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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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Using a Crane in Rescue Operations

Sunday, September 30, 2018

We’re often asked, “Can I use a crane as part of my rescue plan?”

If you’re referring to using a crane as part of moving personnel or victims, the answer is “No, except in very rare and unique circumstances.” The justification for using a crane to move personnel, even for the purposes of rescue, is extremely limited. Therefore, it is very important to understand the do’s and don’ts for using a heavy piece of equipment in a rescue operation.

On the practical side, the use of a crane as a “stationary, temporary high-point anchor” can be a tremendous asset to rescuers. It may also be part of a rescue plan for a confined space; for example, a top entry fan plenum. The use of a stationary high-point pulley can allow rescue systems to be operated from the ground. It can also provide the headroom to clear rescuers and packaged patients from the space or an elevated edge.

Of course, the security of the system's attachment to the crane and the ability to “lock-out” any potential movement are a critical part of the planning process. If powered industrial equipment is to be used as a high-point, it must be treated like any other energized equipment with regard to safety. Personnel would need to follow the Control of Hazardous Energy [Lockout/Tagout 1910.147]. The equipment would need to be properly locked out – (i.e., keys removed, power switch disabled, etc.). You would also need to check the manufacturer’s limitations for use to ensure you are not going outside the approved use of the equipment.

Back to using a crane for moving personnel – because of the dangers involved, OSHA severely limits its use. In order to utilize a crane, properly rated “personnel platforms or baskets” must be used. Personnel platforms that are suspended from the load line and used in construction are covered by 29 CFR 1926.1501(g). There is no specific provision in the General Industry standards, so the applicable standard is 1910.180(h)(3)(v).

This provision specifically prohibits hoisting, lowering, swinging, or traveling while anyone is on the load or hook.
OSHA prohibits hoisting personnel by crane or derrick except when no safe alternative is possible. The use of a crane for rescue does not provide an exception to these requirements unless very specific criteria are met. OSHA has determined, however, that when the use of a conventional means of access to any elevated worksite would be impossible or more hazardous, a violation of 1910.180(h)(3)(v) will be treated as “de minimis” if the employer complies with the personnel platform provisions set forth in 1926.1501(g)(3), (4), (5), (6), (7), and (8).

Note: De minimis violations are violations of standards which have no direct or immediate relationship to safety or health. Whenever de minimis conditions are found during an inspection, they are documented in the same way as any other violation, but are not included on the citation.

Therefore, the hoisting of personnel is not permitted unless conventional means of transporting employees is not feasible. Or, unless conventional means present even greater hazards (regardless if the operation is for planned work activities or for rescue). Where conventional means would not be considered safe, personnel hoisting operations meeting the terms of this standard would be authorized.

OSHA stresses that employee safety, not practicality or convenience, must be the basis for the employer's choice of this method.
However, it’s also important to consider that OSHA specifically requires rescue capabilities in certain instances, such as when entering permit-required confined spaces [1910.146]; or when an employer authorizes personnel to use personal fall arrest systems [1910.140(c)(21) and 1926.502(d)(20)]. In other cases, the general duty to protect an employee from workplace hazards would require rescue capabilities.

Consequently, being “unprepared for rescue” would not be considered a legitimate basis to claim that moving a victim by crane was the only feasible or safe means of rescue.

This is where the employer must complete written rescue plans for permit-required confined spaces and for workers-at-height using personal fall arrest systems – or they must ensure that the designated rescue service has done so. When developing rescue plans, it may be determined that there is no other feasible means to provide rescue without increasing the risk to the rescuer(s) and victim(s) other than using a crane to move the human load. These situations would be very rare and would require very thorough documentation. Such documentation may include written descriptions and photos of the area as part of the justification for using a crane in rescue operations.

Here’s the key… simply relying on using a crane to move rescuers and victims without completing a rescue plan and very clear justification would not be in compliance with OSHA regulations.
It must be demonstrated that the use of a crane was the only feasible means to complete the rescue while not increasing the risk as compared to other means. Even then, there is the potential for an OSHA Compliance Officer to determine that there were indeed other feasible and safer means.

WARNING: Taking it a step further, if some movement of the crane (or fire department aerial ladder, for example) is required, extreme caution must be taken! Advanced rigging techniques may be required to prevent movement of the crane from putting undo stress on the rescue system and its components. Rescuers must also evaluate if the movement would unintentionally “take-in” or “add” slack to the rescue system, which could place the patient in harm’s way. Movement of a crane can take place on multiple planes – left-right, boom up-down, boom in-out and cable up-down. If movement must take place, rescuers must evaluate how it might affect the operation of the rescue system.

Of course, one of the most important considerations in using any type of mechanical device is its strength and ability (or inability) to “feel the load.” If the load becomes hung up on an obstacle while movement is underway, serious injury to the victim or an overpowering of system components can happen almost instantly. No matter how much experience a crane operator has, when dealing with human loads, there is no way he can feel if the load becomes entangled. And, most likely, he will not be able to stop before injury or damage occurs.

Think of it this way, just as rescuers limit the number of haul team members so they can feel the load, that ability is completely lost when energized devices are used to do the work.
For rescuers, a crane is just another tool in the toolbox – one that can serve as temporary, stationary high-point making the rescue operation an easier task. However, using a crane that will require some movement while the rescue load is suspended should be a last resort! There are simply too many potential downfalls in using cranes. This also applies to fire department aerial ladders. Rescuers must consider the manufacturer’s recommendations for use. What does the manufacturer say about hoisting human loads? And, what about the attachment of human loads to different parts of the crane or aerial?

There may be cases in which a crane is the only option. For example, if outside municipal responders have not had the opportunity to complete a rescue plan ahead of time, they will have to do a “real time” size-up once on scene. Due to difficult access, victim condition, and/or available equipment and personnel resources, it may be determined that using a crane to move rescuers and victims is the best course of action.

Using a crane as part of a rescue plan must have rock-solid, written justification as demonstration that it is the safest and most feasible means to provide rescue capability. Planning before the emergency will go a long way in providing options that may provide fewer risks to all involved.

So, to answer the question, “Can I include the use of a crane as part of my written rescue plan?” Well, yes and no. Yes, as a high-point anchor. And, no, the use of any powered load movement will most likely be an OSHA violation without rock-solid justification. The question is, will it be considered a “de minimis" violation if used during a rescue? Most likely it will depend on the specifics of the incident. However, you can be sure that OSHA will be looking for justification as to why using a crane in motion was considered to be the least hazardous choice.

NOTE: Revised 9/2018. Originally published 10/2014.


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Safe Confined Space Entry - A Team Approach

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

by Dennis O'Connell, Director of Training/Chief Instructor

Having been involved in training for 30 years, I have had the opportunity to observe how various organizations in many different fields approach confined space entry and rescue. And, when it comes to training for Entrants, Attendants and Entry Supervisors, the amount of time and content varies greatly.

Roco Rescue CS EntryMost often, training programs treat the three functions as separate, independent roles locked into a hierarchy based on the amount of information to be provided. However, it’s critical to note, if any one of these individuals fails to perform his or her function safely or appropriately, the entire system can fail – resulting in property damage, serious injury or even death in a confined space emergency.

Before I go any further, I have also seen tremendous programs that foster cooperation between the three functions and use more of a confined space “entry team” approach. This helps to ensure that the entry is performed safely and efficiently.

It also allows all parties to see the overall big picture of a safe entry operation.
In this model, all personnel are trained to the same level with each position understanding the other roles as well. This approach serves as “checks and balances” for confirming that:

• The permit program works and is properly followed;
• The permit is accurate for the entry being performed;
• All parties are familiar with the various actions that need to occur; and,
• The team knows what is expected of each other to ensure a SAFE ENTRY!

However, I am often surprised to find that Entrant and Attendant personnel have little information about the entry and the precautions that have been taken. They are relying solely on the Entry Supervisor (or their foreman) to ensure that all safety procedures are in place. If you have a well-tuned permit system and a knowledgeable Entry Supervisor, this may be acceptable, but is it wise? As the quality of the permit program decreases, or the knowledge and experience of the Entry Supervisor is diminished, so is the level of safety.


Roco CS Entry Supervisor & AttendantIn my opinion, depending exclusively on the Entry Supervisor is faulty on a couple of levels. First of all, the amount of blind trust that is required of that one person. From the viewpoint of an Entrant, do they really have your best interest in mind? And, we all know what happens when we “ass-u-me” anything! Plus, it puts the Entry Supervisor out there on their own with no feedback or support for ensuring that all the bases are covered correctly. There are no checks and balances, and no team approach to ensuring safety.

Looking at how 1910.146 describes the duties of Entrant, Attendant and Entry Supervisor tends to indicate that each role requires a diminishing amount of information. However, we believe these roles are interrelated, and that a team approach is far safer and more effective. To illustrate this, we often pose various questions to Entrants and Attendants out in the field. Here is a sample of some of the feedback we get.

We may ask Entrants…Who is going to rescue you if something goes wrong? Has the LOTO been properly checked? At what point do you make an emergency exit from the space? What are the acceptable entry conditions, and have these conditions been met? How often should the space be monitored? Typically, the answer is, “I guess when the alarm goes off, or when somebody tells me to get out!”

When we talk to Attendants about their duties, we often find they only know to “blow a horn” or “call the supervisor” if something happens, or if the alarm on the air monitor goes off. We also ask…What about when the Attendant has an air monitor with a 30 ft. hose, and there is no pump? Or, if you have three workers in a vertical space and the entire rescue plan consists of one Attendant, a tripod and a winch, plus no one in the space is attached to the cable – what happens then?
  
These are very real scenarios. Scary, but true. It often shows a lack of knowledge and cooperation between the three functions involved in an entry. And, that’s not even considering compliance!
We ask, would it not be better to train your confined space entry team to the Entry Supervisor level? Wouldn’t you, as an Entrant, want to know the appropriate testing, procedures and equipment required for the entry and specified on the permit? Would it not make sense to walk down LOTO with the Attendant and Entrant? This would better train these individuals to understand non-atmospheric hazards and controls; potential changes in atmosphere; or, how to employ better air monitoring techniques. All crucial information.

More in-depth training allows the entry team to take personal responsibility for their individual safety as well as that of their fellow team members. It also provides multiple views of the hazards and controls including how it will affect each team member’s role. Having an extra set of eyes is always a good thing – especially when dealing with the hazards of permit spaces. Let’s face it, we’re human and can miss something. Having a better-trained workforce, who is acting as a team, greatly reduces this possibility.

Roco Rescue Remote MonitoringMany times, we find that the role of Attendant is looked upon as simply a mandated position with few responsibilities. They normally receive the least amount of training and information about the entry. However, the Attendant often serves as the “safety eyes and ears” for the Entry Supervisor, who may have multiple entries occurring at the same time. In reality, the Attendant becomes the “safety monitor” once the Entry Supervisor okays the entry and leaves for other duties. So, there’s no doubt, the better the Attendant understands the hazards, controls, testing and rescue procedures – the safer that entry is going to be!

As previously mentioned, training requirements for Entrant, Attendant and Supervisor are all over the board with little guidance as to how much training or how in-depth that training should be. Common sense tells us that it makes better sense to train entry personnel for their jobs while raising expectations of their knowledge base.

OSHA begins to address some base qualifications in the new Confined Spaces in Construction standard (1926 Subpart AA) by requiring that all confined spaces be identified and evaluated by a “competent person.” It also requires the Entry Supervisor to be a “qualified person.” Does the regulation go far enough? We don’t think so, nor do some of the facilities who require formal, in-depth training courses for their Entrant, Attendant and Entry Supervisor personnel.

OSHA 1926.32 DEFINITIONS:
• Competent person: “One who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has the authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.” 
• Qualified person: “One who, by possession of a recognized degree, certificate, or professional standing, or who by extensive knowledge, training, and experience, has successfully demonstrated his ability to solve or resolve problems relating to the subject matter, the work, or the project.” 

So, do yourself a favor…go out and interview your Entrants and Attendants on a job.
Find out how much they do (or don’t) understand about the entry and its safety requirements. Do not reprimand them for not knowing, as it may not be their fault. It may be a systemic deficiency and the training mentality of distributing a hierarchy of knowledge based on job assignment.

Simply put, we believe that arming the entry team with additional information results in safer, more effective confined space operations. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about? GO TEAM!

Additional Resources:
• Download our Confined Space Entry Quick Reference Checklist. This checklist reiterates the value of approaching permit-required confined space entries as a team. In addition to OSHA-required duties and responsibilities for the three primary roles, we have included our recommendations as well. These are duties that we feel are important for the individual(s) fulfilling that role to be knowledgeable and prepared to perform if need be.

Safe Entry Workshop: Entrant, Attendant & Entry Supervisor is now available. See the full course description for details.

Roco Rescue - Dennis O'Connell

Author's Bio: 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. He currently is responsible for Roco's training curriculum to include Confined Space & High Angle, Trench Rescue, Structural Collapse and Instructor Development. Dennis has played a key role in the development of Roco's Rescue Technician certification programs to NFPA 1006. Prior to joining Roco, he served on the NYPD Emergency Services Unit (ESU) for 17 years. He was a member of NY's Task Force 1 and has responded to numerous national disasters such as the World Trade Center and the Oklahoma City bombing.

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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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Firefighter Deaths Lower in 2017

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Deaths among career and volunteer firefighters continued to be low in 2017 with both at the second lowest level since 1977, when the NFPA study began. There were 60 on-duty firefighter fatalities across the nation in 2017. Of these deaths, 21 were career firefighters and 32 were volunteers. The seven remaining deaths were employees or contractors of federal land management agencies. Sudden cardiac death accounted for the largest share of fatalities with 29 deaths. 

There were 17 deaths at fire scenes (9 structure fires and 8 wildland fires). NFPA also reported that an unusually high number of firefighters (10) were struck and killed by vehicles. Two firefighters were killed and another injured by a drunk driver at the scene of downed power lines.

For more detailed information, visit NFPA.org.
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