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You Get What You Pay For

Saturday, December 15, 2018
by Pat Furr, Safety Officer & VPP Coordinator 

Introduction: According to the Chemical Safety Board “Contractor Safety Digest,” the agency has conducted several fatal investigations where insufficient safety requirements for contractor selection and oversight were found to be causal to the incidents.

The incident that caught our attention in particular was one involving confined spaces that occurred in Georgetown, CO, in 2007, in which five contract workers were killed. The company later adopted the CSB’s recommendations to include:

• Prequalifying or disqualifying contractors based on specific safety performance measures; and,
• Requiring a comprehensive review and evaluation of contractor safety policies and safety performance of contractors working in confined spaces.


The CSB also emphasized that a strong contractor selection process and contractor oversight policy helps to ensure quality work and that worker safety is maintained. Because of this, various industry organizations have developed recommended practices and safety criteria for selecting and prequalifying contractors. For example, the Construction Users Roundtable (CURT) lists staff qualifications, accident history, a contractor’s safety program, and an owner’s previous experience as potential criteria for safety prequalification of a contractor. 

Roco Comments: We couldn’t agree more. Safety performance must always be at the forefront. With more and more companies coming to rely on contractors to deliver both goods and services, this critical factor cannot be underestimated. Every situation differs, but the trend is undeniable, contractors are taking a bigger and bigger bite of the pie.

Many times, there are sound reasons for contracting out some of the work at a facility. It may be a reduction in costs such as employee benefits and workman’s compensation, a unique service or product that the host company just cannot deliver in-house, or it may be that the service or product is only needed for a short period of time. No matter what your reasons for considering a contractor, there are many factors to consider in addition to the lowest price bid.

That old adage “You get what you pay for,” holds a lot of truth in so many instances, and especially so with contractors. Now I am not saying that you will never get high quality at a low price, but it is rare. When you put a job out for bid, it is important to list the specifications for the work or product that you need the bidders to meet, but equally as important is to list other specifications besides the job or product scope, and one of these specifications is safety.

As bids come in, don’t settle for the lowest bid until you have compared the bids to ensure all the specifications you have laid out are met. This is called “down select.” Cull out all the bidders that fail to meet your critical specifications, and one of the most critical is proven safety. If a bidding contractor refuses to submit their safety information as requested, then my recommendation is to cull them out of the running. Additionally, if a contractor has a safety record that falls short of your stated specifications, they should also be culled out unless they are able to satisfy your follow up questions to show extenuating circumstances.

So how do we determine if a bidding contractor is performing safely or not? Well, one measure is to request their OSHA recordable rates along with their NAICS or SIC codes. Then look up their Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) NAICS code rates to see if they are above or below their industry average. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Several hiring clients require potential contactors to complete prequalification questionnaires that will dig deeper into that contractor’s performance record and current operations and programs.

Another option is to subscribe to one of the online contractor management and compliance database sites. These sites act as clearinghouses that collect contractor compliance, safety programs, insurance, and other valuable information in a one-stop shopping format. 

A hiring client can rely on the various sites to set default requirements for the type of work they need and the associated criteria that must be met, or the hiring client can modify or specify custom needs that must be met. The scoring for potential contractors typically is graded on some sort of easy to view scale such as green-meets all requirements, yellow-meets most requirements but falls short on one or more non-critical criteria, or red-fails to meet basic or critical criteria. Some score it like school grades A, B, C, D, F.

The advantage of these types of contractor management compliance vetting sites is they have access to a huge database of potential contractors and provide a quick and easy platform for narrowing the field. Of course, once a hiring client has narrowed the field down to a manageable level, it is always prudent to perform a more targeted interview of a potential contractor – and, focusing on safety, is one of the most important considerations! 

By taking the steps to evaluate potential contractors not only for their ability to deliver the goods or services you require, but also learning about their past and current safety record and programs just makes good sense. It is also an excellent means of demonstration not only due diligence, but ultimately settling on a contractor that will most likely perform safely at your facility.

Well, there is another old adage that goes like this “Who pays the piper, calls the tune.” Once you have engaged with a contractor, it is imperative that they understand your expectations regarding safety and accept that as part of the job performance. This is the time to ensure that not only legislated safety requirements are met, but also any hiring client safety policies that may exceed OSHA are also explained and understood.

So, you have settled on the contractor and are ready for them to begin work at your facility, or to deliver product. For the product, it is a matter of quality control and ensuring any certifications that you require are met. But when a contractor comes to your facility to begin work, it is important to provide adequate monitoring of the contractor to ensure they are meeting all of your requirements, especially when it comes to safety. Don’t forget that as a hiring client you have responsibilities not only for your employees’ safety, but to a certain degree the safety of the contractor’s employees. If the contractor employees are exposed to a hazard that you as the host employer created or control, then there are certainly liabilities that you must consider. Because of this, it is very important to develop and follow a program for monitoring the work activities and safety performance of ALL employees on your site, both your employees and any contractor employees.


Pat Furr is a chief instructor, technical consultant, VPP Coordinator and Corporate Safety Officer for Roco Rescue, Inc. As a chief instructor, he teaches a wide variety of technical rescue classes including Fall Protection, Rope Access, Tower Work/Rescue and Suspended Worker Rescue. In his role as technical consultant, he is involved in research and development, writing articles, and presenting at national conferences. He is also a member of the NFPA 1006 Technical Rescue Personnel Professional Qualifications Standard. Prior to joining Roco in 2000, he served 20 years in the US Air Force as a Pararescueman (PJ).



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Successful Engulfment Rescue in Iowa

Monday, November 26, 2018

Our congratulations to the Burlington (Iowa) Fire Department on a successful grain bin rescue that happened in their community back in May of this year (2018). The incident was reported on Firehouse.com.

The Burlington Fire Department responded to an incident with a man trapped up to his neck inside a corn grain bin in a rural area. Upon arriving at the scene, the initial ambulance unit spoke with the victim’s son who told them that his father was buried up to his armpits inside the bin. The son had thrown a rope down to his father to prevent slipping further down into the corn. Fortunately, the victim remained calm and was able to communicate with the responders.

The bin, designed to hold up to 30,000 bushels of corn, was two thirds full on that morning.
Responders used a Res-Q-Throw Disc typically used in water rescue to lower an O2 bag with an attached non-rebreather mask to the victim.

As additional response vehicles arrived on scene, proper positioning of the apparatus was critical in assisting the rescue. The department’s aerial truck was positioned in a narrow lane between two grain bins and a barn where the aerial was deployed by the crew. The aerial was initially raised to the roof level where crews (two firefighters and two deputies) had assembled including the victim’s son.
To reduce weight on the roof of the structure, one of the deputies and the son came down from the structure.
Crews soon realized that the only way to rescue the gentleman was to set up a rope system and lower a responder into the bin. The aerial was put in place to assist this operation. An incident command vehicle was set up a short distance behind the aerial, offering excellent visibility to the Incident Commander.

Rescue equipment was gathered from various apparatus to include main and secondary life safety ropes as well as other needed gear. Pulleys were attached to the manufactured anchor points on the bottom of the aerial platform. A change-of-direction pulley was fixed to the front of the aerial truck directing the pulling action of the rope to a large grassy area in front of the truck. The main line was rigged with a 5:1 system while the secondary line was rigged with a 2:1 system. CMC MPDs were used as the descent-control device for both lines. On-scene personnel reportedly highly praised these devices.

A firefighter donned a Class III-harness to be lowered through a small opening in the top of the bin to the surface level of the corn, which was approximately 25 feet below. The aerial platform was positioned above the opening and remaining personnel on the room tended the lines. These personnel also assisted in lowering equipment down to the rescuer via a rope.

As part of the equipment being lowered were several milk crates and soda bottom flats, which became an essential part of the operation by distributing the rescuer’s weight on the corn. These crates, positioned in a horse-shoe pattern around the victim, allowed the rescuer to walk across the surface of the corn. A truck belt was lowered into the bin and was positioned around the victim’s chest. It remained attached to the secondary line to prevent the victim from slipping down further into the corn.

Finally, a six-paneled grain rescue tube was lowered into the bin panel by panel. Each panel was placed around the victim and then hammed into place with a TMT Rescue tool. The panels were fastened together to form a solid tube. When secured, the tube protected the victim from shifting corn and relieved some of the pressure being exert on him.
Throughout the process, the ground team kept the rescuer on a short leash to prevent him from falling into the grain himself.

A 4-gas atmospheric monitor with an extra-long sampling tube was used to test the air inside the bin to make sure the rescuer and victim were not in an IDLH atmosphere. The meter was monitored continuously throughout the rescue operation by fire personnel who was positioned on an extension ladder on the exterior of the bin near the opening. He also functioned as a safety officer for operations inside the bin and on the roof and relayed communications for the rescuer inside the space.

A neighboring fire department had brought a special grain rescue auger that was lowered into the bin. The rescuer inserted the auger inside the rescue tube and slowly removed the corn from around the victim’s chest. After the tube was secured around the victim, the IC had called for two relief cuts to be made in the bin – one cut near the victim and the other directly opposite it on the other side of the bin, which was used to empty the bin of corn. Crews used K-12 saws to cut a large triangular opening in the bin wall. The second opening was made by forcing open a door in the side of the bin near the victim. These doors, which swung inward, could only be opened after a significant amount of grain spilled from the cut made on the other side of the bin.

Local road crews which had been on site brought a large-end loader and a smaller skid loading to the scene and used them to push large amount of corn away from the openings in the walls, which enabled a continuous flow of corn.

In approximately 2-1/4 hours after crews arrived on scene, the victim was able to walk from the bin. He refused air transport but consented to ground ambulance transport where he was treated for minor injuries.

Again, our congratulations to the Burlington Fire Department as well as all the agencies involved in making this a successful rescue.

Notes:
The department noted several lessons learned which include:

• Grain bin rescue is a high hazard, low frequency event. The department recognized the importance of its training in ropes and rope operations as well as training with specialized rescue equipment.
• It was determined that the roofs of the grain bins hold far less weight than originally surmised.
• The aerial platform was a key factor in the rescue operation. It was used as an anchor point and for staging equipment. Physical limitations and maximum load-bearing capability must be carefully considered and even more especially when ropes are being utilized. Weight and angles of the aerial must be factored into the operation.

Source: www.Firehouse.com

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Know When NOT to Enter a Confined Space!

Friday, August 17, 2018

There are countless injuries and deaths across the nation when workers are not taught to recognize the inherent dangers of permit spaces. They are not trained when "not to enter" for their own safety. Many of these tragedies could be averted if workers were taught to recognize the dangers and know when NOT to enter a confined space.

While this incident happened several years ago, it emphasizes the senseless loss of life due to a lack of proper atmospheric monitoring and confined space training. Generally, the focus for training is for those who will be entering spaces to do the work. However, we also must consider those who work around confined spaces – those who may be accidentally exposed to the dangers. Making these individuals aware of the possible hazards as well as to stay clear unless they are properly trained.

Note: This case summary from the New York State Department of Health goes on to say that the DPW had a confined space training program but stopped the training after the last trainer retired.

CASE SUMMARY - TWO (2) FATALITIES
A 48-year-old male worker (Victim I) employed by the Department of Public Works (DPW) and a 51-year-old male volunteer firefighter (FF Victim II) died after entering a sewer manhole located behind the firehouse. In fact, the Fire Chief was on scene because he had been called by the DPW general foreman to unlock the firehouse and move the firetruck so it would not be blocked by the DPW utility truck working at the manhole. Another firefighter also arrived to offer assistance, he later became FF Victim II.

The manhole was 18 feet deep with an opening 24-inches in diameter (see photo above). Worker Victim I started climbing down the metal rungs on the manhole wall wearing a Tyvek suit and work boots in an attempt to clear a sewer blockage. The DPW foreman, another firefighter and FF Victim II walked over to observe. They saw Victim I lying on the manhole floor motionless. They speculated that he had slipped and fallen off the rungs and injured himself. The Fire Chief immediately called for an ambulance.

Meanwhile, FF Victim II entered the manhole to rescue Victim I without wearing respiratory protection. The other firefighter saw that FF Victim II fell off the rungs backwards while he was half way down and informed the Fire Chief. The Fire Chief immediately called for a second ambulance and summoned the FD to respond. FD responders arrived within minutes.

The Assistant Fire Chief (AFC) then donned a self-contained breathing apparatus. He could not go through the manhole opening with the air cylinder on his back. The cylinder was tied to a rope that was held by the assisting firefighters at the ground level. The AFC entered the manhole with the cylinder suspended above his head. He did not wear a lifeline although there was a tripod retrieval system. He secured FF Victim II with a rope that was attached to the tripod.

FF Victim II was successfully lifted out of the manhole. The AFC exited the manhole before a second rescuer entered the manhole and extricated Victim I in the same manner. Both victims were transported to an emergency medical center where they were pronounced dead an hour later. The cause of death for both victims was asphyxia due to low oxygen and exposure to sewer gases.

Contributors to the Firefighter's Death:
• Firefighters were not trained in confined space rescue procedures.
• FD confined space rescue protocol was not followed.
• Standard operating procedures (SOPs) were not established for confined space rescue.

The DPW had developed a permit-required confined space program but stopped implementing it in 2004 when the last trained employee retired. They also had purchased a four-gas (oxygen, hydrogen sulfide, carbon monoxide and combustible gases) monitor and a retrieval tripod to be used during the training. It was reported that a permit-required confined space program was never developed because DPW policy “prohibited workers” from entering a manhole. However, the no-entry policy was not enforced. Numerous incidents of workers entering manholes were confirmed by employee interviews.

This incident could have been much worse. Training is the key, whether it’s just an awareness of the dangers in confined spaces or proper entry and rescue procedures. In this case, the victims had no C/S training even though they may have to respond to an incident, and the worker had not had on-going training through out his career. Periodic training to keep our people safe and aware of proper protocols is key to maintaining a safe work force.

Unfortunately, training is usually one of the first things to be cut when the budget gets tight; however, after an incident, it usually becomes the primary focus. Often the lack of training is determined to be a key element in the tragedy.
Investing in periodic training for the safety of your workforce includes spending the time and money to keep your trainers and training programs up to speed and in compliance. The old saying, “closing the barn doors after the horses escaped,” is no way to protect your people – a little investment in prevention goes along way in preventing these tragedies.

One last comment on my biggest pet peeve – proper, continuous air monitoring. This one step can reduce the potential of a confined space incident by about 50%! Don’t take unnecessary chances that can be deadly.

Dennis O'Connell has been a technical rescue consultant and professional instructor for Roco Rescue since 1989. He joined the company full-time in 2002 and is now the Director of Training and a Chief Instructor. Prior to joining Roco, he served on the NYPD Emergency Services Unit (ESU) for 17 years.

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Why is LOTO So Important?

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Foundry Fined for Confined Space Amputation Accident

Los Angeles - Cal/OSHA has cited a local foundry $283,390 for workplace safety and health violations following a confined space accident that resulted in the amputation of an employee’s legs. Cal/OSHA had cited the foundry for similar violations eight years ago.

Two workers were cleaning and unjamming a 38-foot long auger screw conveyor at the bottom hopper of an industrial air filtration device without effectively de-energizing or locking out the equipment.

One of the workers re-entered the 20-inch square opening after the cleaning was done to retrieve a work light from inside the confined space, when a maintenance worker 45 feet away energized the equipment to perform a test.

The moving auger screw pulled the worker into the screw conveyor. Both his legs had to be amputated in order to free him.

“Sending a worker into a confined space is dangerous, especially inside machinery that can be powered on at any time,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Juliann Sum.
Employers must ensure that machinery and equipment are de-energized and locked out before workers enter the space to perform operations involving cleaning and servicing.

Cal/OSHA’s investigation found that:

• The foundry did not have a permit-required confined space program.
• The screw conveyor was not de-energized and locked out before workers entered the hopper, and accident prevention signs were not placed on the controls.
• The worker re-entering the hopper was not monitored by a confined space attendant.
• The foundry lacked specific procedures for de-energizing and locking out the equipment.

Cal/OSHA issued eight citations with proposed penalties totaling $283,390. The eight violations cited included one willful serious accident-related, one willful serious, four serious, one willful general and one general in nature.

Source: www.dir.ca.gov News Release No.: 2018-15 Date: March 7, 2018
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Another Preventable Confined Space Fatality

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

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

The following “OSHA Fatal Facts” is another example of simple safety procedures not being followed or having no procedures in place.

Whether you’re in the refinery, chemical plant, agriculture, shipyards, construction or municipal fields, all of us have an obligation to protect ourselves, our employees and those we work with.

In this case, a fairly harmless looking tank and product resulted in another confined space fatality. As I’ve said many times before, using proper air monitoring techniques is probably the one thing you can enforce that would have the greatest impact on reducing fatalities. This tragic story is another example.

It’s also important to note that while there are different standards for different industry segments, they all attempt to lead us down the same path in using appropriate safety precautions – particularly, in this case, when entering confined spaces. We must remember that these specific standards have all grown from the General Duty Clause, as cited in this article. Basic and to-the-point, the General Duty Clause provides protection from hazards not covered in the more industry specific standards.

I know most of us are used to dealing with more spectacular-looking confined spaces with much more hazardous products; however, this one was just as deadly. It drives home the point…

a confined space is a confined space, no matter how benign it may appear, regardless of whether it’s located at the workplace or the homestead.

If it meets the definition of a confined space, it should be treated as a potential “permit-required confined space” until it is proven that there are no hazards present, or the hazards have been properly addressed.

(Click here to OSHA Fatal Facts)
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