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Why Use a High-Point Dorsal Connection Point?

Friday, July 06, 2018

We recently had a Facebook inquiry about attaching a rappeler's belay line (safety line) to their high-point dorsal connection on their harness. We choose to do this for a number of reasons including: (a) compliance with applicable regulations; (b) adherence to safe and practical rescue procedures; and, (c) the physiological effects of falls – how the body absorbs an impact force. Let’s take a general look at these considerations.

Compliance

OSHA considers our rappel/lower main lines as “work positioning” lines and our belay or safety lines as “fall protection.” The fact that they and we, as rescuers, consider the safety line as fall protection, or more accurately as our Personal Fall Arrest System (PFAS), kicks in a few requirements and considerations for all private sector responders and for municipal responders governed by OSHA-approved State Plans. These responders are required to comply with applicable OSHA regulations.

However, keep in mind, these regulations are designed to protect workers (and rescuers) from harm and injury. During training, since it is not a real rescue, we should be following the applicable regulations and standards for safety as well as liability reasons. Even during actual rescues, it is important to adequately protect our people from injury. The days of “rescue at all costs” are gone. We are responsible for designing training, systems and SOPs/SOGs that protect our people in a rescue situation.

Note the following key points from OSHA 1926.502(d):

• Limiting the free fall distance (max free fall 6 feet)
“…be rigged such that an employee can neither free fall more than 6 feet (1.8 m), nor contact any lower level”

• Deceleration distance of 3.5 feet (41 inches)
“…bring an employee to a complete stop and limit maximum deceleration distance an employee travels to 3.5 feet (1.07 m)”

• Maximum allowable impact load 1,800lbf.
“…limit maximum arresting force on an employee to 1,800 pounds (8 kN) when used with a body harness”

• Improvised anchorage strengths of 5,000lbf or twice the anticipated load.

“Anchorages used for attachment of personal fall arrest equipment shall be…capable of supporting at least 5,000 pounds (22.2 kN) per employee attached…”
“Have sufficient strength to withstand twice the potential impact energy of an employee free falling a distance of 6 feet (1.8 m), or the free fall distance permitted by the system, whichever is less.”

• Harness attachment should be to the high-point dorsal connection point.

“The attachment point of the body harness shall be located in the center of the wearer's back near shoulder level, or above the wearer's head.”

You may have heard the statement, “Firefighters/rescuers don't need fall protection or need to follow OSHA.” This is not true for the 27 State Plan states where OSHA regulations do apply to public sector employees including emergency responders. It puts the burden on the employer, agency or department to establish fall protection and rescue protocols that would adequately protect their people.

To illustrate this, here is an excerpt from an article written by Stephen Speer, a NY career firefighter, for “Fire Rescue” magazine which deals with potential OSHA violations during rescue operations and training exercises. (Note: New York is a State-Plan state.)

“I spoke to a New York State Public Employee Safety & Health (PESH) supervisor about the following scenario and asked if there were areas that could be potential violations.

Scenario: A firefighter operating from a roof ladder is cutting a ventilation hole on a pitched roof. The firefighter falls from the roof and is injured.

In what areas, if any, could an incident commander or company officer be cited? In response, I received 12 pages of documentation. The documents showed that in evaluating potential violations of the general duty clause to see if anyone is responsible, the following four elements must be met:

1. The employer failed to keep the workplace free from a hazard to which employees of that employer were exposed.
2. The hazard was recognized.
3. The hazard was causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm.
4. There was a reasonable and adequate method to correct the hazard.

NFPA 1500, chapter 8.5.1.1, states that operations should be limited to those that can be completed safely. In this scenario, there is the potential for citation if all four elements apply. As the above scenario illustrates, whether or not you have an aerial apparatus, you must consider fall arrest protection.”

Practicality

When rescuers are sent into a vertical confined space, we use the safety line (PFAS) to protect them as they are being lowered and raised from the space. It is also used as “an immediate means of retrieval” should something go wrong inside the space. Having the safety/retrieval line attachment point at the high-point dorsal position allows us to attempt an emergency retrieval with the victim being extracted in a low profile to fit through a narrow portal.

Physiological Effects

There have been numerous studies on the effects on the body when subject to a fall and arrest while in a harness. They generally come to the same conclusion that high-point dorsal attachment is the most survivable and provides for the greatest injury reduction. Here are excerpts from two studies.

1) Excerpt from a study conducted by Dr. M. Amphoux entitled, “Exposure of Human Body in Falling Accidents,” which he presented at the International Fall Protection Seminar in 1983:

In experiments on the position of the attachment point on the harnesses, Amphoux found that a high attachment point was preferable because “it gave a better-disposed suspension” and that it was “especially effective when the attachment is on the back. When the falling stops, the neck flexes forward. If the attachment point is in the front of the sternum, the neck flexes backwards and the lanyard may strike the face.”

Amphoux continued that it would be better for the compression to be localized on the body of vertebrae and not on the posterior joints, which were too fragile. “Therefore,” he said, “the attachment point would be better on the back than pre-sternal and should be high enough to reduce the potential neck injury. In addition, the forward flexion would be stopped by the thrust of the chin on the chest.”

This was why Amphoux and his colleagues strictly recommended attachment high on the back. It also protected the face from the lanyard when falling. In the case of falling head first, regaining a feet-first position would involve flexion of the head, whereas if the attachment were pre-sternal, the head would more often be projected backwards [whiplash effect].

However, it was accepted that a front attachment might be preferred in a few working situations. This was only acceptable when the height of the potential fall was very short. Whatever the choice of body support, it should not be forgotten that it was only a compromise and not a guarantee of absolute security.

2) Excerpt from “Survivable Impact Forces on Human Body Constrained by Full Body Harness,” HSL/2003/09 by Harry Crawford:

The one-size-fits-all policy of some harness manufacturers may not be suitable for the range of body weight 50kg to 140kg. Although it may be possible for those in the wide range of body weight/size to don such a harness, the position of the harness/lanyard attachment is of paramount importance. For best performance and least risk of injury, the attachment should be as high as possible between the shoulder blades.

Note: They also concluded that the shorter the fall, the less impact and less chance of injury no matter which type of harness or where the connection point was.

Conclusion

Like any rescue or work safety technique, you need to look at all the variables and decide which technique and equipment will best protect you or your co-workers. We choose the high-point back connection because of the variety of situations and locations we might face during a rescue based on the three considerations mentioned earlier in this article.

Thanks for a great question and taking the time to look into the reasons why systems or techniques are used. I hope this answers your question. If you have additional questions, please contact me at 800-647-7626.

By Dennis O'Connell, Roco Director of Training

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PFAS Worked... Now It's Time for Rescue

Monday, June 04, 2018

Does your company authorize employees to work at height using personal fall arrest systems (PFAS)? 

If so, you need to keep reading. Even if your employees don't use personal fall arrest systems, but they work at height using passive restraint, active restraint, or work-positioning systems, you need to keep on reading.

If you have demonstrated that there is no feasible means to utilize employee protection on the "Hierarchy of Fall Protection" other than fall arrest, meaning there is no way to bring the work to the ground or to use a fall restraint, then you have accepted that at some point, your employee will fall.

The personal fall arrest system (PFAS) is there to arrest their fall before they hit the ground or other hard parts, and to minimize injury during that fall and arrest event. OSHA requires employers who authorize personal fall protection systems to provide "prompt rescue," and a big reason for this is OSHA now recognizes suspension trauma as a hazard. Reference: 1910.140(c)(21) "The employer must provide for prompt rescue of each employee in the event of a fall," OSHA Safety and Health Information Bulletin (SHIB 03-24-2004, updated 2011) regarding Suspension Trauma.

Even though this is not specifically required by OSHA, wouldn't it make sense to have a prompt rescue capability for times when an employee is injured or becomes suddenly ill while working at height?
This could be an employee who is protected by passive restraint but not PFAS. For instance, if an employee needs to climb a vertical fixed ladder to access a platform with perimeter guardrails 20 feet above the next lower level and is incapacitated due to injury or illness, how will you get that employee to the ground for treatment and transport? Most likely it will require a technical rope rescue effort or some other means of getting them from height and safely to the ground.

Having Suspended Worker Rescue Preplans already in place goes a long way in preparing for the emergency of a fallen suspended worker or a worker that is injured or becomes ill but is isolated by height. By completing these preplans, it should become apparent when the requirements for viable rescue go beyond what I call the "Fred Flintstone" rescue (i.e., "so easy a caveman can do it!").

Additionally, there are products that will delay the onset of suspension trauma should a worker fall and remain suspended in their PFAS. An example is the FreeTech™ Harness available from Roco which significantly improves survivability post fall arrest. This unique harness buys time for the suspended worker while awaiting rescue. 

Assisted, non-technical rescue can be accomplished using ladders, man lifts, or many other primitive but effective means. However, there comes a point where the situation will require some degree of technical rescue capability. If you have done an honest and knowledgeable assessment of the rescue needs for your facility for all the known or potential areas where you may have employees working at height, you very likely will have found the need for a technical rescue requirement. 

If you are lucky, and your facility is located in a municipality that has emergency responders with a rope rescue capability that is willing and able to respond to your location, then you still must ensure that they can perform what needs to be done.

A really good way to do this is to have them come to your facility for the purposes of preplanning and hopefully demonstrating their abilities. Simply posting "911" as the plan, and calling it good, is not even close.

Some facilities have in-house teams that are equipped and trained to perform technical rescue. These in-house teams are generally the fastest to respond and it usually eliminates the problem of relying on a municipal rescue team that may be called out on a separate emergency. 

For companies that do not have a municipal agency that can and will respond or does not have the technical ability to perform the types of rescues that may be required, there is always the option of training host employees to perform these types of rescue.
The first option is a single day of training using pre-engineered rescue systems or what we like to call "plug and play" systems. The second option is a two-day "build as you go" class that provides solutions in rescue environments that the pre-engineered systems are unable to cover. 

Roco's one-day Pre-Engineered Rescue Systems training relies on manufactured rescue systems that require no knot tying, or the need to create mechanical advantages, or to load friction control devices. These systems are so straight forward that most students will be able to operate them safely and proficiently even if they haven't performed refresher training for several months. With these systems, you literally take the system out of a bag, hang it up to a suitable anchor, and you are ready to rescue.

Roco teaches a variety of techniques that are suitable for a conscious, uninjured suspended victim and also for an unconscious or injured victim who would need to be connected to the rescue system remotely by the use of a telescopic "gotcha pole." As straightforward and easy as this system is to become proficient with, it does have its limitations. For example, in order for this type of system to be employed, the rescuer(s) must be able to safely get into a position above or slightly offset, and within about 10 feet from the victim. If that is not possible, then it is time to prepare for a technical suspended worker rescue.

Roco's two-day Suspended Worker Rescue class teaches a limited variety of knots, including tied full-body harnesses, mechanical advantage systems, anchoring, friction control, lowering, rappelling, hauling, and line transfer systems. These skills are not that hard to master, but they are perishable and require sufficient practice at regular intervals in order to maintain proficiency. This type of "build as you go" capability allows the rescue team to create a system that will work for just about any situation and structural configuration except for the most extreme settings.

So, if your facility seems to be behind the curve regarding the rescue of workers from height, you may need to discuss training options - either for the worker that has fallen and remains suspended from their PFAS, or for the one who is injured or ill at height with no way to get down.

Remember, a worker cannot hang suspended for any length of time without the danger of suspension trauma, which can be deadly.
If we can assist you in assessing your fall protection rescue needs, please contact Pat Furr at pfurr@rocorescue.com, or call our office at 800-647-7626.





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Changes to NFPA 1006 That May Affect Your Operations and Training

Friday, April 20, 2018

Now that NFPA 1006 Standard for Technical Rescue Personnel Professional Qualifications (2017 edition) has been in place for a while, it’s a good time to revisit the changes that have been made. While we won’t go into every single change from the previous 2013 edition, we will cover some of the more significant ones – particularly for the specialty areas that we deal with most.

So, let’s get to the big changes right off the bat. As you are probably aware, there was a big disconnect between NFPA 1006 and NFPA 1670 Standards on Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents. While there are technical committees for the development of both 1006 and 1670, very few committee members sit on both committees. The need for a correlating committee became apparent, and it is that correlating committee that coordinated and at times arbitrated changes to both standards in an effort to marry them up.

For example, NFPA 1006 Levels I & II have been replaced with Awareness, Operations and Technician levels to correlate with 1670 performance levels. This change may seem minor, but it allows for (and provides guidance in) training auxiliary personnel to a level of competency to support the Technical Rescue Team. This is reflected in the title change of 1006 from “Standard for Technical Rescuer Professional Qualifications” to “Standard for Technical Rescue Personnel Professional Qualifications.”

This change provides the option to train a team to a level for handling less technical incidents and still meet the standard for that level of proficiency. It also allows for a level of competency to begin a rescue effort while awaiting a more technically trained and equipped team to respond. This aids teams that do not have the manpower, equipment or funding to train to the Technician level by providing performance goals for Operations and Awareness levels.

NFPA 1006-2017 has also added several new specialty areas to include: Floodwater Rescue, Animal Rescue, Tower Rescue, Helicopter Rescue, and Watercraft Rescue. Several new definitions have been added to correlate with NFPA 1670. Clarification is provided by further defining dive operations, search, watercraft, wilderness, and other terms. You will also find that the word “search” (as used in the title of 1670) has been incorporated into many of the specialty areas of 1006 – another attempt to better correlate the two standards.

Again, we have attempted to highlight some of the key changes in NFPA 1006-2017. We think the modifications will make it easier to understand what is required of technical rescuers as well as auxiliary support personnel. As always, we encourage you to read the standard in its entirety. If you have any questions, please call us at 800-647-7626.

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New Pocket Guide from Roco

Monday, February 12, 2018

Newly revised and updated with 82-pages of color drawings and detailed illustrations, Roco's new Pocket Guide features techniques taught in our rescue classes. Made from synthetic paper that is impervious to moisture makes this pocket-sized guide the perfect reference during training or on the scene.

Pocket Guide features: Knots - Rigging - Patient Packaging - Lower/Hauling Systems - Tripod Operations - Low Angle - Pick-off Rescue - High-lines - Confined Spaces and much more.

Reference charts include: Confined Space Types, Suspension Trauma, and Rescue Gear Service Life Chart.

SPECIAL PRICING OF $29.95 THROUGH APRIL 1, 2018 - No Foolin'!

Click here to order your copy today!!

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Rescue Challenge 2017-Why you should have sent a team!

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Roco Rescue Challenge 2017 was held at our Confined Space and High Angle Training Facility (RTC) in Baton Rouge, Louisiana on October 11 & 12. This year we had teams representing Petro-Chemical, Paper Mills, Fertilizer Manufacturing and Municipal Rescuers.

The two-day event included performing rescues from all six (6) confined space types based on OSHA-defined criteria. High Angle and Rescue from Fall Protection were also covered. These practical scenarios offer a realistic test of a team’s ability to perform under stress to both IDLH and non-IDLH atmospheres. Teams were required to triage and treat multiple victims as well as select and use a variety of patient care and packaging choices.

This year there were eight (8) rotation stations for the teams to take on. They included some of the following techniques and problem-solving capabilities:

1) An unconscious rope access worker suspended from fall protection in a narrow shaft. The only way to reach the victim was to ascend the victim’s access line.

2) Dealing with a medical emergency in a multi-level confined space that required both external and internal mechanical advantage systems to remove the patient.

3) Real rescue reenactment: Access and extricate victim that fell into and is trapped in a 24-inch shaft.

4) Rescue from an elevated horizontal entry with multiple victims in an IDLH atmosphere.

5) Access and package a victim from a reactor tower requiring both vertical and horizontal internal rescue systems in an IDLH atmosphere.

6) Access a victim with a broken hip via a mid-level 13”x16” horizontal portal accessed via a rope ladder.

7) Individual Performance Evaluation – Team members were tested on their personal rescue skills (Knot tying, Rigging, Packaging, M/A).

8) Multi-faceted Rescue Drill – Tests a team’s ability to adapt and use a variety of rescue techniques and packaging requirements as they move a patient through a gauntlet of rescue stations that traverse throughout the rescue tower.

Rescue Challenge gives teams the unique opportunity to use the equipment and techniques similar to what they would use back at their facilities in an actual rescue, stated Dennis O’Connell, Director of Training for Roco.
He added, “They also get the benefit of comparing their performance and effectiveness to that of other teams performing the same rescue. The teams are exposed to different rescue approaches, which provides a great learning experience in itself.

Challenge also provides an opportunity to be evaluated by multiple rescue professionals from a wide variety of backgrounds. This year more than 10 different evaluators evaluated each team over the two-day event.

The event is set-up so that a team’s capability or experience level really doesn’t matter. Each team is simply responding like they would if that scenario happened at their facility. For example, some teams bring paramedics and others only have basic First Aid/CPR training. It does not matter – it is all about how are you going to respond and handle that emergency.

So why should you have sent a team to Challenge? Besides getting written documentation on your team’s capability to respond to all six confined space types (practice is required annually by OSHA in applicable types of spaces).

It gets your team out of their comfort zone of training in the same locations over and over.
They get to see what other teams do and use. Teams also get the benefit of being critiqued by professional evaluators in order to correct any deficiencies in techniques and equipment. Lastly, the teams are offered positive feedback and suggestions on how to improve from evaluators with a wide variety of experience in the rescue world.

This year's teams included:

Shell Refinery - Convent, LA


Valero Refinery - Wilmington, CA


CF Industries - Donaldsonville, LA


International Paper - Bogalusa, LA


CHS Refinery - McPherson, KS


Don't miss the chance to register your team for Rescue Challenge 2018!
Click here for more information.
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