Roco Rescue



Firefighter and Worker Die in Confined Space Incident

Thursday, September 09, 2010

TARRYTOWN, NY (WABC) — A fire department official says oxygen levels were dangerously low in a manhole where a sewer worker and a firefighter died.

No cause of death has been established in Monday’s deaths of sewer worker Anthony Ruggiero and Tarrytown firefighter John Kelly. At firehouses throughout Tarrytown, there are the ceremonial displays that no department ever wants to have to put up: black and purple bunting and flags at half staff.

Inside the headquarters there’s a memorial for one of the fallen men, John Kelly. “Our prayers all go out to the families of these two men, who were doing their jobs,” Tarrytown Mayor Drew Fixell said. “One of them a firefighter, acting heroic and trying to save the other one.”

Ruggerio was trying to clear a backup of sewage as part of his full time job in the village’s Public Works Department. He was overcome by fumes and collapsed. Kelly had tried to save Ruggiero, but also the fumes overwhelmed him as well.

Assistant Fire Chief John McGee said Tuesday that a hazardous materials team measured the oxygen level at 14 percent. The normal amount of oxygen in air is about 21 percent. He said he did not know if other, deadly gases were detected. Those are life threatening conditions that may have taken the men by surprise.

Village Administrator Michael Blau said neither of the men who died had put on a protective masks before entering the manhole. He said autopsies were planned. The deaths were being investigated by federal, state and local agencies.

“It’s very, very sad,” resident Susie Poore said. “I’m speechless, because…I don’t know even what to say. I don’t know what to say, other than I must have said ‘Oh my God’ 100 times already.”

Both victims spent over 20 years as volunteer firefighters. Ruggerio was a supervisor in the DPW by trade. Kelly worked as a state Department of Transportation worker.
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Delayed Rescue Response Cited in Fatal Tunnel Fire

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Here’s another deadly reminder of the importance of a capable and timely response to confined space emergencies. Five people were killed in this fatal tunnel fire. According to OSHA, the case involving Xcel Energy and RPI Coating is not being tried until next year. After reading the official Chemical Safety Board report, here are some key findings…

    1. Did not have adequate technical rescue services standing by at the Permit Required Confined Space.       “911″ was listed on paperwork. Took the rescue team 1 hr and 15   mins to arrive at the site.
    2. Confined space was assessed as Non-PRCS even though the inability to self rescue and the introduction of MEK.
    3. RPI did not have an adequate confined space program.
    4. No hazard analysis was conducted.
    5. Not recognizing that 10% LEL or higher is an IDLH condition.
    6. Workers were located over 1400 ft away from where atmospheric monitoring was being performed.

Article below written by: P. Solomon Banda, Associated Press Writer

DENVER – The U.S. Chemical Safety Board slammed Xcel Energy Inc. on Monday for the company’s handling of the aftermath of a tunnel fire that killed five workers at a hydroelectric plant, as well as for a host of “troubling episodes.”

The board cited the electric and gas utility’s failure to cooperate in the agency’s probe and said that investigators had to turn to the U.S. Attorney’s Office Civil Division in Denver to compel the company to turn over information. “Xcel Energy believes it has always cooperated and acted responsibly and continues to be fully committed to safety as a core value and an operational priority,” the company said in a statement.

The board, an independent federal agency that investigates serious chemical accidents and makes safety recommendations, plans to release its final report and recommendations Wednesday. That report comes about two weeks after Xcel decided to release a draft version after initially trying to block it. The company feared it would be released close to the criminal trial in the case, possibly influencing jurors.

Xcel, contractor RPI Coating and RPI executives Philippe Goutagny and James Thompson each are charged with violating U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. They’re expected to go on trial next year. The safety board said the report wasn’t complete that it had instructed Xcel to keep the draft confidential. Xcel also said it wanted to release the draft report because the company wanted to show that the board excluded findings of a gap in OSHA standards.

Xcel and the board are at odds over whether OSHA regulations were sufficient or clear enough to ensure worker safety. The board says the utility should have had a specially trained rescue crew on-hand in emergencies, rather than calling 911 as directed by Xcel’s plan. The tunnel fire started when flammable vapors ignited on a machine that was being used to spray a coat of epoxy sealant on a portion of a 4,000-foot-long water pipe, trapping five of nine workers inside the pipe.

Specially trained rescue crews didn’t arrive until an hour and a half after the fire started. Donald Dejaynes, 43, Dupree Holt, 37, James St. Peters, 52, Gary Foster, 48, Anthony Aguirre, 18 – all from California – ultimately died from smoke inhalation.

In the letter sent Monday to Xcel CEO Richard Kelly, the board said Xcel’s “unprecedented” legal action to block the report delayed its release and diverted resources from other investigations. “In the wake of the corporate responsibility concerns raised by the Big Branch Mine accident in West Virginia and the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, I strongly urge Xcel to renew its focus on safety and to swiftly implement the CSB’s recommendations,” wrote Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso.

This link is from an online magazine:

This link is the official 145 page CSB report:
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OSHA Sites Company Following Trench Death

Friday, August 13, 2010

Driving around your town, how many times have you seen workers in a trench working totally unprotected?  As an emergency responder, are you aware of the imminent dangers around these trenches and do you know how to protect yourself should you respond to one of these incidents?

Trenches can collapse without warning entrapping and surrounding a victim in seconds – making it impossible to breath. Most trench cave-ins occur in good weather, and it has been  reported that up to 70% of fatalities occur in trenches less than 12 ft deep and less than 6 ft wide. Failed trenches have a 100% chance of secondary collapse…it’s just a matter of time.

Just a few things to think about…
  • 1 cubic yard of dirt moving 6 ft will reach an impact force equal to 45mph.
  • 2-feet of soil on a person’s chest will create 700-1,000 lbs of pressure.
  • 18-inches of soil covering a body exerts up to 1,800 to 3,000 lbs of pressure.
Here’s a recent fatality that occurred when workers were installing storm drains in Alamo, Texas.

OSHA has cited M&G Equipment Group Ltd., doing business as M Construction, with two alleged willful and six alleged serious violations following the death of an employee in March 2010 who was working in a trench installing a storm drainage system. “A company’s failure to protect its workers from cave-ins is simply unacceptable,” said Michael Rivera, OSHA’s area director in Corpus Christi, Texas. “If OSHA’s standards regarding proper trench sloping, shoring and shielding were followed, it is possible this tragedy could have been avoided.”

Serious citations were issued for failure to provide workers with safe egress when working in a trench, keep excavated soil a safe distance from a trench, use a properly designed trench shield, and ensure workers are trained on excavation hazards. A serious citation is issued when there is substantial probability that death or serious physical harm could result from a hazard about which the employer knew or should have known.

Proposed penalties total $53,550. OSHA standards mandate that all excavations 5 feet or deeper be protected against collapse. Detailed information on trenching and excavation hazards is available on OSHA’s Web site.
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Worker Falls to Death During Construction of Water Tower

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A recent accident involving a worker who fell from height inside the mono-tube of a water tower under construction, underscores the need to have a thorough understanding of Fall Protection systems and practices required by OSHA while undertaking hazardous work activities. It also emphasizes the importance of preplanning for rescue. Be sure to read additional comments from Roco Chief Instructor Pat Furr at the end of the article. Thanks to Dr. Skip Williams for submitting this story.

EAST WINDSOR, NJ… A worker fell nearly 50 feet to his death inside a new water tower under construction in a rural area of the township, police said. The 56 year-old man, whose name police did not release, was on a scaffold inside a tubular portion of the tower when he fell, landing on a solid floor 30 feet above the bottom of the structure. There was no water inside, and the worker was wearing a full body harness, said East Winsor Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 Chief Kevin Brink, one of the first responders on the scene. Mounting a ladder and coming up through a trap door in the floor where the man fell, Brink saw the man unconcious, unresponsive and bleeding. “I tell you this: I’ve seen worse people living,” he said. “To me, he was considered living until the paramedics pronounced him.”

The tower he was working on rises about 80 feet above the trees and farmland on Millstone Road. The familiar bubble-shaped cap that will hold water is not installed yet, and the structure yesterday looked much like a massive vase, with a dull pyramid for a bottom and a cylindrical tube mounted on top. A large crane had four metal lines grasping the top of the cylinder, and smaller cranes and trucks dotted the mud and gravel lot set back from the roadway. The victim, an employee of New Castle, Del.-based CBI Services, fell around 10:30 a.m., and was working near the top of the cylinder, Brink said. Fellow workers called 911, and police, firefighters and medical personnel rushed to the scene. The man’s colleagues entered a door at ground level and used ladders to get through the door at the bottom of the cylinder, where the man lay.

As firefighters donned equipment and prepared a basket to rush the man to a waiting ambulance, paramedics entered the structure and pronounced the victim dead. “We were just called out there for the actual rescue, unfortunately the person didn’t make it and it turned into a recovery,” Brink said. Police examined the body before firefighters put it inside the basket and lowered it out of the tower using a rope system, Brink said. By noon, the man’s body was out and ready to be turned over to the medical examiner.

A spokesperson for CBI Services would only say that an investigation is under way. Along with police and the medical examiner, both the Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office and OSHA responded to the scene, police said. “We’ve never really had any type of industrial accident out there,” Brink said. Unfamiliar with the layout of the tower, Brink said he initially was not sure if he would have to bring the company’s 100-foot ladder truck to reach the heights of the structure. “If he was stuck at the top, we were already starting to think about that,” he said.  Alex Zdan, Staff Writer/ New Jersey Times

NOTE:  While we were not present at the scene and don’t know all the details, here are some general comments from Chief Instructor Pat Furr concerning fall protection safety.

This incident took place while work was being done from a scaffold erected inside the tower. The worker fell from his work position and came to rest on a solid platform between the scaffold level and the ground. He was wearing a full body harness for body support as part of his personal fall protection system. However, this begs the question, “Why bother wearing a harness if the complete fall protection system is not employed?”

A complete personal fall protection system, which would be considered an active system, requires all of the components required by OSHA in order to be considered an effective/compliant means of personal fall protection. The harness is just the start. In addition to the harness for body support, there needs to be a connector attached to the appropriate point of the harness.

For fall restraint, a static lanyard can be used and connected to the rear or front waist belt attachment points of the harness (not the side attachment points); or, if desired, a body belt, or the dorsal attachment point of the full body harness. The lanyard must be adjusted to a length that does not allow the worker to fall from any exposed edges. This restraint lanyard does not need an energy absorber. If there is any potential that the worker may fall, then the lanyard must have an energy absorber that limits the impact forces at the harness to no more than 1,800 pounds. It must also limit the workers freefall to 6 feet or less.

An alternative is to use a Self-Retracting Lifeline (SRL). The third component of a personal fall protection system is a suitable anchor. The anchor point must be able to withstand a 1,000 pound force without failure for fall restraint, and a 5,000 pound force if used for fall arrest. These anchors can be as light as two times the anticipated forces if designated by a qualified person. Only one worker can be attached to the anchor point unless the minimum breaking strengths are multiplied by the number of workers using the same anchor point.

To review, the three physical components of a personal fall protection system are: (1) body support, (2) connector, and (3) anchor. For a fall arrest system, a fourth component is required, and that is prompt rescue.

This worker was on a scaffold. If the scaffold was completed with a green tag affixed, then it would have had standard guard rails to provide a passive fall restraint system and a harness would not have been necessary. If the scaffold was not completed and green tagged, then a personal fall protection system would be required.

Too often we encounter workers who are either unaware of the requirements to ensure safety at height – or choose to ignore the safety requirements that would most likely save their life or prevent serious injury. Bottom line…the use of a harness without completing the entire system only comprises 33% of the system which equates to 0% fall protection.
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Middletown, OH Confined Space Incident – FF’s Down

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Friday, May 7, 2010 A 32-year-old city worker is dead after being overcome by fumes this morning while checking a sewer outside of a business on Yankee Road, according to police.

Meanwhile, two firefighters who attempted to rescue the public works employee were hospitalized after the accident about 8 a.m. today, May 7, in front of Air Products and Chemicals Inc., 2500 Yankee Road, according to police.

Jabin Lakes died after falling into a manhole during an inspection, according to Police Maj. Mark Hoffman. [More...]

Firefighters went into rescue Lakes and were overcome with something in the shaft, he said. It is not clear what the substance is, according to Hoffman.

Fire Marshal Bob Hess was taken to Atrium Medical Center in Middletown and Capt. Todd Wissemier was taken to Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton, according to Hoffman.

The manhole is estimated to be about 20 to 30 feet deep and 20 to 22 inches wide, Hoffman said.

Mayor Larry Mulligan could not discuss details of the incident but said the city will hold a press conference today at 2 p.m. in council chambers, One Donham Plaza.

A coroner’s investigator is at the scene as well as fire rescue units from West Chester Twp., Fairfield and Franklin. The deceased man is still in the hole at 9:55 a.m.

Shortly before 10 a.m., crews were performing air quality tests on the manhole, Hoffman said. He said there does not appear to be any hazard to the general public in the area. At 10:12 a.m., crews on scene were requesting a chemist from AK Steel be sent to the manhole.

Air Products officials were in a meeting regarding the incident and couldn’t be reached for comment. The Allentown, Pa.-based company provides oxygen to AK Steel’s Middletown Works.

Hoffman said Lakes and two other city workers were inspecting the sewer about 8 a.m. because Air Products was interested in tapping into a main line. When the manhole cover was opened, Lakes was overcome by fumes and fell into the hole, he said.

The workers called 911 and fire crews arrived shortly thereafter, Hoffman said.
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