers on safe trench work and excavations.

State regulations require employers to ensure workers are trained to recognize and avoid hazards related to any trench work or excavations in which the depth of the site is at least 4 feet. Employers also must make sure workers adequately enter and exit trenches, in addition to taking proper measures for shoring and sloping protection.

An Anchorage Fire Department search-and-rescue team, police and medics responded to the incident shortly after 1 p.m. on June 16, 2015.

The construction worker had been working on a sewer pipe in a trench that measured roughly 7 feet deep by 15 feet across when it collapsed and buried him. His co-workers tried to extricate him and did get him out of the trench, but his injuries were just too severe. The 23-year-old victim died at the scene.

OSHA has launched an investigation into the workplace accident according to a spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Sources: National Safety Council Newsletter (nsc.org) and Alaska Dispatch News (adn.com).
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Using Hazard Controls to Prevent Worker Deaths

Monday, June 15, 2015

Despite progress made over the past several decades in reducing the number of occupational deaths, an average of 12 workers are still killed on the job every day, Mary Vogel, executive director with the National Council for Occupational Safety and Health, said during the press conference.

The National COSH recently reported that broader use of hazard prevention strategies and threats of stiffer consequences for workplace safety violations will help reduce the number of annual worker deaths, a group of safety advocates stated during an April 23 press conference in Longmeadow, MA.

Criminal prosecution of employers for workplace violations is extremely rare. Vogel said that although increasing prosecutions would not eliminate all workplace fatalities, the strategy should be used "when appropriate."


Hazard prevention strategies based on the Hierarchy of Controls are another effective method for ending workplace deaths, according to Peter Dooley, senior consultant with National COSH. During the press conference, Dooley listed several recent workplace fatalities he claims could have been prevented with such strategies.

National COSH also announced the release of its annual report, "Not an Accident: Preventable Deaths, 2015." The report includes case studies of recent worker deaths, prevention strategies and National COSH's policy platform.

It was released in advance of Workers Memorial Day, which will take place April 28. On that day, National COSH plans to release a database detailing the circumstances of 1,500 worker deaths.

Article Source – National Safety Council News Alert (www.nsc.com)

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​Confined Space Rescue…Always Seeking a Better, Safer Way!

Monday, June 01, 2015

When a student returns to one of our classes after a few years, we’ll often hear, “Wow, things sure have changed! There are a lot of new techniques and equipment since the last time I attended.” So, why do we change our courses on a regular basis? If it worked back then, why change it?

The answer is simple really… if there’s a better way or safer way to do something, we'll take the opportunity to incorporate it into our programs.

When deciding what techniques or equipment may be candidates, we typically look at three primary objectives: 

1.  Does it perform a function that is needed in order to accomplish the type of rescue that is being addressed?

2.  Does it perform in a safe, or even a safer manner, than previous equipment or techniques?

Once these requirements are met, we'll ask... 

3.  Does it add efficiency to the rescue effort? And, is it efficient in terms of time, manpower and equipment needed?   

When evaluating a new piece of equipment for our programs, we will also consider how versatile the item may be. 

To have one piece of equipment that performs multiple functions is a huge benefit to rescuers in that it saves time, money, weight and bulk. 

One example of a product that performs multiple functions is the Petzl ID. The ID can be used as the foundation of MA systems, it can also be used for short ascents, and the manufacturer now allows it to be used as a belay device.

Compliance with legislated regulations is also a big consideration. For performance-based regulations like 1910.146 (Permit-Required Confined Spaces), it’s all about creating a competent rescuer who is capable of safely and effectively in permit spaces. Other relevant OSHA regulations include Fall Protection, Respiratory Protection, Lock Out/Tag Out, and HAZMAT, just to name a few. We also refer to many different nationally recognized consensus standards as we build our programs. Probably the most visited we draw from are NFPA 1006 and 1983, which offer guidance on professional qualifications for rescuers and equipment standards for manufacturers. We also rely on ANSI, NATE, SPRAT and IRATA, as well as other standards that provide appropriate guidance for the type of program we are delivering.

But, where do we come up with the leading edge techniques and equipment that we are continuously adding to our courses? Well, this is where we take a lot of pride in how we operate internally as a business. 

Roco’s leadership has always encouraged our instructors and rescue personnel to identify needs in the rescue world and think of a way to satisfy that need…yes, to build a better mousetrap! 

We want our people to constantly be on the lookout for opportunities to evaluate new equipment or come up with a new technique that meets the three primary objectives that we identified earlier.

As an added benefit, Roco instructors and rescue team members come from a wide variety of backgrounds. This includes the fire service, law enforcement, U.S. military and private sector industrial emergency response teams. What’s more, some of our personnel enjoy sport climbing and even expedition mountaineering on their off time. In other words, we have a very diverse way of putting ropes and associated hardware to the test. Everyone is encouraged to share their ideas. 

Oftentimes this "free thinking" among our personnel leads to a great step forward in efficiency and allows us to keep our courses leading the way to a better rescuer.

It’s also exciting to see some of the emerging technologies that have come to market as far as rescue equipment is concerned. By encouraging our personnel to get their hands on these new pieces of kit and “ride them hard,” we are able to determine if it is something that needs to be incorporated into our scheme. Every once in a while, we’ll even discover a new way to use the equipment that is beyond what the manufacturer envisioned. Our people have come up with some very unique ways to meet some very specific rescue needs. But, it all comes back to those same three primary objectives. We need a piece of gear (or a technique) that will do the job we need it to do, and do it safely and efficiently.

Here's a great example...who would have thought that a technique used on glacier crevasse rescue would be a skill that comes in handy in an industrial environment? Fortunately, someone in our think tank did, and now it is a staple of our curricula. So, if it’s been a while since you have attended a Roco class, maybe it’s time to come see what we have been up to lately.

For the ultimate rope rescue experience, click on Roco's Fast-Track 120™

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Q&A: What are the Rescue Requirements for Trenches/Excavations?

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

READER QUESTION:
One of our readers recently asked about rescue requirements in excavations. We did some searching and found an interesting Letter of Interpretation (LOI) from OSHA that explains when rescue provisions are required during trenching operations.  

ROCO TECH PANEL ANSWER:
The following is from OSHA LOI in regards to this answer. In regard to whether emergency rescue equipment is required at every trenching job site located near or passing by a gas station, refinery, gas line, sewer main, etc., please be advised by the following:

Emergency rescue equipment is required to be readily available where a competent person determines, based on the conditions at each job site, that hazardous atmospheric conditions exist or may reasonably be expected to develop during work in an excavation. In regard to whether a contractor can rely on a local rescue squad instead of providing the rescue equipment, please be advised that many emergency situations associated with the hazards involved with hazardous atmospheres in trenches would normally require an immediate response within a few minutes or even seconds. A rescue squad would be unable to provide the necessary response and therefore could not be used to comply with 1926.651(g)(2).

As more and more industrial sites realize that just about every day, somewhere on their property, there is an open trench. Trench collapses cause dozens of fatalities and hundreds of injuries each year. Obviously, this creates concerns, especially for the rescue personnel who may be called to the scene during an emergency.

We’ve been getting questions from clients that have effective rescue teams for medical, hazmat, fire, confined space and rope but are realizing that they are lacking if a trench collapse occurs on their site. “Who will do the rescue?” is a question often asked. There is concern by supervisors, who have been given the responsibility for signing trench permits, but have not had adequate training in trench and excavations. Many are not “competent persons” as referenced in OSHA1926.651-652.

After looking at the dozen of questions in the referenced LOI, it should raise a few more:

  1. Are the people you have signing off that a trench is constructed properly and safe for entry, trained to know what to look for and have the authority to act (competent person), or are they assuming that the contractor is “doing the right thing”?
  2. Who will be called if a trench emergency should occur?
  3. Are their local resources that have the training and equipment to respond, or are you an island unto yourself when it comes to trench rescue? 

The link to the referenced LOI is shown below – and the questions are still very relevant : https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=INTERPRETATIONS&p_id=20597

Additional Resources:

OSHA Technical Manual

OSHA Trenching and Excavation Safety

Trench Safety Poster – An Unprotected Trench Is An Early Grave

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It's Final-Confined Spaces in Construction-Effective 8/3/15!

Monday, May 04, 2015

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration today issued a final rule to increase protections for construction workers in confined spaces. 

Confined spaces rule (29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA) could protect nearly 800 construction workers a year from serious injuries and reduce life-threatening hazards…Construction protections now match those in manufacturing and general industry. 

Manholes, crawl spaces, tanks and other confined spaces are not intended for continuous occupancy. They are also difficult to exit in an emergency. People working in confined spaces face life-threatening hazards including toxic substances, electrocutions, explosions and asphyxiation.

Last year, two workers were asphyxiated while repairing leaks in a manhole, the second when he went down to save the first – which is not uncommon in cases of asphyxiation in confined spaces.

“In the construction industry, entering confined spaces is often necessary, but fatalities like these don’t have to happen,” said Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “This new rule will significantly improve the safety of construction workers who enter confined spaces. In fact, we estimate that it will prevent about 780 serious injuries every year.”

The rule will provide construction workers with protections similar to those manufacturing and general industry workers have had for more than two decades, with some differences tailored to the construction industry. These include requirements to ensure that multiple employers share vital safety information and to continuously monitor hazards – a safety option made possible by technological advances after the manufacturing and general industry standards were created.

“This rule will save lives of construction workers,” said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Dr. David Michaels. “Unlike most general industry work sites, construction sites are continually evolving, with the number and characteristics of confined spaces changing as work progresses. This rule emphasizes training, continuous work site evaluation and communication requirements to further protect workers’ safety and health.”

On OSHA's website, it also states than an employer whose workers are engaged in both construction and general industry work in confined spaces will meet OSHA requirements [for 1910.146] if that employer meets the requirements of 29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA - Confined Spaces in Construction.

Five (5) key differences in the construction rule, and several areas where OSHA has clarified existing requirements:

  1. More detailed provisions requiring coordinated activities when there are multiple employers at the work site. This will ensure hazards are not introduced into a confined space by workers performing tasks outside the space. An example would be a generator running near the entrance of a confined space causing a buildup of carbon monoxide within the space.
  2. Requiring a competent person to evaluate the work site and identify confined spaces, including permit spaces.
  3. Requiring continuous atmospheric monitoring whenever possible.
  4. Requiring continuous monitoring of engulfment hazards. For example, when workers are performing work in a storm sewer, a storm upstream from the workers could cause flash flooding. An electronic sensor or observer posted upstream from the work site could alert workers in the space at the first sign of the hazard, giving the workers time to evacuate the space safely.
  5. Allowing for the suspension of a permit, instead of cancellation, in the event of changes from the entry conditions list on the permit or an unexpected event requiring evacuation of the space. The space must be returned to the entry conditions listed on the permit before re-entry.

OSHA has added provisions to the new rule that clarifies existing requirements in the General Industry standard. These include:

  1. Requiring that employers who direct workers to enter a space without using a complete permit system prevent workers’ exposure to physical hazards through elimination of the hazard or isolation methods such as lockout/tag out.
  2. Requiring that employers who are relying on local emergency services for emergency services arrange for responders to give the employer advance notice if they will be unable to respond for a period of time (because they are responding to another emergency, attending department-wide training, etc.).
  3. Requiring employers to provide training in a language and vocabulary that the worker understands.

Finally, several terms have been added to the definitions for the construction rule, such as "entry employer" to describe the employer who directs workers to enter a space, and "entry rescue", added to clarify the differences in the types of rescue employers can use.

Host Employers, Controlling Contractors, and Entry Supervisors

The rule makes the controlling contractor, rather than the host employer, the primary point of contact for information about permit spaces at the work site. The host employer must provide information it has about permit spaces at the work site to the controlling contractor, who then passes it on to the employers whose employees will enter the spaces (entry employers). Likewise, entry employers must give the controlling contractor information about their entry program and hazards they encounter in the space, and the controlling contractor passes that information on to other entry employers and back to the host. As mentioned above, the controlling contractor is also responsible for making sure employers outside a space know not to create hazards in the space, and that entry employers working in a space at the same time do not create hazards for one another’s workers.

Click for an update on this ruling

Download 29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA Confined Space in Construction Ruling

Source: www.osha.gov

Frequently Asked Questions: https://www.osha.gov/confinedspaces/faq.html

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Roco Chief Chad Roberson Selected for Leadership Training

Friday, May 01, 2015

St. George Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Chad Roberson has been accepted into the third year of the Fire Service Executive Development Institute, the International Association of Fire Chiefs announced.

Roberson competed with new fire chiefs and chief officers from across the country to become a member of the 2015 program. Roberson also has been awarded a scholarship to cover the expenses for attending the program, a news release from the St. George Fire Department said.

The Fire Service Executive Development Institute is a yearlong leadership development program created and implemented by the IAFC to provide new and aspiring fire chiefs with the tools needed to have successful and productive tenures, the release said.

The institute will meet in May for its first six-day session, in addition to two other sessions six months apart. The group will communicate between sessions using an online community.

Roberson has 27 years of experience and rose through the ranks of the St. George Fire Department.

He holds an associate degree in fire science, a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree. He also has completed the National Fire Academy’s Executive Fire Officer Program and, in 2011, was awarded professional accreditation as a certified fire officer, the release said.

In addition to being assistant fire chief, Roberson serves as the technical rescue coordinator for the department.

He is a member of the International Association of Fire Chiefs and serves on its Emergency Management Committee. In addition, Roberson is an executive board member of the Louisiana Fire Chiefs Association, the Louisiana Fire Chiefs Foundation and the Louisiana Municipal Association. He served for six years as an executive board member of the States Urban Search & Rescue Alliance.

Roberson is married and the father of two elementary school-aged sons. He is a volunteer coach at his sons’ school, St. Jude, and the YMCA. He is also a member of the St. Jude Catholic Church Men’s Club and a member of the St. Jude Church Fair Core Committee.

The Motorola Solutions Foundation has provided the IAFC with a grant to fund the program.

Story from The Advocate

Photo provided by Eldon Ledoux -- The International Association of Fire Chiefs announced that Assistant Fire Chief Chad Roberson, of the St. George Fire Department, has been accepted into the third year of the Fire Service Executive Development Institute.

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Firefighter Council Releases PPE Guidance Videos

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The National Volunteer Fire Council has released six new videos on the proper use and maintenance of personal protective equipment for firefighters.

The short videos, available on both NVFC's YouTube channel and its equipment resources webpage, cover the following topics: The importance of PPE during overhaul, PPE cleaning guidelines, Guidance on replacing PPE, Protective clothing and equipment standards, Securing grants for PPE and New PPE regulatory standards. 

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NFPA 350 Update - Guide for Safe Confined Space Entry and Work

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Just a couple of weeks ago at a meeting in Florida, the final public comment revisions were made to NFPA’s new Confined Space Guide (NFPA 350). The document now goes before the NFPA Board for final approval. If all goes well, the new standard may be available next year.

Back in August 2013, we first made you aware of the proposed NFPA 350 document regarding working in and around confined spaces. (Read original post here) Designed as a “best practices guide,” it goes further in explaining what needs to be done to protect workers who make entry or work around confined spaces. We also made the draft document available on our website and encouraged your input, which many of you did. 

NFPA 350 will be an excellent resource for larger companies and municipalities with well-established permit systems, as well as smaller organizations that may not totally understand what is needed to safely work in and around confined spaces. Hopefully, this guide will fill-in some of the gaps or questions that arise when deciphering OSHA 1910.146 (Permit-Required Confined Spaces) as well as provide a better understanding of identifying hazards, ventilation, control measures, atmospheric monitoring, rescue requirements and rescue team qualifications, just to mention a few.

So, to all of you who participated by providing public comments, our hats off to you for taking an active role in providing a best practices guide to help protect others that do a dangerous job!

NOTE: Once finalized, we will update you on some of the unique perspectives of the document. Topics such as the practice of considering every space as hazardous; then, either clearing it, or writing the required permits to allow entry. Stand-by for future updates!
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