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Calculating Compound M/A

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

We recently had a request for additional information beyond what was shown in our “Theory of Mechanical Advantage” video by Chief Instructor Dennis O'Connell. The reader would like to know more about calculating compound mechanical advantages.

First of all, a simple mechanical advantage (MA) is quite easy to calculate as long as you follow a couple of basic rules.

MAs are generally expressed in numeric ratios such as 2:1, 3:1, 4:1, etc. The second digit of the ratio, or the constant "1" represents the load weight. The first digit, or the variable 2, 3, 4, etc. represents the theoretical factor that we divide the load weight by, or inversely multiply the force we apply to the haul line.

I say theoretical as these calculations do not take into account frictional losses at the pulleys and resistance to bend as the rope wraps around the pulley tread. So a 3:1 mechanical advantage would make the weight of a 100-pound load feel like 33 pounds at the haul line, but we do lose some advantage due to those frictional losses. An even more important consideration is the fact that we multiply our hauling effort by the variable, which is important to understand when we think about the victim or an on-line rescuer that has become fouled in the structure. This is also important when considering the stresses on the haul system including the anchor, rope, and all components in the system.

We also need to pay attention to the amount of rope that must be hauled through the system to move the load a given distance. If we are using a 4:1 MA and need to move the load 25 feet, we need to pull 100 feet of rope through the system (4 X 25 feet = 100 feet).

To calculate a simple MA, remember this: if the anchor knot is at the load, it will be an odd mechanical advantage (3:1, 5:1, 7:1, etc.). If the anchor knot is at the anchor, it will be even (2:1, 4:1, 6:1, etc.) “even/anchor-odd/load.” And if you count the number of lines coming directly from the load, you will determine the variable (remember not to count the haul line if it passes one final change of direction pulley). For instance, if the knot is at the anchor and there are four lines coming from the load, this will result in a 4:1 simple MA. And if your haul line is being pulled away from the anchor, that only means you have created one final change of direction which oftentimes is done to allow the addition of a progress capture device (ratchet), or simply to make it a more convenient direction of pull. But this 5th line, called the haul line, does not come directly from the load. It comes from the final directional pulley to the haul team and is not to be counted in the simple MA ratio. We would call this set up a 4:1 MA with a change of direction (CD).

Calculating compound MAs is also quite easy. Compound MAs (sometimes called a stacked MA) simply means we are attaching a second MA to the haul line of the original MA. When we do so, we multiply the first digit of the original MA by the first digit of the second MA. If you attach a 2:1 MA to the haul line of a 4:1 MA (2 X 4 = 8), you end up with an 8:1 compound MA. Keep in mind that we have added even more frictional losses into this system, but it is still a pretty powerful MA.

There are potential benefits as well as potential penalties when using compound MAs. One benefit includes using less gear when stacking MAs. For instance, to build a simple 6:1 MA, you will require at least five pulleys, and if you want a final CD, that would require one last pulley for a total of six pulleys. If you decide to build a 6:1 compound MA, you can get away with as few as three pulleys by attaching a 2:1 MA to the haul line of a 3:1 MA. If you wanted one final CD, you would again add one more pulley for a total of four pulleys. The obvious advantage is that fewer pulleys are required, but hidden in there as another advantage is fewer pulleys for the rope to wrap which translates to less frictional loss and bend resistance.

Another benefit to stacking MAs may be the reach you need to attach to the load. If the load is 25 feet away from the anchor and you are using a 6:1 simple MA, you will need at least 150 feet of rope, plus some extra to tie the anchor knot, and some spare to wrap over the final directional - if you use one. If the load is 50 feet below the anchor and you want to stick with the simple 6:1 MA, you are looking at a minimum of 300 feet of rope.

So, what if we send a 3:1 MA down from the anchor to the load 25 feet below and attach a 2:1 to the haul line of the original 3:1 to build a 6:1 compound MA?

Well, in this case we would need 75 feet of rope plus some extra for knots for the original 3:1, and two times the length of the compounding MA throw. Throw? What the heck is throw? Throw is a term we use when we have a limited distance between the compounding MA anchor and where we can safely attach the compounding MA to the haul line of the original MA.

In the diagram below you can see the original 3:1 MA extending from its anchor to the load. The added MA, which in this case is a 2:1 has a total throw of 10 feet which requires a little over 20 feet of rope to construct. So, if we add the 75+ feet of rope required for the original 3:1 to the 20+ feet for the added 2:1, we arrive at a bit over 95 feet of rope required for this compound 6:1 MA to reach a load 25 feet from the anchor. This can be two separate ropes, one a bit over 75 feet and a second a bit over 20 feet, or it can be one rope a bit over 95 feet that we can treat as if they were two separate ropes. More on that in a bit.



Remember that we must consider the amount of rope that we need to pull through the system in order to move our load the required distance. So, using a 6:1 compound MA to move the load 25 feet we must pull a total of 150 feet of rope through the system. Whoa, wait a minute! I thought we determined that our total rope needs were only a bit over 95 feet, so how did we come up with 150 feet of rope? One of the disadvantages of compound MAs is the need for resets when the throw is not long enough to move the load the needed distance. So, even though we are using in the neighborhood of 95 feet of total rope, we are pulling the same section of rope through the second MA multiple times.

Well, this is one of the big disadvantages of a compound MA. We need to reset the system multiple times to move the load the required distance. To help envision a reset cycle, let’s assume we have our original 3:1 mounted to an anchor, and 25 feet from that anchor is the 3:1 attached to the load. The haul line of the original 3:1 goes through a final CD, and we have attached a ratchet at that final CD to capture the progress of the loads movement. One option is to find a second anchor and in this case we found one 10 feet away from the final CD of the 3:1. We tie an anchor knot and attach it to that second anchor and route the remaining 20+ feet of rope through a pulley which we attach to the haul line of the original 3:1 with a rope grab. We now have our 2:1 pulling on the haul line of a 3:1 resulting in a 6:1 compound MA.  But…… and there’s always a “but,” isn’t there? We can only move the load a bit over 3 feet at a time before we completely collapse the 2:1 and need to reset it for the next haul. Remember, the 2:1 only has a 10-foot travel or “throw” and that distance is divided by 3 as it is pulling on a 3:1 MA. In addition to that, we have pulled about 20 feet of rope through the 2:1 just to move the load a bit over 3 feet. In order to move the load the entire 25 feet we will need to reset the system about 8 times and that is some slow going. Just to point out one option to speed up the haul by reducing the amount of resets needed, if you sent the original MA to the victim as a 2:1 and then stacked a 3:1 MA with 10 feet of throw onto that 2:1, you would still have your compound 6:1 but would only need to do about 5 resets and could do it with a bit over 80 feet of rope.




There are all sorts of options when deciding what type and ratio of MA to use in a rescue effort. You can get pretty creative when building MAs, but be aware that creativity can sometimes lead to crazy. Remember the KISS principle…keep it simple and safe.

If you are overbuilding an MA just to show a cooler way of doing it, you may be missing the point of the job. There is someone in trouble that is relying on you getting them up and out of their predicament, and sometimes we can get a little carried away with our creativity, especially when it comes to MAs. 3:1 Z-rigs are a great option especially with the addition of devices like the Petzl ID or the CMC MPD as your first MA change of direction and progress capture device. Plus, this gives you the ability to convert to a lower with friction control already built in. But you can really complicate things by compounding a second MA onto a Z-rig to get a higher ratio MA. You will soon learn that now you have to perform two separate resets of the haul cams. And, if you are out of sequence in the reset, the haul cam of the second MA will jam into the traveling pulley of that system and stop you in your tracks. There are some tricks to really make the resets for this system go nicely, but that will have to wait for another day.

There are hundreds of variations that you can use for compounding MAs, but once again I caution you to remember KISS. I have my favorites and every once in a while the situation calls for something a little different, and that’s where understanding the advantages and disadvantages of the systems is of great value.

For additional video resources on mechanical advantage as well as other techniques and systems, visit Roco Resources.

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Pre-entry Atmospheric Clearance Measurements

Friday, March 17, 2017

The following article was written by Russell Warn and published in ISHN magazine (ishn.com), December 2016. Roco comments have been added to the article and are noted in red.

Working in confined spaces presents a unique and dangerous challenge in combatting the unseen – oxygen deficiency, poisonous or explosive gases, and other hazardous substances are among the most frequent causes of accidents associated with work in confined spaces and containers.

From 2005-2009, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported nearly two deaths per week, or roughly 96 per year, could be attributed to confined space, with about 61 percent occurring during construction repair or cleaning activities.

With conditions subject to change in a moment’s notice, taking steps to protect against life-threatening dangers should always be a top priority in confined spaces. Performing a thorough clearance measurement is a demanding — yet crucial — task that dictates the safety environment, and should not be taken lightly. To help guide you along your road to enhanced safety, outlined below are several best practices based on frequently asked questions.

When should I perform a clearance measurement?

Conduct clearance measurements immediately before operations begin. Environmental factors such as temperature and air flow can change the atmosphere, causing readings to fluctuate. One shift’s measurement taken at 7 a.m. is not representative of the conditions when work operations commence for another shift at 4 p.m. New clearance measurements must be taken immediately to account for the nine hours of changing temperatures and ventilation patterns, depicting the accurate readings of present conditions.

Roco Comment: In addition to pre-entry clearance measurements, entry into permit spaces during construction activities requires "continuous atmospheric monitoring" unless the entry employer can demonstrate that equipment for continuous monitoring is not commercially available or periodic monitoring is sufficient. Ref. 1926.1203 (e)(2)(vi), 1926.1204 (e)1)(ii), and 1926.1204 (e)(2). Additionally, Roco believes that for "ALL" permit entry operations, it is advisable to provide continuous atmospheric monitoring no matter what the industry activity entails.

What’s the importance of zero-point adjustment?

When performing clearance measurements, it’s crucial to determine the reference point of the gas detector by calibrating the zero-point. The zero-point ensures that the indicated values correspond to the actual existing gas concentrations. In order to determine that the actual zero-point has been found, calibrate equipment in an environment where the hazardous substance is not present, such as fresh air environments. With every scientific test, no matter the field, a control group, which serves as a starting point of reference, permits for the comparison of results to show any contrasting changes. The zero-point calibration acts as such, allowing workers to identify the presence, or lack thereof, of different gas concentrations.

Where do I measure/take the sample?

When it comes to measuring samples, there are four things to keep in mind: the physical properties of gases, and the type and shape, temperature and ventilation patterns of the confined space.

Know the differences between light and heavy gases. Clearance measurement experts must have a strong working knowledge of hazardous substances’ properties, as they play a role in where measurements should be taken. For example, if a sample is pulled from the top of the confined space and hydrogen sulfide (H2S) is detected, the sample may not be entirely reliable. H2S has a molar mass of 34 g/mol, which is significantly heavier than that of air (29 g/mol). As a result, H2S sinks to the bottom of a space, where its concentration would be greatest. Identifying a presence at the top of the confined space says immediate danger and appropriate actions should be taken.

Light gases quickly mix with air and rise to the top. As a result, any measurements in open atmospheres should be performed close to the leak, and increases in concentration should appear in the highest points of the confined space. Heavy gases, on the other hand, should sink and flow like liquids, pass obstacles or stick to them. They barely mix with air like light gases do, so their samples should always be taken at the lowest points of the confined space.

Determine the type/shape of the confined space: In an ideal scenario, each confined space area would be in an “even” or level position. This isn’t always the case, and a container may be placed on an inclined surface, making the highest point in the corner positioned toward the top of the inclined surface. Thus, entry may be nearer to where the heavy gases have accumulated.

Take tabs on temperatures. All matter is made up of atoms and molecules that are constantly moving. When heat is added to a substance, such as a gas, the molecules and atoms vibrate faster. As the gas molecules begin to move faster, the speed of diffusion increases. If the sun has been shining on a tank for hours, there’s a good chance the clearance measurement taken at dawn no longer reflects the current readings due to the increase in diffusion.

Vet the ventilation. Air currents change the position and concentration of air clouds, and often times, the way a confined space is ventilated can affect readings. Containers cannot always be separated from pipelines, or there may be leaks in the tanks that must be accounted.

Roco Comment: Not only is it required by certain OSHA provisions like alternate entry procedures, but Roco highly recommends monitoring the atmosphere prior to initiating ventilation. This is intended to provide a reasonable assessment of the potential atmosphere change should the ventilation equipment fail. The rate for a potential hazard to re-develop will be based on factors such as the effectiveness of isolation, any residual product within the space, temperature, humidity and passive ventilation which are among just some of the factors.

How do I safely conduct the measurement for an accurate reading?

People often question why they can’t just use the carrying strap of their device to lower the device into the confined space for a reading. Although this seems like a simple fix, it’s not a safe or recommended way to conduct the measurement. Lowering the device into the container this way not only obscures the way the display is read, but it may not audibly alarm. If the measured value is slightly below the threshold value and the alarm does not sound, a worker would not be notified of the dangerous concentrations lurking below. Not only this, but measurements may be inaccurate since the measured gases, due to their molar masses, may be concentrated at a higher or lower point within the container. Clearance measurements should be conducted on-site and on-the-ground of the confined space for accurate, safe readings.

Roco Comment: The points made in the preceding paragraph are certainly valid. The best solution that we can offer is to use remote sampling probes or tubes to actively draw (pump) samples from the stratified levels of the space while the direct reading instrument is in a position outside the space to observe the real time readings. To expound upon the point the author makes, if the pre-set threshold for the alarms are not enough to trigger the alarm indicating the presence of a hazardous atmosphere, and the individual performing the assessment relies instead on rapidly pulling the monitor from the space in the hope that they are able to read the display before the values change, is a very dangerous way of approaching this procedure. Depending on the sampling rate of the monitor, the hazardous gas(s) may have cleared from the monitor in the time it takes to withdraw it from the space, and it is very likely that the instrument will display a normal atmosphere by the time it is back within view. Additionally, for areas within the space that cannot be remotely assessed by remote sampling prior to entry, the only safe recourse is to limit entry to the areas that have been assessed and to take a monitor into the space to continuously assess the unreachable regions before venturing further.

What do I need to document during clearance measurement protocols?

Just as it’s important to remain thorough in clearance measurements procedures, it’s equally as important to remain thorough in the general housekeeping protocols surrounding samples. This includes documenting:

  • The container number
  • The measuring point of the container, and whether there was more than one measuring point
  • At which time was the clearance performed
  • Under what condition was the measurement performed
  • Measured hazardous substances
  • Name of person performing measurement
  • Equipment used for clearance

Safety, regardless of job title or responsibility, should be everyone’s top priority. When working in the midst of poisonous and explosive hazards, performing clearance measurements correctly and carefully means not only keeping one’s self safe, but keeping the working environment safe, as well.

About the Author:
Russell Warn is the product support manager for gas detection products at Dräger. He has been in the safety industry for more than 29 years, with most of this time dedicated to gas detection product and application support.

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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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What is a Competent Person?

Wednesday, March 02, 2016

Many OSHA standards, especially in construction, require a “competent person” to be designated at the jobsite. Filling this role requires proper training, relevant experience to the work being performed and adequate knowledge of the associated regulations. 

The competent person should be able to recognize critical hazards as well as have the authority to take the action needed to mitigate hazards. It’s much more than just picking someone to fill a slot.

A previous article, "What is a Competent Person?" found in the National Safety Council's Safety+Health publication, talks about how the term is often taken too lightly. Again, it's much more than just selecting a body to fill a role or attending one 10-hour training class covering all the various standards. Competency must be considered and evaluated for this important role. 

At a minimum, your designated competent person should meet the following minimum qualifications:
(1)    A high level of understanding of the types of hazards typically encountered in that area of work;
(2)    A solid review of applicable standards relating to that type of work; and,
(3)    A thorough understanding of types of solutions to control or eliminate the hazards
.

To assist in preparing your competent person in fall protection, we encourage you to register for Roco's Fall Protection
Competent Person - April 4-5, 2016 course in Baton Rouge. This course will provide practical experience in recognizing fall hazards and developing appropriate measures for reducing or eliminating those hazards. 

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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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