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Follow Up to CS Deaths in Key Largo, FL

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

By Josh (JC) Hill, Roco Technical Equipment Manager & Chief Instructor

As mentioned in our original story, the alarming statistic of confined space fatalities still proves to be accurate – approximately 60% of fatalities in multi-casualty incidents are the “would be rescuers.” In January, it happened once again. Four construction workers had entered a drainage manhole to determine why the newly paved road was settling in that location.

Upon entering the space, which is believed to have been done without initial monitoring or ventilation, the worker collapsed. As is seen much too often, a second worker entered the space to assist the downed worker and was rendered unconscious. A third worker entered the space and again succumbed to the atmosphere.

The 911 system was activated and responders from the Key Largo VFD arrived at the scene and prepared to enter the space to perform rescue. Initial reports state that a volunteer firefighter donned an SCBA for respiratory protection and attempted to enter the manhole. He found the space to be too confining and removed his SCBA to make entry. He was in the space for approximately 20 seconds prior to being overtaken by the atmosphere. Note: It is our understanding that proper monitoring of the confined space had still not occurred at the time of the firefighter’s entry to attempt rescue.

Another firefighter then entered the space and recovered the first firefighter from the deadly space. Medical attention was provided until he was airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital’s Ryder Trauma Center. The Miami-Dade County Haz-Mat Team was also called to the scene.

After proper monitoring of the space, it was determined that rescue was no longer a viable option and that the scene would be transitioned to recovery efforts. The testing of atmospheric conditions showed the space contained significant levels of hydrogen sulfide and methane gas with decreased levels of oxygen.

Although original reports did not give indication of toxic gases, the signs surrounding the events make it obvious that the potential was there. To have several workers enter a space like this and rendered unconscious in short periods of time is a classic scenario involving atmospheric hazards. This combined with several statements from neighbors that the area smelled of “rotten eggs” for months provide significant clues to atmosphere being a significant contributing factor to the emergency.

So, why do these confined spaces incidents continue to occur across the nation with emergency responders?

When you break it down, the reasons are fairly simplistic and very alarming. Most citizens have a misconception of fire departments and emergency responders. Most often, it is assumed that if you call the fire department, whether in a large municipality or small township, the personnel responding will be qualified and equipped to perform any task needed.

Fact is the vast majority of fire departments are trained and equipped to perform basic first aid and life support along with standard firefighting operations.
Funding has and will continue to be the major handicapping factor that limits the capabilities of these agencies. Unfortunately, it usually takes a catastrophic event before funding is provided.

Also, unless dedicated specialty teams are established, it is practically impossible for agencies to train each individual to a proficient level for technical rescue and hazardous material response and have them maintain this level without regular, on-going training. It is also unrealistic for departments to outfit each individual responding unit with all of the necessary equipment to respond to every conceivable scenario.

As we all know, emergency responders are built around running towards the danger when human life is at risk. This attitude is what separates them from the average population and makes them successful at protecting life and property.
However, when not properly trained to react and respond to these types of uncommon hazards, the results are often as unfortunate as what we witnessed in Key Largo.

So, how can we change these alarming statistics for emergency responders?

First of all, it is critical that responders understand the unseen hazards they could be exposed to during these types of hazardous confined space operations. It is imperative that all personnel – from the newest rookie to the incident commander – understand what they are facing. Emergency responders must be able to recognize when they are not adequately trained or equipped for an event or hazard. They must understand that their lives are on the line in these hazardous environments.

Firefighters, from the smallest volunteer departments to the largest municipalities, must be trained to recognize the signs of hazardous environments and understand that they would be putting themselves in grave danger if they proceed with rescue attempts. Supervisory personnel should receive additional training that provides the knowledge to understand their full capabilities when facing scenarios they are not properly trained and equipped to safely handle. To stand-down is the wisest decision to protect their personnel from severe injury or death when the chances of successfully performing rescue have little to no chance for success.

It’s a difficult choice – risk vs. reward. But it’s a critical decision that emergency responders must make every day. Their personal safety must come first – it must be a viable rescue before they put themselves in harm’s way.

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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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Three More CS Deaths Due to Atmospheric Hazards

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

KEY LARGO, Fla. - Three workers in the Florida Keys died Monday morning (Jan 16) after they were overcome by fumes, authorities said. Miami-Dade Fire Rescue officials said they responded to reports of three people down. The victims were working at a road project.

A representative said a worker went inside a drainage manhole to see why the newly-paved Long Key Road was settling at that location. She said the worker got trapped inside the manhole and three other workers, a volunteer firefighter with Key Largo Volunteer Fire Department and two Monroe County Sheriff's Office deputies tried to help get him out.

The two workers who collapsed and the firefighter, who also collapsed after going underground, were pulled from the hole, authorities said. The two workers were pronounced dead at the scene. It took authorities several hours to recover the body of the third worker. The firefighter and deputies were taken to Mariners Hospital in Tavernier.

The firefighter, identified by relatives as Leonardo Moreno, was then airlifted to Jackson Memorial Hospital's Ryder Trauma Center, where he is listed in critical condition.

"A firefighter had an air pack on," Monroe County Sheriff Ramsey said. "He found the hole too small, so he elected to take his air pack off and go inside the hole to attempt the rescue."

The deputies are being treated for non-life-threatening ailments. A fourth worker for the contractor was treated at the scene.

Cause of deaths will be determined by the Monroe County medical examiner.

A woman who lives near the manhole told Local 10 News that the area has smelled of rotten eggs for the past couple of months.

The contracted workers were in a 15-foot hole and it's believed that a build-up of hydrogen sulfide and methane is to blame for the deaths.

"There's no sign of any pre-venting going in, and obviously going into a contained environment where there is gases can be deadly, as we unfortunately found out today," Ramsey said.

Records show that the contractor was fined for an incident at a manhole in Collier County in 2002. In that case, OSHA said workers were exposed to hazardous conditions.

UPDATE: We are glad to report that the firefighter involved in this incident has been taken off the ventilator and is breathing on his own with no neurological deficits shown so far. This information is according to the latest update on his gofundme page https://www.gofundme.com/leomoreno

SOURCES: WPLG Local10.com and Firefighter Nation.
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Trench Collapse Fatalities Double in 2016

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Twenty-three workers were killed and 12 others injured in trench collapses in 2016 – an alarming increase from the previous year. "There is no excuse,” said Dr. David Michaels, OSHA assistant secretary.

"These fatalities are completely preventable by complying with OSHA standards that every construction contractor should know."

Among the victims was a 33-year-old employee, crushed to death this summer as he dug a 12-foot trench for a plumbing company out of Ohio. An OSHA investigation found that they failed to protect its workers from the dangers of trench collapses. The company was issued two willful and two serious violations, with proposed penalties of $274,359.

OSHA's trenching standards require protective systems on trenches deeper than 5 feet, with soil and other materials kept at least two feet from the edge of trench.

OSHA has a national emphasis program on trenching and excavations with the goal of increasing hazard awareness and employer compliance with safety standards. For more information, read the news release.
Source: OSHA QuickTakes December 1, 2016, Volume 15, Issue 26

Comments from Dennis O'Connell, Roco Director of Training & Chief Instructor

In the above OSHA Newsletter, they highlight this growing problem. Besides the loss of human life, the “SERIOUS” and “WILLFUL” violations paragraph should get you asking, “Are we doing what we should be for trenching in our facility?” 

The new OSHA statistics show in 2016, we have two people a month dying in trenches, which is double the amounts for 2014 & 2015. Why, is the soil getting more dangerous? I can only speak to what I have seen in trends in industry that may be contributing to this rise. In previous articles, I have discussed the subject of trench and trench rescue and some of the following concerns:

• We are relying heavily on subcontractors to do trench work in our facilities.

• Entry Supervisors are not properly trained as Trench Competent Persons and are assuming the contractor is taking all necessary precautions.

• Our Confined Space Entry Supervisors are signing off on trenches as Confined Spaces and not as trenches.

• Rescue - most locations have not trained or equipped their rescue team to handle a possible trench rescue situation even though trench work is a common daily occurrence in most refineries and large municipalities.

• Trench rescue entities are far and few between. Most municipalities are ill equipped to handle trench collapse rescue.

 

Give us a call for a private Roco Trench Rescue training course at your facility or at the Roco Training Center. Or, register for Roco's open enrollment Trench Rescue course online.

 

 

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Special Sked Price of $500

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Our sincere thanks to Bud and Catherine at Skedco, Inc. for donating new Skeds with Cobra buckles to our Roco Flood Relief Fund. These Skeds will be sold at the very special price of $500 with 100% of the proceeds going to assist Roco team members who have lost their homes in recent flooding.


Normally selling for $759 each – our FIRST 10 callers will receive this special price of only $500 for a new Sked System with Cobra buckles. You can support our Roco Flood Relief Fund and get a great new Sked for only $500 thanks to this generous donation from Skedco. Again, it’s for call-in orders only– first come, first served! So call now 800-647-7626 and ask for Lisha or Teresa!

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