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Monday, September 10, 2018

Has your Fire Department ever thought about hosting a Roco Confined Space Rescue course?

It just might be easier than you think! If your municipal department needs this kind of training, and you have a training site that would be adequate – it could be that simple.

We will be offering this opportunity for up to four (4) municipal fire departments in 2019. All we ask is help from you in promoting the class to local agencies and industries so that we can get a minimum of eight (8) paying students. Then your department would receive two (2) FREE spots in the 5-day class. The more paying students, the more FREE slots your department would earn. It’s a great way to get the training you need at no cost to your organization.

Details:

One of the first things we need is to determine if you have a site that will work for the training. So, you’ll need to send us a few photos of your training site. Then, we will need a signed letter from your Fire Chief (or other authority) providing permission to conduct a Roco course at your training site and invite participants from other organizations. In turn, your department would promote the class in your local area. Roco would provide the instructors and rescue equipment at no charge to you.

If you are interesting in hosting a course next year, please email your site photos along with a letter from your Fire Chief authorizing the use of your facility for the training and for allowing other personnel to attend. Send all information to us at info@RocoRescue.com.

Note: Limited to municipal agencies within the continental United States. All course participants must be 18 or older, physically fit, and sign waivers prior to participation.
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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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Is Your Rescue Team Ready?

Monday, July 23, 2018

Guidance for improving and maintaining rescue team proficiency...

We all want to succeed, no matter what we are doing. And success is always better than the alternatives…whether a mediocre performance or worse yet, failure. When it comes to rescue, all of a sudden, the difference between success and failure takes on much greater significance.Not only are the lives of the rescue subjects held in the balance, but also the rescuers. Multiple risks are involved with technical rescue and failure may cost the rescuers mightily, and this has been proven too many times. There are many things, however, that rescuers can do to help improve their chances of success, and that's what we will talk about here. 

We have found that the one thing that seems to be a lagging factor is a "lack of proficiency" in performing the required skills either as individuals or as a team. Having rescue preplans, the newest and best equipment, sufficient manning, and reliable communications are all pieces of the puzzle. But all of that becomes nothing more than window-dressing if the team or individuals on the team are unable to perform their duties safely and effectively. This is such an important consideration that several regulations and standards make a point to remind us that proficiency is a high-interest issue. 

For instance, OSHA 1910.146 paragraph K and Appendix F, as well as 1926.1211, require designated rescuers to practice making permit space rescues at least once every 12 months by means of simulated rescue operations in which they remove dummies, manikins, or actual persons from the actual permit spaces or from representative permit spaces. It is our position that this does not even come close to the training time needed to maintain an appropriate level of proficiency. 

Additionally, NFPA 1006 requires rescuers to demonstrate competency on an annual basis. One of NFPA’s recommendations is to attend workshops and seminars, read professional publications, and participate in refresher training as ways technical rescue personnel can update their knowledge and skills. 

I am routinely asked how often a rescue team should practice. And they're always a bit surprised when I do not give them a hard and fast answer such as quarterly or monthly for a minimum of 4 hours. My answer is and will always be, “as often as it takes to ensure you are proficient, as individuals and as a team, to safely and effectively rescue potential victims from any situation you may be called to respond.”

You would be amazed at the spectrum of training schedules that are out there. Some teams practice on a bi-weekly basis and mix in different scenarios to ensure they will not miss any opportunities to improve their skills or to identify any gaps they may have in technique or equipment. Whereas other teams may feel that once a year is all that they need. Knowing how perishable these skills are, we tend to disagree.

It has been our experience that the teams who practice on a very regular basis and really mix it up when they design their training scenarios are the ones who perform best when they come to our facility or we go to theirs for a team performance evaluation (TPE), which can also include an individual performance evaluation (IPE), if desired. The teams and individuals that struggle most during our TPE/IPE visits are the ones that seldom train. And, even though we all call these TPE/IPE visits, we do provide tips and spot training to help correct any deficiencies observed. 

But frequency is no guarantee of excellent performance. It isn’t just about the quantity of training; it must be the quality of training as well. One of the best ways to supplement in-house training is to attend third party refresher training. Or, if it has been a while since a full-on training class, by all means a more extensive and complete training package may be a great option. Roco's annual Rescue Challenge provides an excellent learning experience as well as a way to confirm the true rescue capabilities of your team. 

Technical rescue skills are one of the most perishable skills I have known. Without regular practice and quality training, it is not long before the individual and team skills erode to the point of becoming a liability to the victim and to other team members.

Again, none of us wants to fail - especially on a rescue mission. A good way to avoid this is to dedicate adequate resources to training along with regular refreshers and practice drills. Prepare and practice for your "worst case" scenarios because you just never know when your team may be put to the test. Be ready!

Written by Pat Furr, VPP Coordinator for Roco Rescue, Inc.

About the Author:
Pat Furr has been employed with Roco since 2000 and has been actively involved with technical rescue since 1981. Pat is a Chief Instructor for Roco as well as its VPP Coordinator and Safety Officer. He is also a presenter at national conferences such as ASSE and VPPPA. Prior to Roco, Pat served 20 years in the USAF as a Pararescueman (PJ). His background includes eight years as a member of the 71st Pararescue team in Anchorage, Alaska, where he specialized in mountain and glacier rescue. Pat was a team leader of the 1986 and 1988 PJ teams that summited Mt. McKinley and augmented the National Park Service mountain rescue team. He also spent two tours of duty in Iceland where he put in multiple “first ascent” ice routes.


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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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