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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:
http://www.hazardexonthenet.net/article.aspx?AreaID=2&ArticleID=36075

This link is the official 145 page CSB report:
http://extras.mnginteractive.com/live/media/site36/2010/0816/20100816_021722_Xcel%20Energy_Plant_Report.pdf
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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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More Than $1.8 Billion in Fiscal Year 2010 Preparedness Grants

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

We received this press release about a grant program some of you may be interested in. Check your eligibility or see if you qualify by clicking to their link.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Secretary Janet Napolitano announced more than $1.8 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) preparedness grants designed to help states, urban areas, tribal governments and non-profit organizations enhance their protection, prevention, response and recovery capabilities for risks associated with potential terrorist attacks and other hazards.

“The grants being announced today will help our partners in state, local and tribal governments and non-profit organizations across the country better prepare for, respond to and recover from all threats and hazards,” said Secretary Napolitano. “This funding pays for training for fire fighters, medics and police officers, supports the purchase of equipment that is essential to our first responders, and improves our ability to communicate during disasters. These investments have a direct impact on communities across our country as we work together to build, sustain and improve the resilience of our families, businesses and neighborhoods.”

The Homeland Security Grant Program (HSGP) is the Department’s primary funding mechanism for building and sustaining national preparedness capabilities to help strengthen the nation against the risks associated with potential terrorist attacks and other hazards.

From the Office of the Press Secretary, July 15, 2010. Further information on preparedness grant programs is available at www.dhs.gov and www.fema.gov/grants.
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Roco’s Rescue Team Challenge Fall 2011

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Rescue Team Challenge is a two-day event that puts industrial rescue teams to the test against confined space and elevated rescue scenarios designed by Roco’s top instructors. The event is limited to six (6) teams only, so reserve space early!

    - Learn from participating in realistic rescue scenarios.
    - Gain confidence in your skills and teamwork abilities.
    - Enjoy excellent training while interacting with rescue pros.
    - Share ideas, experiences, and techniques with teams from across the nation.

OSHA Compliance

    - Document your team’s confined space response capabilities.
    - Meet annual practice requirements in varying confined spaces types.
    - Confirm individual skills proficiency.

Trophies are awarded to the teams with top scores in Individual Skills Proficiency and the infamous “Yellow Brick Road” rescue-relay challenge.

Roco’s Rescue Challenge provides the most realistic rescue experience possible! For information and pricing CALL 800-647-7626.
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