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Incident: Alaska Calls for Increased Focus on Trench Safety

Monday, July 06, 2015

In response to the death of a 23-year-old construction worker in a trenching incident in Anchorage, the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development is highlighting the importance of training workers on safe trench work and excavations.

State regulations require employers to ensure workers are trained to recognize and avoid hazards related to any trench work or excavations in which the depth of the site is at least 4 feet. Employers also must make sure workers adequately enter and exit trenches, in addition to taking proper measures for shoring and sloping protection.

An Anchorage Fire Department search-and-rescue team, police and medics responded to the incident shortly after 1 p.m. on June 16, 2015.

The construction worker had been working on a sewer pipe in a trench that measured roughly 7 feet deep by 15 feet across when it collapsed and buried him. His co-workers tried to extricate him and did get him out of the trench, but his injuries were just too severe. The 23-year-old victim died at the scene.

OSHA has launched an investigation into the workplace accident according to a spokesperson for the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

Sources: National Safety Council Newsletter (nsc.org) and Alaska Dispatch News (adn.com).
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Fast-Track 120 Students Put Skills to Test in Recovery Operation

Friday, August 09, 2013

During a recent Roco Fast-Track 120 class in Albuquerque, New Mexico, two of our students got to use the skills they had just learned during a real world event. On Day 6 of the 12-day class, NM State Police Tactical officers Hugo Munoz and Jose Urbano received a call for assistance in the recovery of an individual that had been swept into one of the many arroyos that crisscross the region following a sudden rainstorm.

Here’s a photo from the Fast-Track 120 class where Officer Urbano is shown “rescuing” Officer Munoz.

The officers responded and found the local fire and law enforcement personnel on scene in the process of devising a plan to recover the victim who was entrapped under a narrow bridge in approximately 6 feet of water. Officer Urbano and Munoz joined in the planning and recommended using some of the rope techniques that they had just learned in the Fast-Track 120 class.

The recovery plan involved the use of a mainline attached to the NM State Police Diver and a 4:1 rigged and ready to be “piggybacked” on the main line in case the diver needed immediate retrieval.

The Diver attached a second line to the recovery bag that was placed around the victim, and the Diver exited the arroyo. Officers Munoz and Urbano attached the 4:1 to the victim’s line and removed the individual from the arroyo. All of the systems used were anchored to multiple vehicles that had responded to the scene.

“Obviously, this makes us very proud that our students can take the techniques learned in our classes and put them to immediate use. Unfortunately, this was a recovery operation. However, we hope that everyone involved was just a little bit safer thanks to the training and capabilities of Officers Urbano and Munoz,” stated Roco Chief Instructor Tim Robson, who led the 120-hour training class.

 

Here's a photo of the scene of the recovery near an arroyo in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

An arroyo is defined as a small, deep gully or channel of an ephemeral stream. Arroyos usually have relatively flat floors and are flanked by steep sides consisting of unconsolidated sediments. They are usually dry except after heavy rainfall. In this area, there are several miles of open-air concrete lined drainage channels that drain an area into the main North Diversion Channel, a tributary of the Rio Grande joining upstream of Albuquerque.

Signs are posted at the constructed arroyos warning to keep out due to danger of flash flooding and other obvious dangers.

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Lanyard Safety

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Here's a question from one of our readers: How can you test a lanyard to determine if it is safe to use? Is there a standard checklist or procedure?

Answer from the Roco Tech Panel: As with all safety and rescue gear, we recommend that you inspect, use and care for it in strict accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions. Of course, all equipment should be carefully inspected before and after each use. And, as we always say, “If there’s any doubt, throw it out!” Sometimes it’s less expensive to simply replace the gear versus going through any elaborate testing process. We did find the following information regarding lanyard inspections in an “OSHA Quick Takes” document. Thank you for your question!

Lanyard Inspection

To maintain their service life and high performance, all belts and harnesses should be inspected frequently. Visual inspection before each use should become routine, and also a routine inspection by a competent person. If any of the conditions listed below are found, the equipment should be replaced before being used.

When inspecting lanyards, begin at one end and work to the opposite end. Slowly rotate the lanyard so that the entire circumference is checked. Spliced ends require particular attention. Hardware should be examined under procedures detailed below.

HARDWARE
Snaps: Inspect closely for hook and eye distortion, cracks, corrosion, or pitted surfaces. The keeper or latch should seat into the nose without binding and should not be distorted or obstructed. The keeper spring should exert sufficient force to firmly close the keeper. Keeper rocks must provide the keeper from opening when the keeper closes.

Thimbles: The thimble (protective plastic sleeve) must be firmly seated in the eye of the splice, and the splice should have no loose or cut strands. The edges of the thimble should be free of sharp edges, distortion, or cracks.

LANYARDS
Steel Lanyard:
While rotating a steel lanyard, watch for cuts, frayed areas, or unusual wear patterns on the wire. The use of steel lanyards for fall protection without a shock-absorbing device is not recommended.

Web Lanyard: While bending webbing over a piece of pipe, observe each side of the webbed lanyard. This will reveal any cuts or breaks. Due to the limited elasticity of the web lanyard, fall protection without the use of a shock absorber is not recommended.

Rope Lanyard: Rotation of the rope lanyard while inspecting from end to end will bring to light any fuzzy, worn, broken or cut fibers. Weakened areas from extreme loads will appear as a noticeable change in original diameter. The rope diameter should be uniform throughout, following a short break-in period. When a rope lanyard is used for fall protection, a shock-absorbing system should be included.

Shock-Absorbing Packs
The outer portion of the shock-absorbing pack should be examined for burn holes and tears. Stitching on areas where the pack is sewn to the D-ring, belt or lanyard should be examined for loose strands, rips and deterioration.

VISUAL INDICATIONS OF DAMAGE

Heat
In excessive heat, nylon becomes brittle and has a shriveled brownish appearance. Fibers will break when flexed and should not be used above 180 degrees Fahrenheit.

Chemical
Change in color usually appears as a brownish smear or smudge. Transverse cracks appear when belt is bent over tight. This causes a loss of elasticity in the belt.

Ultraviolet Rays
Do not store webbing and rope lanyards in direct sunlight, because ultraviolet rays can reduce the strength of some material.

Molten Metal or Flame
Webbing and rope strands may be fused together by molten metal or flame. Watch for hard, shiny spots or a hard and brittle feel. Webbing will not support combustion, nylon will.

Paint and Solvents
Paint will penetrate and dry, restricting movements of fibers. Drying agents and solvents in some paints will appear as chemical damage.

CLEANING FOR SAFETY AND FUNCTION

Basic care for fall protection safety equipment will prolong and endure the life of the equipment and contribute toward the performance of its vital safety function. Proper storage and maintenance after use is as important as cleaning the equipment of dirt, corrosives or contaminants. The storage area should be clean, dry and free of exposure to fumes or corrosive elements.

Nylon and Polyester
Wipe off all surface dirt with a sponge dampened in plain water. Squeeze the sponge dry. Dip the sponge in a mild solution of water and commercial soap or detergent. Work up a thick lather with a vigorous back and forth motion. Then wipe the belt dry with a clean cloth. Hang freely to dry but away from excessive heat.

Drying
Harness, belts and other equipment should be dried thoroughly without exposure to heat, steam or long periods of sunlight.

For the complete OSHA Quick Takes document, click here.

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Ratqa Rescue Team’s Commendable Rescue Effort

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Since 1999, Roco has had the opportunity to train and equip rescue teams in Kuwait. The first team that we trained was the Kuwait National Petroleum Corporation (KNPC) Fire Officers that were assigned to three refineries located south of Kuwait City.  In 2001, Ratqa Contracting was tasked with providing a Technical Rescue Team at the same refineries and Roco provided the Technician Level training for this new team.

The Ratqa Rescue Team is comprised of contracted Filipino’s with the oversight of a Kuwaiti Rescue Officer. Management is committed to making sure the team receives Rescue Technician recertification every two years from Roco.

Two of our instructors from New Mexico, Tim Robson and Rich Pohl, have been the predominant instructors for this 19 member team over the years.  Both agree that this is one of the most competent and dedicated rescue teams they have ever taught.

On a recent recertification trip, Rich and Tim were made aware of an event by Lead Rescue Officer/Coordinator Mohammed Al-Raqum and Fire Officer Khalid Al-Habri. Both officers wanted to recognize the efforts of the team for an exemplary response to an unfortunate event. Both Rich and Tim thought this would be the perfect forum to recognize this excellent Rescue Team.

In October 2011, the team was responsible for the removal of 4 victims that had succumbed to H2S in a PRCS that was 15-feet deep by 20-feet wide. The space was extremely congested and had over 15 different process lines. It included a 5-ft diameter by 20-ft high tank. The workers had originally entered the space to remove a skillet blind when there was an accidental release of H2S.  During the investigation, it was determined that KNPC policies and procedures had not been adhered to and the entry team did not have a permit nor did they perform atmospheric monitoring prior to entering the space.

The Ratqa Rescue Team on duty at the time of the incident was located approximately 10 minutes away at a neighboring refinery. Immediately, the Rescue Team Leader terminated their current standby operations and responded within 6 minutes to the scene by utilizing a “short cut” which minimized response time by 4 minutes.

Upon arrival, the Rescue Team did a scene size-up and then created a response plan with the Rescue Officer, which took approximately 3 minutes (atmospheric readings detected 120 ppm of H2S). Two vertical hauling systems were anchored, and Rescuer 1 donned an SCBA and made entry. Three victims were removed within 6 minutes via tied full-body harnesses and were found to be pulseless. Because of this, the Rescue Officer and Rescue Team Leader decided to convert to a “body recovery” mode for the 4th victim. Rescuer 1 was relieved and sent to rehabilitate. Rescuer 2 donned an SCBA and made entry into the space. Considerable time was needed to extricate the 4th victim due to numerous process lines that ranged in diameter from ½” to 4 inches. From initial dispatch to termination of recovery took 51 minutes. In addition, the outside temperature was 101 degrees Fahrenheit at the time.

Rescue Response Timeline:
Initial Dispatch to arrival on scene – 6 minutes
Scene Size-up / Hazard Recognition / Rescue Plan – 3 minutes
Rescuer 1 enters space and removes 3 victims – 6 minutes
Rescuer 1 exits space / Response-mode revised to Recovery mode– 21 minutes
Rescuer 2 enters and removes entrapped 4th victim – 15 minutes
Outside Temperature: 101-degrees F
Overall Time: 51 minutes

We commend the team for its rescue response capabilities and for dealing with this unfortunate incident in such a timely and professional manner. It has been our pleasure to work with these emergency responders over the years.
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Lock-Out / Tag-Out: What Rescuers Need to Know

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

"The concept of LOTO is a great one and it works. As rescuers, we have to take the common industrial application and expand it to ensure that the rescue scene is safe and that we are controlling hazards at the point of contact with the victim or in a space where something has gone very wrong," says Dennis O'Connell, Chief Instructor and Director of Training for Roco Rescue.

Although commonly referred to as the “Lock-out/Tag-out” (LOTO) standard, the actual title of 1910.147 is “The Control of Hazardous Energy.” This title probably better describes it's true purpose -- and there's no doubt that the understanding of this concept has saved many lives and prevented countless injuries.

The LOTO standard “covers the servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment in which the energizing or start-up of the machines or equipment, or release of stored energy, could harm employees.” It establishes OSHA’s minimum performance requirements for the control of such hazardous energy [Ref: 1910.147(a)(1)(i)].

The general concept of LOTO is that energy sources affecting the area in which servicing or maintenance is occurring are identified and locked in the “Off” position, or in the case of mechanical hazards, linkages are disconnected for the duration of the work. Some type of lock or device is placed on the equipment by those performing the work.

However, we’ve found that if you ask different people to define LOTO, you will get a variety of answers. Not only will you get different definitions, you’ll also get varying information as to how and when LOTO is to be used and who is actually allowed to place locks or controls during the LOTO process. OSHA CFR 1910.147(b) has a very narrow and specific definition of who can perform lock-out or tag-out operations. That definition does not include rescuers; and, actually, there is good reason for that.

If you ask emergency responders about LOTO, you’ll generally find that their definition has been expanded well past the “control of hazardous energy” to cover most rescue operations. This expanded safety mindset serves to protect both the rescuer(s) and the victim(s) from additional harm following an incident. Rescuers usually define LOTO as “making the scene safe; or controlling and keeping machinery from moving or shifting during a rescue.”

Unlike standard LOTO, which is usually a systems’ approach, rescuers are generally trying to control the environment near an entrapped victim. As rescuers, we often act outside the parameters of a LOTO procedure that may already be in place. Because rescuers would best be defined under “affected employees” in a rescue where a LOTO procedure is in place, we need to understand what OSHA CFR 1910.147(b) says about “authorized employees” and “affected employees.”

Authorized employee. A person who locks out or tags out machines or equipment in order to perform servicing or maintenance on that machine or equipment. An affected employee becomes an authorized employee when that employee's duties include performing servicing or maintenance covered under this section.

Caveman translation: A person that the employer says has the systems or mechanical knowledge and authority to safely lockout/tagout a machine or space.

Affected employee. An employee whose job requires him/her to operate or use a machine or equipment on which servicing or maintenance is being performed under lock-out or tag-out, or whose job requires him/her to work in an area in which such servicing or maintenance is being performed.

Caveman translation: I have to work in an area where LOTO is in place.

A nice definition can be found in 54FR36665 in the promulgation of the Control of Hazardous Energy Standard...

“...an ‘affected employee’ is one who does not perform the servicing... but whose responsibilities are performed in an area in which the energy control procedure is implemented and servicing operations are performed under that procedure. The affected employee does not need to know how to perform lock-out or tag-out, nor does that employee need to be trained in the detailed implementation of the energy control procedure. Rather, the affected employee need only be able to recognize when the energy control procedure is being implemented, to identify the locks or tags being used, and to understand the purpose of the procedure and the importance of not attempting to start up or use the equipment, which has been locked out or tagged out.”

There is good reason for these prohibitions. Improperly performed LOTO can be just as dangerous, if not more so, than no LOTO at all. Allowing LOTO to be performed by personnel who are not familiar with the processes and equipment to be locked out increases the chances of improper lock-out. The requirement that only employees actually performing the servicing and maintenance of equipment are allowed to lock out equipment is less of a concern for rescuers than may first appear – and here’s why.

Typically, the person being rescued from a space that has hazardous energy sources is someone who has already performed LOTO. If that person performed LOTO properly and the reason for the rescue is something other than exposure to a hazardous energy source, the rescuers are not exposed because the victim obviously cannot remove his lock while he is being rescued. If the victim performed the LOTO improperly and the rescuers discover the error, the rescuers can then lock-out the equipment as they see fit or as the rescue needs dictate without violating the standard because they are not locking out the equipment as part of the LOTO program. They are locking the equipment out as part of making the area safe for rescue operations.

The Consequences: Worker's Amputation in Turkey Shackle Leads to $318,000 Proposed Fine


OSHA initiated an inspection after the July 20, 2011, incident, in which the employee’s arm allegedly became caught in an energized turkey shackle line while the employee was working alone in a confined space.

 Jan 24, 2012 - OSHA cited the company for 11 safety violations at its Wisconsin facility after a worker’s arm was amputated below the shoulder while the individual was conducting cleaning activities in a confined space. Proposed fines total $318,000. “The company has a legal responsibility to follow established permit-required confined space regulations to ensure that its employees are properly protected from known workplace hazards,” said Mark Hysell, director of OSHA’s Eau Claire Area Office.

  “Failing to ensure protection through appropriate training and adherence to OSHA regulations led to a worker losing an arm.”

OSHA initiated an inspection after the July 20, 2011, incident, in which the employee’s arm allegedly became caught in an energized turkey shackle line while the employee was working alone in a confined space. Afterward, the employee had to walk down a flight of 25 stairs and 200 feet across the production floor to get the attention of a co-worker for assistance.

Four willful violations involve not following OSHA’s permit-required confined space regulations in the carbon dioxide tunnel room, including failing to ensure that workers isolated the carbon dioxide gas supply line and locked out power to the shackle line prior to entering the room to conduct cleaning activities, verify that electro-mechanical and atmospheric hazards within the room were eliminated prior to workers entering the space, test atmospheric conditions prior to allowing entry, and provide an attendant during entries to the room.

Seven serious violations involve failing to provide fall protection, provide rescue and emergency services equipment, develop procedures to summon rescue and emergency

services, provide confined space entry procedures, prepare entry permits for the confined space, train employees and supervisors in entry permit procedures, and ensure that the entry supervisor performed required duties. This spells T-R-O-U-B-L-E.

Another Six-Figure OSHA Fine for LOTO Death

 Dec 14, 2011 - OSHA announced it has cited a Missouri recycling facility for 37 safety and health violations following an inspection opened after a worker died from injuries sustained June 12 when he entered a baling machine to clear a jam and the machine became energized. Proposed fines total $195,930.

 Twenty-two serious safety violations have been filed, including failing to lock out and tag out the energy sources of equipment and install adequate machine guarding; fall protection; exits; flammable liquids; fire extinguishers; powered industrial trucks; and welding and electrical equipment. Eight serious health violations were cited, as was a one repeat safety violation relating to defective powered industrial trucks that were not taken out of service. The company was cited in April 2010 for a similar violation, according to OSHA.

As rescuers we need to be aware that the LOTO standard applies to general industry operations and DOES NOT apply to the following:


  •     Construction;
  •     Agriculture;
  •     Shipyards;
  •     Marine Terminals;
  •     Long shoring;
  •     Installations under the exclusive control of electric utilities for the purpose of power generation, transmission and distribution, including related equipment for communication or metering;
  •     Oil and gas well drilling and servicing;
  •     Exposure to electrical hazards from work on, near, or with conductors or equipment in electric-utilization installations, which is covered by subpart S of the general industry standards;
  •     Hot tap operations;
  •     Continuity of service is essential;
  •     Shutdown of system is impractical.
For some of the above operations, applicable regulations provide for procedures specific to the industry which, if followed, should provide proven effective protection for employees. However, rescuers need to be aware that activities in these areas not covered by OSHA’s LOTO standard could have uncontrolled energy sources. As we often say, “if everything had been done properly, we probably wouldn’t be responding as rescuers.”

In accordance with OSHA regulations, a LOTO program is a documented plan for safe work practices when dealing with energy sources. Prior to work commencing, potential sources of hazardous energy must be identified and controlled. Under certain circumstances where energy sources cannot be “locked out,” warning tags may be used. As responders, we do not have the luxury of studying blueprints and schematics to identify how to isolate the hazard. In fact, we’re most often responding to incidents that had a LOTO system in place that turned out to be ineffective or improperly used.

Rescue Scenario Examples


Rescuers were called to an incident in which a worker was trapped inside a confined space (a taffy mixing machine) that was supposed to be locked out. The machine suddenly activated; however, and the worker was seriously injured by the mixing blades. Employees on scene who initially locked out the equipment could not figure out where they erred – and they didn’t know how to prevent it from reoccurring as rescuers prepared to enter the space.

Not wanting to become victims themselves, the rescuers quickly considered several options to make the vessel safe for entry. They considered tying the blades so they couldn’t move, or wedging the blades against the side walls of the vessel, or disconnecting the motor. Because the patient was bleeding profusely, time was critical and all of these options would have taken too long. The rescuers ultimately opted to kill the power to the entire building, making the space safe for rescuers to enter. Fortunately, it was an option in this case. It may not have been an option where doing so would require shutting down an entire operating unit in a refinery or other industrial facility.

Another Incident during a Roco CSRT Stand-by


Another case of LOTO “gone bad” occurred during a Roco CSRT stand-by job at a local industrial plant. After LOTO had supposedly been performed, one of our team members happened to push the “Start” button as a test on a hyper bar in a tank – it turned “On!” Further investigation revealed that electrical work had been done in the area and the fuse lock-out was moved to another box adjacent to its original location. No one had notified the workers or changed the written protocol. Workers were locking out the wrong circuit! Had this been a rescue, how would rescuers control the hazard without knowing where the problem was with the LOTO?

Often overlooked, but another huge consideration for rescuers, is stored energy. OSHA identifies these hazards and provides a pretty good list of examples to be aware of when responding. It includes stored or residual energy in capacitors, springs, elevated machine members, rotating flywheels, hydraulic systems, and air, gas, steam, or water pressure, etc. Rescuers need equipment and techniques to control, restrain, dissipate, and immobilize these hazards. We also need the skills to manually isolate the area where the victim is located.

For general work operations, referring to LOTO as the placing of locks or tags or the removal of key controls may be sufficient. However, for rescuers, this alone may not provide adequate protection if those controls do not work or were never used.

From a rescuer’s viewpoint, our definition and options for effective LOTO needs to include other equipment and techniques that provide a safe area for rescue operations and to prevent further harm to the victim. This includes equipment that is used every day in the municipal rescue world that may not typically be found in an industrial facility. This includes equipment such as hydraulic spreaders and high pressure air bags. Even simple tools, such as metal wedges, can be used to isolate and protect the hand or arm of a victim trapped in a piece of machinery. The key is to determine your current capabilities and to identify what you may need prior to an incident occurring.

Municipal and industrial rescuers get called to a wide variety of rescues – each with its own unique problems and solutions. As we all know, the number of ways people can get themselves in harm’s way is unlimited! In all entrapment incidents, however, it is essential that we protect both the victim and ourselves from further injury and limit our exposure to the hazards that are present. In every incident, rescuers must first identify the hazards and try to eliminate or control them in every way possible.

Many times, as rescuers, we find ourselves using rudimentary “lock out” techniques. For example, when responding to stuck, occupied elevators in New York, we would access the control room, pull the power disconnect and use our handcuffs to lock it in the disconnect position. This was to prevent someone from turning the power back on while we were working in the shaft to free the victims from the elevator.

On more serious elevator rescues where the cables were slack, additional lock-out was achieved by using rated rescue rope/chains or cables to secure the elevator car so that it could not move up or down. Even during auto extrications, we would disconnect the battery to reduce the chances of an airbag deploying as well as not positioning ourselves between a rigid surface and an airbag.

Machine entrapment rescues are another all too common situation in which responders need to isolate the area at the point of contact with the patient to prevent further movement. In some cases, we have used wood or metal wedges to prevent further crushing, or chains, hydraulic tools, or cables to lock the machinery in place. And, rescuers beware... sometimes what sounds like a simple solution – such as turning off a machine – can do more harm if the machine normally recycles before coming to a resting position.

In Conclusion


From these examples, you can see that rescuers need to look deeper into their toolbox of techniques for creative options to isolate energy sources in order to protect themselves as well as the victim. And, this doesn’t just apply to municipal rescuers either. Industrial rescue teams are very likely to be called when an emergency like this occurs within your facility. In order to be proactive and prepared, take the time in advance to evaluate your response capabilities as well as that of local responders in your immediate area. Every minute is critical for that person trapped or injured.
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