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Princeton rescue squad member dies from injuries sustained in Hurricane Irene rescue attempt

Monday, August 29, 2011

Princeton Township, NJ-The sad news of a rescue squad member losing his life in Hurricane Irene reminds us of the courage it takes to serve others, and the dangers that are faced in the line of duty. A Princeton First Aid and Rescue squad member who was swept away in swift moving flood waters while attempting to search a submerged car during Hurricane Irene has died from his injuries, police said this morning.

Michael Kenwood, 39, had been hospitalized since he was pulled from the water early Sunday with undisclosed injuries. He is the fifth person to have been killed by the storm in New Jersey and the first reported death in Mercer County.

Kenwood, a member of the squad’s swift water rescue team, was dispatched to the area of Rosedale Road near Johnson Park at 4 a.m. Sunday to investigate a submerged car, according to Greg Paulson, deputy director of the squad. It was feared someone was trapped in the car, but it was later determined to be empty.

Kenwood was tied to another rescuer and entered the water, but they quickly realized the current was too strong and attempted to turn back when one of the men fell, Paulson said. The two men were tied to a line being tended by other rescue squad members on the shore, but they came free from the line.

Kenwood was swept away and later pulled from the water by a first aid backup team, Paulson said.

Reported by NJ.com
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Confined Space Fatality Follow-up

Monday, August 29, 2011

Here’s a follow up to a Confined Space Fatality story we published earlier this year. One of the injured persons (a “would be” rescuer and co-worker of the initial victim) remains hospitalized since January. According to a Cal/OSHA Chief, “it is unfortunately common for other employees to be injured or killed while attempting impromptu rescue of the initial victim.” In fact, NIOSH states that prior to enactment of the permit-required confined space regulation, 60% of all fatalities in confined space incidents where multiple fatalities occurred were “would-be” rescuers.

This article also addresses the importance of proper planning for confined space operations. These incidents continue to happen all too often when workers aren’t properly trained to deal with the hazards of confined spaces and the appropriate actions to take prior to entering a space – especially if a co-worker is already down. Keep in mind, most likely, there’s something very wrong in the space! As a rescuer, or a “would be” rescuer/co-worker, don’t rush into a confined space. You must protect yourself first!

Cal/OSHA fines prominent pharmaceutical firm $371,000 for safety violations leading to worker fatality

Los Angeles – Cal/OSHA issued eleven citations totaling $371,250 to Baxter Healthcare Corporation dba Baxter Bioscience this week for deliberate and willful workplace safety violations which resulted in the death of one of their technicians and serious injury of two others. The violations included four willful citations, indicating intentional violation or knowledge of a violation. Baxter has 15 business days to appeal or pay the citations. “We will not tolerate employers who intentionally sacrifice the safety of their workers,” said DIR Acting Director Christine Baker. “Our goal is to prevent these needless tragedies and ensure employers live up to their responsibility of protecting their workers.”

On January 21, Baxter technician Henry Astilla, 33, collapsed when he entered a seven foot deep, 6,000 liter tank in which nitrogen gas was being bubbled through plasma as part of a protein extraction process. Air in the tank had been displaced by the nitrogen gas resulting in an oxygen deficient atmosphere in the tank. Cal/OSHA regulations require employers to have special protective procedures in place prior to the entrance by employees into these types of confined spaces. In this case, the employer had not tested the atmosphere prior to entrance to insure there was sufficient oxygen, which led to Astilla’s death.

Cal OSHA’s investigation further revealed that when Astilla was discovered, a supervisor ordered two other employees to enter the tank and retrieve him, without testing the atmosphere of the tank or providing proper equipment and other safeguards necessary for a safe rescue. As a result, Astilla died and the two employees sent to retrieve him were seriously injured. One remains hospitalized since January.

“The hazards of working in confined spaces are well documented and this is a classic example of the kind of injury that occurs when employers fail to adequately protect their employees,” said Cal/OSHA Chief Ellen Widess. “When confined space operations are not properly planned, it is unfortunately common for other employees to be injured or killed while attempting impromptu rescue of the initial victim.”

Cal/OSHA determined that Baxter’s confined space program failed to comply with all requirements, including appropriate atmospheric testing, protective equipment as well as rescue equipment and procedures. Baxter Bioscience is a multi-national pharmaceutical company with a Los Angeles plant located in Atwater Village. The facility is the largest of its kind in the nation, utilizing advanced technology to produce plasma proteins.

The citations Cal/OSHA issued this week included one classified as general and ten classified as serious, four of which were classified as willful. Willful classifications are issued when an employer either commits an intentional violation and is aware that it violates a safety law, or when an employer is aware that an unsafe or hazardous condition exists and makes no reasonable effort to eliminate the hazard.
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A Special Tribute…

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

With last week’s tragic helicopter crash, our nation suffered a tremendous loss. Having provided training for these special teams for more than ten years, we know first-hand the dedication and commitment these individuals have to our country and our freedom. Because of this, ROCO has supported the Special Operations Warrior Foundation for many years now and is very committed to its cause, which is to support the families of these brave individuals. We feel that the BEST thing we can do now is to pray for these families and HELP support their children’s education. We hope you will take a look and pass the word.

The mission of Special Operations Warrior Foundation (SOWF) is to provide a college education to every child who has lost a parent while serving in Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps Special Operations during an operational or training mission. Because the SOWF will add as many children to the program from last week’s helicopter crash as it normally does in an entire year, we wanted to bring your attention to this most worthy organization.

The SOWF Board of Directors decided earlier this week that the Warrior Foundation will offer full college scholarships to the children of ALL of the American servicemen who perished in the recent CH-47 helicopter crash in Afghanistan.  “This was a tragic day for our military and our families. While the majority of personnel onboard the CH-47 were special operators, and they are automatically covered by the foundation, we wanted to offer our services to all who were on that fateful mission,” said retired Air Force Col. John T. Carney, Jr., the foundation’s president.

The Warrior Foundation is in the process of contacting all of the families affected by this tragedy to inform them about the SOWF college program, which provides funds for a full post-secondary education, including tuition, books, fees, room and board and a computer and printer. Currently, the SOWF has 144 children of fallen Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps special operations personnel enrolled in colleges and universities across the country; and 182 students have graduated via SOWF scholarships. The foundation has pledged to provide a college education for another 600 boys and girls who are not yet college age.

Because the SOWF expects to add many children to the scholarship program from last week’s loss of 30 U.S. servicemen, your donation would not only be a fitting tribute to these brave and selfless warriors, but help ensure their sons and daughters are among those who receive the education that their fallen parents would have wanted them to have.

Click to donate – thank you!
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Is your team ready for a 750-ft cell tower rescue?

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Burleson (TX) Fire Department recently got a chance to put their skills (and stamina)to the test when they rescued a worker from atop a 750-ft cell tower. It sounds like they did a great job, and serves as an important reminder of the challenges these towers can pose to local emergency responders. Preplanning for this type of incident is critical – especially when it occurs in the middle of summer! Temperatures were 100+ degrees at the time of the dramatic rescue.

In situations like this, rescuers not only need the proper technical skills and equipment for a rescue of this intensity, but also adequate manning for such a physically demanding endeavor.

Here are a few things to keep in mind. Rescue rope is heavy, especially when climbing a 700-plus foot vertical face in extreme heat. Hydrate, or you run the risk of crossing the line from asset to liability. Be willing to adapt as needed – for example, you may need additional manpower just to deal with the weight of the rope. Plan for the unexpected – the worker had removed his harness!

Hopefully, if faced with a situation like this, you will have personnel who are trained, equipped and physically able to deal with it. Fortunately, it was a great outcome for this team. However, let’s not miss the opportunity to learn from their experience and be prepared if we get this type of call!
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Manhole Rescue Effort Ends in 2 Deaths

Friday, June 17, 2011

Authorities are investigating the suffocation of two North Carolina workers in a water system manhole—one of whom apparently died trying to rescue the other.

The victims were employees of Triangle Grading and Paving Inc., a Burlington NC-based utility contractor that has been cited dozens of times for federal health and safety violations.

In 1997, a company employee burned to death on a job. Luis Castaneda Gomez, 34, of Durham, and Jesus Martinez Benitez, 32, of Clayton, perished in the accident about 6 p.m. EDT Tuesday (June 7) in a section of water system under construction off U.S. 70. The men had been laying water lines in the system, near the Durham-Wake County line.

Lack of Oxygen Note


North Carolina’s Division of Occupational Safety and Health is investigating.

Officials are not sure what happened, but the local fire department and county hazmat team that responded to the scene found that the 12-foot-deep hole had insufficient oxygen to sustain life, said Capt. Don Ladd of the Durham County Sheriff’s Office. They donned breathing equipment to bring the men out.

Rescue workers recover the bodies of two men who suffocated in a manhole in Durham, NC. “What you’ve got down in the bottom [of the hole] is any number of things—whatever is connected to that manhole, could be methane gas or could be any number of things—that would cause oxygen deprivation,” said Allen McNeely, deputy director of NC DOSH.

The men were in a shaft that goes down 12 to 14 feet, then leads into a 4-by-6-foot bunker where several water pipes come together, Ladd said.

911 Call Released


Authorities believe that either Gomez or Benitez was having trouble breathing, or was unconscious, in the hole and the other went down to help him before he, too, suffocated.

A third worker at the site flagged down a passing motorist to call 911. According to a tape of the 911 call, the pair had been in the hole for about 15 minutes and were unconscious when the motorist arrived.

The third worker said he had dropped off Gomez and Benitez 30 to 45 minutes earlier to retrieve some equipment and returned to find both men in the shaft, not moving, Ladd said.

The men were pronounced dead at the scene.

Company Responds


Triangle Grading & Paving installs large and small sanitary sewer, water lines, storm sewer, pump stations and vacuum sanitary systems. The company released this statement Wednesday:

“Triangle Grading and Paving grieves with the families of Jesus Martinez and Luis Gomez, two valued members of our utility division who lost their lives in an accident at one of our projects yesterday.

“We take great pride in our safety and education programs at Triangle. We do everything in our power to prevent injuries and deaths in a dangerous occupation. Over the past three years, we have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to ensure the safety of hundreds of employees.

“Yesterday, a deadly incident occurred in spite of those efforts, and we are now cooperating with the North Carolina Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Division’s investigation of this matter and conducting our own investigation as well. Because our investigation is ongoing, we will not have further comment about this today.”

Extensive OSHA History


Triangle Paving has an extensive record with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The company has been cited 68 times for violations since 1997—most of the charges, if not all, significantly reduced in severity and monetary penalties before settlement.

The company settled three cases with OSHA in the first three months of 2011, two cases in 2010, and four in 2009. Still pending is a 2010 case involving one willful and two serious violations. A willful violation is OSHA’s highest level of infraction and carries major penalties.

In that case, the company was fined $57,000 for failing to protect workers from cave-ins while they labored in an eight-foot trench at a project on Fort Bragg. The fine has tentatively been reduced to $40,000, but the case remains open.

“Triangle Grading and Paving has a history of trenching violations and is fully aware of required safety standards to protect its workers,” Suzanne Street, OSHA’s area director in Raleigh, said last year in announcing the fines.

“This employer continues to put workers at risk by ignoring these safety standards.”

In 1997, an employee of Triangle burned to death after a hydraulic line on the bulldozer he was operating ruptured and the fluid triggered a fire that engulfed the cab. The company paid $3,300 in fines for poor maintenance, infrequent inspections, and inadequate training.

Record Not Checked


Asked by a local NBC affiliate how Triangle continued to operate with such a checkered safety record, a North Carolina Department of Labor official replied: “We’re not in the business of putting people out of business, but we are in the business of making sure that it’s a safe working environment that workers work in.”

In Tuesday’s accident, DOL is investigating whether the company followed training, equipment and other requirements for working in enclosed spaces with poor ventilation, said department spokesman Neal O’Briant.

Jerry Morrone, Durham Engineering Supervisor, told the NBC affiliate that the city had not known about Triangle’s safety record. Morrone said his department had checked “at least three” references but had not checked DOL records. He said none of the references mentioned Triangle’s safety record.

“It is a tragedy,” McNeely told the Charlotte News Observer. “If it turns out that it was one worker going in, and the other went in to save him when he got no response, then it’s almost what you’d expect a buddy to do.”
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