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Rescue Challenge 2017-Why you should have sent a team!

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Roco Rescue Challenge 2017 was held at our Confined Space and High Angle Training Facility (RTC) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on October 11 & 12. This year we had teams representing Petro-Chemical, Paper Mills, Fertilizer Manufacturing and Municipal Rescuers.

The two-day event included performing rescues from all six (6) confined space types based on OSHA-defined criteria. High Angle and Rescue from Fall Protection were also covered. These practical scenarios offer a realistic test of a team’s ability to perform under stress to both IDLH and non-IDLH atmospheres. Teams were required to triage and treat multiple victims as well as select and use a variety of patient care and packaging choices.

This year there were eight (8) rotation stations for the teams to take on. They included some of the following techniques and problem-solving capabilities:

1) An unconscious rope access worker suspended from fall protection in a narrow shaft. The only way to reach the victim was to ascend the victim’s access line.

2) Dealing with a medical emergency in a multi-level confined space that required both external and internal mechanical advantage systems to remove the patient.

3) Real rescue reenactment: Access and extricate victim that fell into and is trapped in a 24-inch shaft.

4) Rescue from an elevated horizontal entry with multiple victims in an IDLH atmosphere.

5) Access and package a victim from a reactor tower requiring both vertical and horizontal internal rescue systems in an IDLH atmosphere.

6) Access a victim with a broken hip via a mid-level 13”x16” horizontal portal accessed via a rope ladder.

7) Individual Performance Evaluation – Team members were tested on their personal rescue skills (Knot tying, Rigging, Packaging, M/A).

8) Multi-faceted Rescue Drill – Tests a team’s ability to adapt and use a variety of rescue techniques and packaging requirements as they move a patient through a gauntlet of rescue stations that traverse throughout the rescue tower.

Rescue Challenge gives teams the unique opportunity to use the equipment and techniques similar to what they would use back at their facilities in an actual rescue, stated Dennis O’Connell, Director of Training for Roco.
He added, “They also get the benefit of comparing their performance and effectiveness to that of other teams performing the same rescue. The teams are exposed to different rescue approaches, which provides a great learning experience in itself.

Challenge also provides an opportunity to be evaluated by multiple rescue professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds. This year more than 10 different evaluators evaluated each team over the two-day event.

The event is set-up so that a team’s capability or experience level really doesn’t matter. Each team is simply responding like they would if that scenario happened at their facility. For example, some teams bring paramedics and others only have basic First Aid/CPR training. It does not matter – it is all about how are you going to respond and handle that emergency.

So why should you have sent a team to Challenge? Besides getting written documentation on your team’s capability to respond to all six confined space types (practice is required annually by OSHA in applicable types of spaces).

It gets your team out of their comfort zone of training in the same locations over and over.
They get to see what other teams do and use. Teams also get the benefit of being critiqued by professional evaluators in order to correct any deficiencies in techniques and equipment. Lastly, the teams are offered positive feedback and suggestions on how to improve from evaluators with a wide variety of experience in the rescue world.

This year's teams included:

Shell Refinery - Convent, LA


Valero Refinery - Wilmington, CA


CF Industries - Donaldsonville, LA


International Paper - Bogalusa, LA


CHS Refinery - McPherson, KS


Don't miss the chance to register your team for Rescue Challenge 2018!
Click here for more information.
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Keeping Pace with Fall Protection

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

We all know that initial safety training is a crucial element of our programs that aim to keep our employees protected from harm at work. For any and all hazards (or potential hazards} to which we expose our workers, we must ensure they understand the nature of the hazards and how to protect themselves.

Initial safety training and proper safety equipment, combined with good old-fashioned experience, goes a long way in ensuring a safe work environment. But, at times, we must provide re-training for our employees – and there are many reasons for this.
For example, if our employees demonstrate a lack of knowledge or acceptable performance in regards to any particular hazard, we must provide re-training. If the process or equipment changes, we must provide re-training. If new safety equipment (includes systems as well) is brought into the program, we must re-train our employees on its proper use. And, finally, if there are changes to safety legislation or best-known practices, we need to re-train.

It seems that every week a new piece of fall protection equipment is brought to market – and for the most part, these emerging technologies make work-at-height safer than ever before. Additionally, these newer fall protection items tend to be lighter, more comfortable, easier to operate, and can even perform multiple safety functions. This is all great news, but not every item/system is right for the varied situations encountered at our workplaces. But when we do introduce a new piece of fall protection equipment to our workforce, it nearly universally calls for some degree of re-training. The manufacturer’s instructions for use may be a great starting point to satisfy this training, but it is always a good idea to provide some degree of formal training on the equipment, and then document that training.

The extent of this re-training is dependent on the complexity of the new equipment and the authorized person’s general knowledge base. Sometimes the user manual does not cover all the points that the re-training should convey. For example, harness-mounted self-retracting lifelines are becoming more and more prevalent in the work-at-height environment. In addition to the standard training for pre-use and periodic inspections, proper mounting, operating capabilities and limitations, at least one other point of training seems to be required. The worker cannot walk too quickly away from their anchorage lest they engage the arresting mechanism which abruptly stops the worker in their tracks. This may at times create a new hazard by jerking the worker off balance or causing them to drop objects they may have been carrying. I have even heard some tales of individuals suffering minor injuries due to the sudden stop. So, even though you may not find this point of training in the user’s manual, it comes with experience and should be included in the re-training for this type of new equipment.

Another reason to provide re-training for fall protection has to do with an observed deficiency in an authorized person’s knowledge or performance regarding fall protection. Now this can become a little tricky to find the root cause of the deficiency. Is it truly a lack of knowledge on the authorized person’s part, or is it a disregard for required procedures? Sometimes it's a mix of both. No matter the primary cause of the deficiency, if that authorized person is to remain on that job, it is incumbent on the employer to provide proper re-training. And I will say it again, document that re-training!

We have recently had a significant legislative change to the general industry standard for fall protection. On Nov. 18, 2016, OSHA 1910 Subpart D “Walking-Working Surfaces” was published and became effective on Jan 18, 2017. The major changes to this final rule have to do with physical changes to existing and future structures regarding the phase-in of ladder safety systems,

• Eliminating the outdated general industry requirements for scaffolds and adopting the construction industry’s scaffold standards,• Guidance on the use of rope descent systems and qualified climbers, as well as some other changes. But the most significant changes that will drive training and re-training requirements is the added flexibility of using personal fall protection systems for authorized persons. These personal fall protection systems include fall restraint, work positioning, and personal fall arrest systems (PFAS). OSHA has eliminated the mandate to use guardrail systems as the primary fall protection method and now allows the general industry employer to determine the fall protection method that they feel is best suited for the nature of the work at height. And this now includes personal fall protection which was not addressed prior.

For general industry employers, who prior to the new Subpart D did not allow their employees to use personal fall protection systems other than in accordance with 1910.66, the option to do so now will be deemed compliant. And, of course, this will require initial training and re-training for the use of personal fall protection equipment and systems. Additionally, employers that introduce the authorized use of work positioning and personal fall arrest systems to their workplace will also have to provide training on rescue of these workers if they are relying on an in-house rescue capability.

In the years I have been involved with safety and rescue training, one subtlety that I observe is this:

Oftentimes an employer or their employees do not realize they have a training deficiency until after they've gone through the training.
This is certainly true when it comes to rescue training. At the conclusion of nearly every rescue class I teach, at least one of the students says they never realized what all was involved in rescue and what the limitations of certain rescue systems were. And this is consistent with my interviews and reviews of rescue programs when I am asked to perform needs assessments at various facilities. Unless you have a background in technical rescue, it is very difficult to visualize the systems, skills, and equipment required to safely access and rescue a fallen/suspended victim.

Both OSHA and ANSI require employers to provide "prompt rescue" of employees they authorize to work at height while using personal fall arrest systems. OSHA has published a Safety and Health Information Bulletin recognizing suspension trauma as a workplace hazard affecting workers that use personal fall arrest systems. Many employers address rescue of fallen/suspended workers in their fall protection programs, but stop at merely developing written policies that may fall well short of the requirements needed at the time of an incident. This falls back to my earlier point that an employer that has a limited background and understanding of the complexities of performing rope rescue, especially if it requires technical skills beyond the simplest rescue, may not understand what the true requirements are for their facility. Sort of like that general saying last year that “We don’t know what we don’t know.” So, training for rescue is a subcategory of fall protection training that does not have as much easily accessed guidance and resources to rely on as a guide.

Quality training will include several of the points that I have detailed so far. The training will be pretty specific to the job with very little time spent on irrelevant material. The training will be of the type that best transfers the information in either a vocational or academic manner. The training will close the gaps that have been identified and arm the employer and the students with a better understanding of what is truly required to perform the job, which is especially true for rescue. But finally, the training should be delivered in such a manner that it captures the students’ interest. The best outcome of training, the classes where the student finishes with the highest level of retention, understanding and performance, are the classes that compel the students to engage in the learning.

I think it is a safe assumption to say that we have all sat through classes wondering when and hoping for the class to end. Looking at our watch is one thing, but when we are tapping it to see if it is even still working is a really bad sign. I am not suggesting that educators have to provide entertainment, but there is a demonstrated positive difference in classes delivered by an engaging trainer as compared to a very dull, monotonous trainer.

In addition to seeking an engaging trainer, it is important for the trainee to take some ownership in the learning process as well. This is where the adult learner has an advantage over younger learners. We as adults generally understand that the training will result in a better understanding of the job requirements and in many cases is a factor in career progression.

I encourage you to seek out the training that your employees need. Or, as an employee yourself, seek out quality, applicable training. Review the course syllabi and determine if it will close those knowledge and skills gaps that you have identified. Always back up those fancy sales brochures by reaching out to others to get their opinion on their experiences with the training in the past. Also, remember to consider re-training as needed and always document. These things are important for the overall quality and credibility of your safety training programs.

Article by Pat Furr, Safety Officer & VPP Coordinator for Roco Rescue, Inc. 

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Rescue Toolbox: Petzl Rescucender

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

The Rescucender is one more quality piece of rescue hardware for your toolbox. Roco is proud to have been one of the first rescue training companies approached by Petzl to be shown the new device and asked to evaluate it. We were excited to see and use it from Day 1, and we then added it to our training kits as soon as they became available.

There’s no doubt, as computer assisted design (CAD) and precision computer numerically controlled (CNC) machines are used more and more in designing and manufacturing new rescue hardware, we are seeing some absolute gems coming to market. And I say gems, referring to function as well as appearance. There are still times when stamping and casting hardware is appropriate, but if there is a good reason to machine a piece from solid aluminum stock, it generally results in a lighter, smoother, more precise piece of kit.

And that is the case with the new Petzl Rescucender. It is primarily machined out of solid forged aluminum with some bits that are manufactured in a more traditional manner. But the end result is one of those gems. I have been waiting for an NFPA-rated, one-piece mechanical cam for quite some time; and now it is here. My first experience with a one-piece cam was with another Petzl product known as the Shunt. The ease of loading it onto, and stripping it off, the rope made it so much faster and greatly reduced the chance of dropping it. This is especially important when 300 feet or more on a tower!

The limitations of the Petzl shunt made it inappropriate for most technical rescue operations except for certain specialized situations such as during rope access or tower rescue when we are generally dealing with lighter rescue loads. The maximum rope diameter that the Shunt can handle is 11 mm. The new Rescucender is NFPA 1983 T Rated and accepts rope diameters from 9-13 mm.

But as important as the ease of mounting/dismounting is, what I really like about the shunt, and now the new Rescucender is the fact that the shell and the shoe are no longer connected together with a light cable or a thin piece of fabric. I have a few pet peeves, and one of them is seeing rescuers strutting about with a two-piece cam hanging from their gear loop unassembled. The shoe is clipped but the shell is just flapping in the breeze hanging from that thin tether waiting to get jammed into a piece of the structure and break free from the shoe. And, if you don’t believe that happens, you haven’t been doing this long enough, or it may be that your team is really good about assembling their two-piece cams when storing or hanging them from their gear loops. So that whole problem of the shoe ending up in Kansas City while the shell is somewhere in Oshkosh is now eliminated with the introduction of the Rescucender.

The attachment hole in the cam arm is extra-large which allows for rotation of your connector. This doesn’t sound like that big of a deal, but once you start using equipment that allows rotation of the connector from end to end, you will appreciate it. 

As with any piece of rescue equipment, it is important to be properly trained in its use. The action for opening and closing the Rescucender becomes very intuitive in a short amount of time. The engagement and movement of the shoe along its guides oozes precision and the solid feel in your hand lends a high degree of confidence. The device is equipped with a spring that has a light action and is primarily intended to prevent fouling. Our experience is the cam runs rather freely down the rope in vertical applications when attached to a pulley. This provides the convenience of creating longer “throws” with a Z-rig or piggy-back hauling system. The balance between the spring action and the need for the cam to remain open in progress capture applications is spot on. It also has just enough passive camming action to remain in place without back-sliding during rope ascents. It runs free when you need it to, and then grabs the rope when needed.

We all know that the pin needs to be completely seated in most two-piece mechanical cams, the new Rescucender does not have a removable pin but instead has dual safety catches, one on each side of the body. Once the device is installed on the rope, it is important to check that there is no “red” of the visual indicators showing. You will feel and hear a distinct click when the safety catches engage. Additionally, the problem of installing the shoe the wrong way in the shell is now eliminated as the Rescucender does not allow 180 degree rotation of the shoe in relation to the shell.

I continue to be excited about the evolution of rescue equipment. It doesn’t seem that long ago that we moved from goldline ropes to kernmantle, but years would go by without seeing any major breakthroughs in modern equipment. Well, those days are over. It seems that the digital era, as well as the push from various agencies and users, combined with the “out-of-the-box” thinking of equipment designers is driving the rapid emergence of better and better rescue mousetraps.

It’s a good time to be in rescue, it always has been, but the versatility, precision, and safety of modern equipment sure makes our tasks easier today than ever before.

Article by Pat Furr, Safety Officer & VPP Coordinator for Roco Rescue, Inc.
Pictures courtesy of Petzl

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Roco Rescue Training in North Dakota

Monday, January 23, 2017

Roco is excited to be conducting several Rescue & Fall Protection Workshops at the 44th Annual Safety Conference next month in Bismarck, ND. This will kick off our working relationship with the ND Safety Council to provide safe, effective confined space rescue training for their membership. 

What's more, the North Dakota Safety Council (NDSC) is currently constructing a new safety campus in Bismarck that will house a 5,000 square foot hands-on training lab. Roco, as a training partner, will provide high-level technical rescue courses at this new facility on a year-round basis.

For the conference on February 20-23, we will be conducting a number of hands-on rescue workshops and presentations to be presented by Roco Lead Instructors Dennis O’Connell, Pat Furr, Brad Warr, Eddie Chapa and Josh Hill. Sessions include:

  • Intro to Competent Person Requirements for Fall Protection
    2/20 9am-6pm (classroom w/demo)
  • Confined Space Entrant, Attendant, and Supervisor Requirements
    2/20 9am-6pm (classroom w/demos) 
  • Tripod Operations
    2/21 11am-5pm (hands-on training) 
  • So You’ve Fallen, Now What?
    2/22 10am-11:30am (classroom)
  • Dial 911 for Confined Space Rescue
    2/22 1:30pm-2:30pm (classroom w/demos)
  • Confined Space and Rope Rescue...
    2/22 1:30pm-5pm (hands-on training) 
  • Trench Collapse Rescue Considerations
    2/22 2:45pm-3:45pm (classroom) 
  • Fallen/Suspended Worker Rescue
    2/23 8am-11:15am (classroom w/demos) 
  • We look forward to meeting you at Roco booths (#202 & #203) or in these training sessions. For more info, click to NDSC’s 44th Annual Safety & Health Conference. Don't forget to register online at www.ndsc.org for these training sessions.
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Where Do You Fit Best on Your Rescue Team?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

By Pat Furr, VPP Coordinator & Corporate Safety Officer for Roco Rescue, Inc.

At the start of nearly every rescue class, I'll ask, “Okay, who here is afraid of heights?” Usually a few folks will raise their hands, but the vast majority don’t. I then qualify the same question by saying, “By afraid, I don’t mean that you are so overcome with fear that you cannot function – only that when you are at height you get a little case of the butterflies…” Then a few more hands will go up, but typically still fewer than half the class. I continue by adding that I’m always am a bit concerned for the folks that didn’t raise their hand as it means one of two things. First, it may be they are not being totally honest, but more concerning to me is they truly are not afraid of heights...and this is scary.

Human beings are born with an innate fear of heights. This is natural, and quite protective. I’m certainly afraid of heights, and I still get butterflies. It’s just that I’ve learned how to get those butterflies to fly in formation, so I can then function just fine at height. The day I climb atop a wind turbine tower or get that first peek over the edge of some serious exposure, and I don’t get that familiar feeling, that’s my sign to hang up my harness and ride the keyboard full time. This feeling is our not-too-subtle reminder that we do not have wings…and it is a healthy reminder!

There is a point to this, and I’m about to get there. Over the years, I've had some students with a serious case of YMIC (young male immortality complex). They will insist that they are not afraid of heights – or anything else, for that matter. I've found, when it comes time to go over the edge while hanging from that skinny little ½” kernmantle rope, backed up with a ½” safety line, our superheroes tend to freeze like the statue of Michelangelo. They won’t budge, can’t speak, or look any direction but down! Most often, these individuals gradually gain trust in their equipment; in the techniques they’ve learned; and perhaps, most importantly, in themselves. While they may never be "comfortable" going over the edge, they can still be valuable members of their rescue team. Some can be very strong in many other rescue skills such as knot tying, rigging, friction control, mechanical advantage, etc. They can also be excellent in logistics, developing action plans and other key areas.

First, know your weaknesses as well as your strengths. Then, identify your weaknesses and strive to make them your strengths.

A second tenet I live by is to enter a rescue knowing that you will be an asset to the effort. But sometimes, it’s not possible to do this, and having an unusual fear of heights may be one of those times. Avoid crossing the line from being an asset to becoming a liability – creating a situation in which your team would then have to deal with “two” victims. This is huge – especially in an emergency. And that’s what this article is all about. 

Before I go any further, a bit about egos. There is simply no room for egos during a rescue. When the call comes in, it’s about one person and one person only, and that is the victim. We all have our pride, but we need to “park it” until everyone, including the victim and the rescuers, are safe and sound. As trained rescuers, we all have something to contribute. Each of us has a role to fill in the rescue effort and be an asset to the overall effectiveness of our team.

So, how do we learn what our best role as a rescuer may be? Here’s one way. Practice as a team in simulated rescues that are scenario driven and mimic the types of rescues that your team may be summoned to perform. It is during these practice sessions that you will discover your strengths and your weaknesses. It is important for ALL team members to honestly critique each other as well as themselves to help determine the best way to fill the different roles on the team.

As your team practices more often, trends will start to surface. One rescuer may be particularly strong at climbing and can rig cleanly and efficiently while hanging from work positioning equipment. Another rescuer may be your “ace in the hole” for rigging anchors. A third may be so good at converting lowering systems to haul systems, that it’s an obvious choice. Then, there may be some that don’t shine at any particular skill, but are reliable haul team members or can run the SAR cart with the best of them.

All teams have a spectrum of performers, whether it’s a football team, a production assembly line or a team of cooks and chefs in a large restaurant. The same holds true for a rescue team. Some of the factors that affect performance may be physical. Let’s face it, our 5’4” 150-pound “Hole Rat” can pass through tight portals and operate in congested confined spaces easier than most 6’ 6” 280-pounders. Sometimes it’s mechanical aptitude. We see it all the time in training rescuers. Some folks have a natural mechanical aptitude and can understand and build rescue systems as if it were second nature, while others struggle to get it right on a consistent basis.

And, yes, a pronounced fear of height that may inhibit a rescuer’s ability to perform effectively at height is yet another factor to consider. Other things include leadership qualities, attention to detail, general physical strength, comfort with breathing air systems, the presence or lack of claustrophobia and the list goes on. The only way to realize and understand these abilities and limitations is to practice as a team – and practice often – while staying attuned to these individual abilities and limits. Understand them and use them to your advantage in determining who is the best fit for the various team member roles on any given rescue effort. And please, please do not take it personally. Again, we all have our pride and want to shine; however, we all can shine as a team! And the best way to shine as a team is to understand, as best we can, where each member best fits and can contribute most.

Remember, so much of rescue is about mechanical systems, safety, victim packaging and other easily defined considerations. As rescuers, I invite you to take it to the next level. Think about the harder-to-define factors such as individual team member skills AND limitations. Help each other as a team arrive at the best mix of the right people in the right positions – and all for the good of the victim!
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