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Want a Safer Workplace? Get Employees Involved!

Monday, August 15, 2022

Safe + Sound Week is a nationwide event held each year in August that aims to recognize the successes of workplace health and safety programs and offers information and ideas on how to keep America’s workers safe. Last year, more than 5,300 businesses helped to raise awareness about workers’ health and safety!

Safe+Sound 2022 BadgeAs an OSHA VPP Star Worksite, Roco prides itself on our continual quest to achieve excellence in safety. VPP worksites must operate a comprehensive safety and health management system that includes four key elements: worksite analysis, hazard prevention and control, safety and health training, and our focus for this week, management leadership and employee involvement. To be effective, a safety and health program needs meaningful participation from employees in the workplace.

Here are five examples of a way to generate meaningful employee involvement in your organization.

1. Ask workers for their ideas for improvement.

Who knows the job better than those performing the work? Give employees an opportunity and encourage them to suggest improvements to their work practices. In our experience, many of the most innovative ideas come from employees who are actively involved in the workplace. When employees have the ability to create meaningful change in their work environment, they will be more likely to participate in safe work practices. Additionally, workers will enjoy a morale booster when these innovative ideas are implemented in the workplace. This is also an excellent way for an employer to demonstrate that they care about their employees and are committed to providing a safe and healthy workplace. Consider creating a centrally located drop box to deposit safety suggestion cards; alternatively, create a digital means of submissions or email such as safetysuggestions@company.com to allow for ease of submitting ideas. You might be surprised what your employees come up with!

employee involvement12. Involve employees in workplace inspections.

No matter your industry, a safe workplace will always incorporate frequent workplace inspections into its planning and maintenance schedules. Typically, someone from the safety department or the maintenance department will conduct workplace inspections; however, having the same person perform these inspections each month can create a situation where this individual becomes “blind” to obvious hazards. Involving employees in workplace inspections allows for a “fresh” set of eyes and a new perspective as each individual will notice hazards in a different light.  Consider rotating different employees into workplace inspections whenever possible. You can also make this a positive experience for the employee selected by treating them to lunch afterward.

3. Train workers on hazard identification and reporting.

If you are waiting on “the safety guy” to identify the hazards and correct them, then it could be a while. While safety professionals are a great resource to have on staff, they can’t be everywhere at once! The truth is the safest companies train and involve all employees in hazard identification and reporting. When everyone in the company knows how to identify hazards and take steps to mitigate them, you now have an army of safety professionals! One VPP worksite implemented “hazard hunts” into their monthly plan for the facility. This was similar to an easter egg hunt, but for an industrial worksite. Employees spread out throughout the facility to identify hazards in the workplace. At the end of the hunt, the employee with the most legitimate hazards identified as well as the employee with the most serious hazard identified was rewarded with a gift. This is an outstanding idea for bringing fun to the workplace while also taking steps to involve employees and make a safer working environment!

employee involvement24. Allow workers to lead trainings.

Most companies have periodic safety meetings implemented into their routine. These are typically led by someone from the safety department and can be a great way to highlight and emphasize current safety concerns or best practices in the workplace.  As a way to get employees involved, consider selecting someone different in the workplace to develop and lead a safety training. This doesn’t have to be an hour-long production! Something as simple as a 5-minute talk about heat illness prevention can work. Each person will have their own unique style which will help to keep these safety meetings “fresh”. Be sure to have fun with this one; these presentations don’t have to be intense or serious. The key here is to get employees involved in creating and delivering safety presentations. 

5. Reward workers who take the extra effort for safety.

There is a lot of debate and controversy over incentives for safety; in recent years, there have been several flip-flops on the support for these types of programs.  It really comes down to what you are promoting and how you are doing it when you incentive safety. Creating an environment that discourages reporting of accidents in exchange for a company-wide steak dinner is probably not the most ideal way to go about it. Instead, find ways to praise employees who go above and beyond in safety. When an employee submits a great safety suggestion for improvement and it gets implemented, reward the individual who submitted the idea! Perhaps an employee volunteered to perform the monthly facility inspection and take them out to lunch! If an employee identifies a serious hazard and takes action to mitigate it on the spot, reward them with something nice. Another great idea is having a near miss reporting process; consider doing a quarterly drawing for a gift for everyone who submitted a near miss for that quarter. The big takeaway from rewarding workers is to praise them heavily when they take the initiative to work safely, and coach and support them when they fail to meet those expectations.


ChrisMcGlynn headshot McGlynn is the Director of Safety/VPP Coordinator for Roco Rescue. He is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) through the Board of Certified Safety Professionals as well as a Certified Confined Space and Rope Rescue Technician, and a Nationally Registered Paramedic. As Director of Safety, Chris oversees all corporate safety initiatives, ensuring that employees at Roco have the tools and training that they need to do their work safely and effectively. He is also responsible for managing Roco's Safety Services Division, which provides trained safety professionals for turnarounds and other special projects. Finally, Chris serves as the VPP Coordinator for Roco, continuing Roco’s long-standing commitment to excellence in safety and health. Roco has been an OSHA VPP Star Worksite since 2013.

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Ventilation for Confined Space Rescue

Sunday, July 31, 2022

Vent Early, Vent Continuously, and Vent Properly.

During a confined space rescue scenario, performing ventilation can have a huge impact on achieving a positive outcome at the incident. With few exceptions, there is no downside to ventilating in a confined space, but the upsides can be literally life changing.

In the simplest terms, ventilation is the process of circulating air with the goal of removing “bad” air (oxygen-deficient, toxic, explosive, etc.) from a confined space and replacing it with “good” (fresh) air. There are different methods to accomplish this task, but each with the same basic goal. In most cases, ventilation is an attempt only to control or mitigate a hazard rather than eliminate it. If ventilation ceases for any reason, the hazard may rapidly return.

ventiliation 1Ventilation serves several important purposes. It improves the environment for the victim by directly removing or diluting the contaminants in the space. By creating a flow of air, ventilation can improve the ambient conditions of the space which can be extremely helpful for a victim’s status. Lastly, and of equal importance, ventilation also improves the operating conditions for the rescuers, which is critical as well.

Vent Early

If a victim is in a bad air environment, the clock is ticking. Of course, the exact contents of the space ultimately determine survivability, but the point is, there is not much time regardless. And getting rescuers into the space and in contact with the victim may easily take 4 to 6 minutes or much longer. Ventilation, on the other hand, can be quickly activated outside of the space and at work removing contaminants almost immediately. It is one of the single best things rescuers can do early in the incident.

The first step in venting early is understanding the space where rescue will be performed. This is where effective preplanning really pays dividends. After understanding the potential hazards, one of the first pieces of information rescuers will need is the dimensions of the space to be ventilated. Since air is measured in cubic feet, multiply the width times the height times the depth of the space (in feet) to arrive at the cubic feet of air volume.

Ventilation is the process of circulating air with the goal of removing “bad” air (oxygen-deficient, toxic, explosive, etc.) from a confined space and replacing it with “good” (fresh) air.

The next piece of critical information is the size of the fans that will be used for ventilation. Fans are measured in—or rated by—the cubic feet per minute (CFM) they will move. Take the total cubic feet of the space and divide it by the fan’s rated CFM, and you can determine how long it will take to exchange the air in the space. The faster the air can be exchanged, then the lower the toxicity levels, the lower the percentage of lower explosive limits (LEL), the higher the oxygen levels, and the more fresh air is circulating around the victim. So, when it comes to fans, bigger—or at least “bigger” CFMs—is definitely better.

Another important part of the preplanning process is to identify the ventilation openings for the intake and its path to discharge. Ideally, both of these points will not be the entrance from which rescuers expect to effect the rescue. But often this is not the case. When assessing these locations, it is important that the intake air be drawn from a non-contaminated source and that the discharge air will not spread contamination to people or equipment. This is also a good time to consider where and how ducting will be executed.

Preplanning should also take into consideration the interior of the space. Is it a wide-open vessel? Or are there obstructions—such as trays or mixing equipment—that can obstruct airflow and create dead air spaces? The configuration of the space can interfere with ventilation and may require extra or larger fans to adequately move air through it.

ventilation 2At the declaration of an emergency, deploying ventilation and performing air monitoring should occur concurrently with size up. Starting ventilation is like applying a cervical collar at the scene of an automobile accident; it is one of those things you know you are going to perform each and every time. And while it is expected that everyone will be appropriately trained, ventilation can be handled by support personnel while the rescue technicians are readying for entry.

This is the time to gather baseline atmospheric data about the space with air monitoring. Because gases can have varying weights (meaning they may float or sink), OSHA requires measuring intervals of every four (4) feet. As highlighted earlier, this underscores the importance of identifying the space’s dimensions and configuration.

It is highly desirable to monitor the space prior to the commencement of ventilation. Knowledge of the baseline monitoring results better arms the rescue team to deal with the space in terms of their own protection, thus possibly affecting equipment choice(s). With continuous monitoring, the value of ventilation can also be unequivocally realized with increasing oxygen levels, decreasing toxicity, and decreasing percentage of LEL. It is this improvement of the space’s atmosphere, with so little comparative effort, where the beauty and value of ventilation lie.

Vent Continuously

Most industrial standard operating guidelines require five (5) complete air exchanges before entering a confined space. But this is under working conditions. During a rescue, there may not be time for that degree of ventilation to take place. This again highlights the vent early aspect of response.

By venting continuously, you are constantly improving the interior conditions. Ventilation operates under the premise of increasing returns—the longer it is performed, the better the conditions inside of the space. And the conditions will continue to improve so long as ventilation is provided. This is why it is vitally important to never interrupt ventilation once it has begun.

If electric ventilation fans are used, try to ensure they are on an uninterruptible power supply if possible. If generators are being used to supply power, ensure there is ample fuel.

In concert with the continuous ventilation, there should be continuous air monitoring. It is important to continue to identify any areas where readings are not improving. If the ventilation has been set up and sized properly, the air monitoring results should reveal a steadily improving atmosphere (as long as hazards are not actively being introduced into the space). In some instances, remedying problem ventilation areas may be something as simple as adjusting the ducting.

Vent Properly

Ventilation supplies the aforementioned stellar results only if it is done properly. And there can be no question that performing ventilation properly is a matter of both science and mathematics. It is a quantifiable problem.

But in the real world with a relentlessly ticking clock, once the basic dimensions are known, there is also a degree of “voodoo magic” that comes into play with being able to read the space and quickly determine the ventilation inlets, outlets, and configurations inside that may impede airflow. That “magic” comes with training and experience. While most rescuers want to spend their training time performing the glamour skills—such as rigging and patient packaging—it is important to remember that in a bad air situation, it will be ventilation that can have the greatest immediate effects.  In training, teams need to quit only verbalizing that ventilation is set up and actually perform this lifesaving skill.

Setting up ventilation is a great task both for new team members or for those in technician training. The rescue leader or ventilation officer of course decides the ventilation plan, but actually setting up the equipment can be delegated to new or support personnel. It is a crucial task that needs to be completed and provides immediate and tangible results while positively affecting the outcome of the incident.

In the rescue world, ventilation is similar to rope—you need the right size and the right amount.

How to perform ventilation properly can be a course in and of itself and is a topic that carries with it some debate. The debate usually centers around positive pressure ventilation versus negative pressure ventilation. But when applied correctly, both are proven performers in ventilation. It is the proper use of the equipment on hand that actually matters when it comes to performing effective ventilation.

So, while neatly avoiding the ventilation debate or getting too far into the weeds with a how-to course on ventilation, we will address some of the more salient points with ventilation that should be considered. These are the kind of things that, if not done or done wrong, can impede your ventilation efforts and/or create an unsafe environment.

In the rescue world, ventilation is similar to rope—you need the right size and the right amount. Bigger, more powerful ventilation fans move more air, help eliminate dead air spaces, and exchange the air in the space quicker. If larger fans are not available, it is often possible to use multiple fans to increase airflow. Ducting fits into this “rope” category as well—it is paramount to effective ventilation, so it pays to have plenty of it. Fan manufacturers provide guidance on how far ducting can be extended to or from their fans and how it affects the capacity or the amount of air moved.

The next important thing is to be familiar with the equipment. Seeing equipment for the first time at an emergency is unacceptable. This stresses the importance of training with your gear and developing competency with it in advance of an incident. It is also most definitely advisable to follow the equipment manufacturer's instructions with regard to use and cleaning. 

ConfinedSpaceAttendant-01-1Just as important as the fans is a solid air monitoring plan. The rescuers should be aware of the potential atmospheric hazards and have obtained the appropriate monitoring equipment. The air monitoring should continuously measure the entire space with results constantly provided to the vent team; this allows for adjustments if a particular part of the space is not seeing the expected improvements in air quality.

It is also critical to consider the intake air source and the discharge path for exhaust or discharge air. Since fresh air will be sent to the victim, it is imperative that its source be free of contaminants. In the same regard, the hazardous atmosphere from inside the space is also being vented somewhere. This location should be free of personnel and equipment or any other environmental concerns.

If your team is employing positive pressure ventilation, there will almost always be some degree of (and often all of) the exhaust occurring at the rescue opening or portal. This means that the outside team is probably being exposed to the space’s atmosphere. Therefore, air monitoring should be conducted in their vicinity continuously while ventilation is in progress. These crew members may very well need to wear PPE to protect them from the hazard. Neglecting topside air monitoring is a frequently overlooked step that can have dangerous consequences.

Ventilation is a foundation skill that often does not receive the attention it deserves. Short of supplying breathing air directly to the victim, there is no more effective step than ventilation for improving air quality inside of a confined space and ultimately the survivability of the victim. We encourage all rescue teams to include ventilation as a standard part of their rescue training regimen. And when at the actual emergency… vent early, vent continuously, and vent properly.


Confined Space Rescue Chart


Additional Resources




Trench Deaths Up 68% in 2022!

Thursday, July 21, 2022

The alarming rise in trench-related fatalities has spurred US Department of Labor to announce enhanced nationwide enforcement.

In 2022’s first six months, 22 workers have fallen victim to the deadly hazards present in trenching and excavation work – surpassing 15 in all of 2021 – and prompting the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to launch enhanced enforcement initiatives to protect workers from known industry hazards.

trench1To stress the dangers of disregarding federal workplace safety requirements for trenching and excavation work, OSHA enforcement staff will consider every available tool at the agency’s disposal. These actions will place additional emphasis on how agency officials evaluate penalties for trenching and excavation related incidents, including criminal referrals for federal or state prosecution to hold employers and others accountable when their actions or inactions kill workers or put their lives at risk.

Read the full press release: https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDOL/bulletins/3213baa


Additional Resources

If you’re concerned that your rescue service may not be adequately prepared, give us a call or check out these resources for more information on how to keep you and your personnel safe around trenches.


Roco QUICK DRILL #14 - Knots Challenge (Advanced)

Friday, July 15, 2022


Blindfolded personnel would be required to identify a knot by feel and touch only and then tie the knot in a separate piece of rope. The concept would be to have 5 knots pre-tied on rope shorts, and 5 additional rope shorts for personnel to tie. Each member would have to feel the knots that are pre-tied, and then replicate all 5 knots, no asking questions or guidance provided. 

Each participant would be given their own area to work, a classroom setting with table and chair is recommended. Five ropes with pre-tied knots (figure-8 on-a-bight, butterfly, double fisherman, square knot, bowline for example) and 5 different color rope shorts untied, would be covered to prevent students from learning what specific knots were there.

Then, when each person is in position, they would be blindfolded and given a specified time (e.g., 5 minutes) to identify each knot by feel and tie the knot identified using the ropes given. Evaluators would not provide any guidance on identifying the knots. Once time is up, or all participants have completed tying the knots, the blindfolds would be removed and the knots evaluated.


Check out more Roco QUICK DRILL Challenges


Rescue Standby: Why It Makes Good Sense

Thursday, June 30, 2022

Rescue Standby Blog2022

Everything was going great, when all of a sudden, in the blink of an eye, the unthinkable happens. You find yourself in a situation where you need emergency services, and you need them FAST! You pick up the phone, dial 9-1-1, and await their arrival. It seems like an eternity, but the reality is, only a few minutes have passed. Emergency services arrive, and just as quick as tragedy struck, they’ve now seemed to make that chaos disappear.

So how does this apply to industrial facilities?

In the industrial world, tragedy can strike just as quickly as in the civilian world – the difference is, however, 9-1-1 may have a much longer response time. This is primarily due to being unfamiliar with the industrial facility. Normally, there are many obstacles to overcome between where they arrive and where the patient is located. There can also be the issue of proximity to the plant site, or what if the emergency response service is out on another call?

What can be done to ensure that the best resources are available immediately when they are needed?

And, while emergency service personnel are trained to handle many different types of emergencies, they likely have very limited training, if any at all, in industrial emergencies. As a paramedic who worked in EMS for over a decade, I can tell you that this was entirely the case during my EMS career. So, what can industrial facilities do to prepare for emergencies — particularly rescue emergencies? And, what can be done to ensure that the best resources are available immediately when they are needed? 

The answer – Standby Rescue Services.

Sked into portal RTCHere’s why standby services can make the most sense. Standby rescue teams are often the only way to ensure that the best resources are readily available in the unfortunate event they are needed. Unlike most emergency services, standby rescue teams are trained specifically to handle emergencies in the industrial setting – especially for scenarios involving confined space rescue, high angle rope rescue, or rescue of a worker suspended from fall protection. For these scenarios, rapid response times are critical in determining the outcome, and possibly the survival of the victim entirely.

Rapid response times are critical in determining the outcome, and possibly the survival of the victim entirely.

In contrast to typical emergency response services, standby rescue services are already on-site; and oftentimes, staged in the area where the work is being performed. Standby rescue services are also likely to be very familiar with the facility to which they are assigned. This can contribute to an incredibly fast response time in the event that an emergency arises.

What about facilities that have their own rescue-trained personnel? There’s no doubt having facility personnel trained in rescue operations is an outstanding way to decrease response times and increase positive outcomes during an emergency. For routine and short-term tasks, relying on cross-trained facility personnel can be an effective solution; however, for large-scale projects and turnarounds with multiple areas of work or more complex technical rescues, a dedicated standby team may be your best bet.

An experienced standby team knows how to properly assess the worksite, prevent possible incidents and react in a calm and efficient manner.

Many times, large facilities with their own emergency response team will still contract professional 3rd party rescue teams – especially during large projects or turnarounds when their team is already tasked to the max. With large-scale projects, there could be ten-fold the number of contractors and personnel on site in addition to the vast number of entries, on-air entries, work-at-height and other hazardous work.

You can see that having a professional standby rescue team onsite for hazardous work activities can be the difference between life or death. It can mean the quickest response and fastest recovery of an endangered worker. It can also make your project flow more smoothly while providing for added safety. An experienced standby team knows how to properly assess the worksite, prevent possible incidents and react in a calm and efficient manner. It simply makes good sense.


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Additional ResourcesConfined Space Rescue Chart

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