Confined Space Rescue Planning: Key Considerations

Monday, March 02, 2020

Do you have a rescue plan for your permit-required confined space entry work? One that has been practiced regularly and revised if necessary? If you can't emphatically say "yes" to these questions, consider this sobering statistic: Over 60% of confined-space fatalities in multifatality confined-space incidents involve the would-be rescuer. This is often due to poor and/or quick decision-making when things go wrong... in other words, not sticking to the plan (if one exists). Having a plan in place that accounts for all the "what-ifs" can prevent these fatalities from happening.

What elements should a permit-required confined space rescue plan include? Roco Rescue Safety Officer Pat Furr outlines these in an article in Safety + Health (the official magazine of the National Safety Council).

Read the article in its entirety and click here to download our Confined Space Entry Quick Reference Checklist.

CS Preplan Checklist

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When Learning the Ropes, There’s Always More to Learn

Monday, February 24, 2020

By Brad Warr, Roco Rescue Chief Instructor

I took my first rope rescue class in 1995. I spent a lot of my youth in the outdoors and did some knot-tying and rappelling at scout camp. I have fond memories of flying down the (super-sketchy) zip line at summer camp. Climbing over the edge at my first rope rescue class wasn’t terrifying, it was exhilarating. It was also confusing - really confusing.

Scaling a vertical surface

Urban and industrial rope rescue had collided with wilderness rescue techniques. NFPA regulations relating to technical rescue were being adopted by fire departments across the country. Industrial rescue teams were adopting those same standards and the race to heavy rigging was well underway. 

Questions Abound

Confusion reigned, in part because it was a time of great change, but also because I was so green. I remember having so many questions. Did my rope need to be brand new for every rescue? Why did a figure 8 have ears? So, I wrap three but only pull two? Why should I avoid descenders with too many moving parts and why do my double pulleys weigh 6 pounds? Mechanical cams will strip my rope but if I wrap a couple of those little cords around my big rescue rope then I am safe? It was a lot to digest.

Now, 25 years later, I have learned so much. Mostly I have learned that there’s always more to learn. I have learned that money spent on quality training is money well spent. I have been privileged to train with some of the best instructors in the world. It has taught me that if I am to be successful as a rescuer and as an instructor that I must evolve… much like the equipment has evolved and will continue to evolve over time.

Equipment Advances & New Techniques

Brad Warr teaching at the Roco Training Center

Today our descenders have pulleys, our pulleys have swivels and the equipment we use is incredibly reliable and, well, mechanical. The equipment is sleek. It’s smooth. Best of all, it’s not complicated.

We’ll be doing a demo of some of that equipment and the techniques that drive the hardware (teachings adapted from our rope rescue training courses) at the North Dakota Safety Council's 2020 Safety Conference. We’re proud to be partnering with the North Dakota Safety Council to make industrial safety training and services more accessible in a region experiencing rapid industrial growth. Roco Rescue Director of Training Chris Carlsen and I will be offering a different hands-on session on each day of the conference. Sessions and topics include:

  • Advanced Rope Rescue. Learn the most efficient rescue techniques, using modern rescue equipment and systems. Recent advances make it possible to perform the same task with a higher degree of safety while also being more efficient in terms of manpower, equipment and time.
  • Mechanical Advantage Systems. We’ll teach you the principles of mechanical advantage in an easy-to-understand way. Covered topics include calculating input and output forces, determining appropriate equipment requirements for a given situation, as well as often-overlooked considerations such as frictional loss and sheave diameter. This is a hands-on class, taught on a 2-story training prop.
  • Vertical Mobility in Place of Traditional Means of Access. Rope access is significantly safer and in most cases more cost effective than traditional means of access (scaffolds, man-lifts, etc), which explains why it is gaining acceptance in a wide variety of industrial settings. We’ll teach and demonstrate several different rope access techniques and talk about scenarios in which they might be applied.
  • Intro to Rescue Advancements. A great opportunity to see the latest advancements in rescue equipment, systems and techniques, attendees will get hands-on experience as we demonstrate the latest techniques and equipment - and show how many tasks can now be done with a higher degree of safety and efficiency. Today’s lightweight precision manufactured equipment as well as modern synthetics have increased safety and give rescuers greater flexibility and multi-functionality than ever before.

A Safer Way

Even if you’re not attending NDSC’s conference this week, these are the types of topics you can expect when you come to Roco Rescue for training. We stay on top of the very latest developments in rescue and distill what’s most useful and most effective into our courses, in an easy-to-remember fashion. Our instructors are skilled rescuers and teachers who adapt their methods to a variety of learning styles.

We hope to see you at the NDSC Safety Conference or in one of our rope rescue certification courses. Check out your training options below, or call us to arrange for us to come to your site for training.

View Training Options

 

Brad Warr is a Chief Instructor for Roco Rescue and a Captain at the Nampa (ID) Fire Department. Brad joined Roco Rescue in 2003 and teaches a wide variety of technical rescue classes including rope rescue, confined space rescue, trench rescue, and structural collapse. He is also a member of Roco’s Contracted Safety & Rescue Team, providing standby rescue services for plants, refineries and other industrial facilities. Brad became a firefighter for the Nampa Fire Department in 1998 and was promoted to Captain in 2006. His responsibilities include training for the department’s Heavy & Technical Rescue Team. Before joining the fire department, Brad worked for three years as an Emergency Response Technician for a large manufacturer in Boise, Idaho, where he was responsible for OSHA compliance, emergency medical response, confined space/rope rescue response and hazardous materials response.

 

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3 Innovations That Will Change Technical Rescue In The 2020s

Tuesday, February 04, 2020

By Pat Furr

I’d like to share 3 innovations that I see as having game-changing potential for rescue operations in the next decade. None of these 3 are brand new, but recent advances have earned them a place in the rescue team’s toolkit.

Rescuers Lower Patient In A Litter

1) Drones. One of the most dangerous aspects of rescue work is the time pressure that exists to reach victims before they succumb. Unfortunately, we often don’t have eyes on the victim and can’t communicate with them, so we must make assumptions about their condition. Rescuers frequently put themselves at greater risk in order to reach a victim quickly. Drones have the potential to give rescuers a clearer picture of the victim’s condition and possibly even communicate directly with them. This allows rescuers to appropriately pace their actions, to know what tools to bring to effectively treat the victim, and to avoid the same pitfalls that befell the victim. Not to sound too gruesome, but a drone can also help determine if it is a rescue or a recovery operation, which has obvious implications for the rescue operation’s pace and risk exposure.

Drones can also serve as reconnaissance tools during natural disaster rescue operations. This is a much faster and safer method of mapping an area than sending in rescuers and can be done while rescuers are pre-planning. Drones won’t completely replace manned helicopters, but they are safer, more available and more cost effective. Many drones are outfitted with software and GPS that produces maps and can geo-tag objects within centimeters of their actual location. Many also have thermal sensors, which allow for transmission of key data, and are designed to withstand extreme temperatures. Look for drones to play an increasingly important role in helping rescuers during the aftermath of hurricanes, floods, fires, tornadoes, blizzards and just about any adverse weather event.

Drones are also a great tool for getting a visual on victims at extreme height, such as on towers or tall buildings. Oftentimes these victims are not clearly visible with binoculars, making it difficult to assess their physical condition.

Drones are even being designed specifically for use in confined spaces. Previously, drones were susceptible to damaging crashes from flying in tight spaces. Also, the radio frequencies that control them were often unable to penetrate thick concrete walls. But engineers are addressing these issues and have come up with the Flyability Elios 2, for example, which features a spherical cage to protect the drone from slamming into walls. It also boasts a transmission system capable of working beyond line-of-sight, thus enabling the drone to fly into structures made of concrete, steel, and other materials.

Confined Space Drone

These drones will likely help confined space rescuers in two ways… First and foremost, sending a drone instead of a human into a confined space for an inspection will become the norm, and with fewer humans doing entry work, there will be fewer incidents requiring rescue. Second, when a rescue is called for, a drone can scout the space for a rescuer, provide a visual assessment of the victim and transmit atmospheric data to the rescue team. All of these are invaluable pieces of data that will make the rescue operation safer and more effective.

2) Portable Powered Winches. One key skill in rope rescue is the ability to build mechanical advantage (MA) systems so that they can efficiently raise / lower / haul weighted objects using rope. I don’t expect this skill to become obsolete, but the use of portable powered winches will make rope rescue less dependent on rescuer-constructed MA systems. Winches have been around for a long time, and are a standard tool for arborists and tower workers, but they haven’t been used much in rescue until recently, as significant improvements in battery power and materials have now made them reliable and durable enough for use with human cargo. Because they are battery powered and compact, they are especially useful when manpower and operating space are limited. They are lightweight and therefore easy to pack and carry as part of a rescue team’s gear cache.

Winch - Atlas APA-5

SkyHook Rescue Systems and Atlas Devices (whose APA-5 is pictured above) are among the leading manufacturers in this space. In the same way that pocket calculators take the legwork out of doing long division, winches make building efficient hauling systems that much faster and easier. That said, there are a few important caveats to consider when thinking about using portable powered winches in rescue operations. Safe use requires rescuers to factor in the weight capacity and to understand proper winch placement in a system like a tripod. Improper placement has the potential to unbalance and tip a tripod. Rescuers also need to know how to rig up a back-up rope system should the main line fail. Finally, the use of powered winches must consider the added risk of injuring the human load or damage to the system components should it become hung up. For these reasons, it is absolutely critical that the rescue load be visible to a dedicated monitor who can call an immediate stop to the haul should the load become hung up. Nonetheless, portable powered winches definitely have the potential to improve and change rope rescue operations, and I expect we’ll be training with them a lot more frequently in the coming decade.

3) Two-Tension Systems and Team-Style Friction Devices. The use of two-tension systems (sometimes called mirrored systems or dual main systems) is fast becoming a high-interest technique in the rescue world. Why? Since both ropes are tensioned, the load is shared, which decreases the risk of load-induced equipment failure. Also, in a two-tension system, there is no slack in the second line, so the potential free-fall distance is greatly reduced. Additionally, two-tension systems have double the mechanical advantage of traditional systems, making hauling more efficient.

As these two-tension systems become more popular, team-style friction devices (like the Petzl Maestro)Petzl Maestro will be a fixture in a rope rescuer’s toolkit. These are critical components of a two-tension system because they provide the three primary functions two-tensioned systems require – friction control, belay, and haul. By providing two mirrored tensioned systems during a lower, the forces on either of the systems are essentially cut in half. This greatly reduces stress on the system and is more easily managed by the operator working with heavier rescue loads. 3 to 1 Z rig Also, as mentioned previously, using a mirrored 3:1 or 5:1 Z-rig through a Maestro or other similar device during hauling operations will double the mechanical advantage compared to using a single haul system. Applying two 3:1 mirrored MAs results in a 6:1 total MA. This can reduce the manpower required for the haul team, which is beneficial for a variety of reasons.

There exists a healthy debate in the rescue world over the pros and cons of two-tension systems versus more traditional single-main / single-backup systems, but it appears as though two-tension systems are winning the argument and will become the standard in the coming decade. 

Two-tensioned systems hold the advantage in many of the rope rescue operations where dedicated mains / dedicated belays are currently being used. But there are still a few situations where the dedicated main / belay system will remain the best-practice approach. It is important to train with both types to determine what works best for your response area. Two-tensioned systems require a different type of coordination between team members, but they are quickly mastered with practice.

Embrace the Changes Technology Brings Us!

Technological advances are impacting every sector of industry from microprocessors to rescue gear. Precision engineering and advances in materials have made the gear rescuers use today smaller, lighter, smoother, faster and safer than ever. Some advances are incremental, and you only recognize the progress when you look back over a long time-horizon. For example, a retired U.S. Army Ranger recently told me that when he was in Ranger School in the 1960’s, he rappelled off 60-foot towers and the only descent control technology he had was a pair of leather gloves! Clearly, we’ve come a long way since then, and the quality of devices a rescuer can use to safely control their speed during a descent is remarkable. Other technological advances are more immediately impactful and noticeable. Whether it happens slowly or rapidly, we as rescuers have a duty to always be evaluating innovative new equipment and techniques so that we can keep improving the overall effectiveness and safety of rescue operations.

 

About the Author:

Pat Furr is a Corporate Safety Officer, VPP Coordinator, Chief Instructor and technical consultant for Roco Rescue. In addition to penning articles on a variety of safety and technical rescue topics for Roco Rescue's blog, Pat teaches Confined Space Rescue, Rope Access, Tower Work/Rescue and Fall Protection programs across the country. He sits on the National Fire Protection Association’s Committee for Technical Rescue and helped author NFPA 1006, which outlines the professional qualifications standard for technical rescue personnel.

A retired U.S. Air Force MSgt/Pararescueman, Pat also helps design innovative equipment that improves safety in the industry, including a Class III rescue harness, a revolutionary fall protection harness, and a specialized anchor hook used for container access operations.

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The Petzl Maestro: An Exceptionally Well Designed Multi-Functional Device For Technical Rescuers

Monday, January 27, 2020

Petzl is set to release a brand new rescue descender called the Maestro Petzl MAESTRO-Lin late January 2020. We’ve been testing it out for a few months and wanted to share our findings. We think our readers will find this particularly relevant since the Maestro is designed specifically for technical rescue.

The Maestro is a rescue descender that provides the user with a high degree of control in a variety of applications. We found it to be adept at both lowering and hauling, and it’s rated for handling relatively heavy loads (550lbs for the S model and 615lbs for the L model).Petzl Maestro friction control and ergonomic handle

The control comes from design elements like the integrated brake and a faceted sheave, which adds friction areas for the rope so that slippage is reduced and braking power is enhanced. The device gives the user additional control over the amount of friction by changing the angle of the rope as it feeds into the device, or by wrapping the rope around the cleat/brake on the outside of the device. The intuitive and ergonomic handle and the wide range of friction options put the Maestro at the head of the class for controlling heavy rescue loads during lowering operations.

08 Roco Petzl Small bring lever forward until I feel tensionThe Maestro transitions from lowering to hauling very nicely. We like that it gives the user an auditory cue – it clicks in haul mode as the uni-directional pulley sheave moves with the rope. It’s easy to set up a 3:1 z-rig using a pulley and a rope grab like the Petzl Rescucender. This is where the Maestro really shines, thanks to the efficiency characteristics of its design. Its large-diameter sheave coupled with sealed ball bearings only allow the pulley to rotate in one direction, creating a progress-capture system that minimizes loss of haul-gains. As the user hauls the load, the Maestro’s auto-lock feature locks in the progress made, and the user can then extend the rope grab back out and continue hauling.

Petzl Maestro z-rig

We see the Maestro as being very well suited for use in dual main rope systems. These systems require a device capable of consistent and dependable friction control while providing the high efficiency hauling functions that the Maestro excels at.

The Maestro is the most intuitive device in its class. From hand and body positioning, to loading the rope into the device, the Maestro offers a high safety margin with ease of use.

Many combination devices try to do everything and end up doing nothing particularly well. Not so with the Petzl Maestro. It’s a very capable device for descent control, progress capture and belaying. It’s a multi-function tool that’s easy to use and transitions between functions beautifully. For all these reasons, we recommend the Maestro as a tool that technical rescuers should strongly consider adding to their equipment cache.

Note: The Maestro is currently available in limited quantities. Use this link to check for availability.

Note:
Thank you to Brad Warr for contributing to this article. Brad is a Roco Rescue Chief Instructor and a captain with the Nampa (Idaho) Fire Department. 

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Evaluating Your Rescue Service

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

 Evaluating your rescue service helps ensure that the team you have selected has the knowledge, technical skills, and capabilities required to meet your company’s specific needs. In addition, a team evaluation helps fulfill the performance requirements outlined in OSHA 1910.146 and 1926.1211. If you doubt the importance of selecting a competent and properly trained rescue team, consider this disturbing statistic: more than 60% of confined space fatalities occur among would-be rescuers.

2012_Chal_h_112OSHA 1910.146 Appendix F (non-mandatory) provides a great roadmap for employers when choosing and evaluating a confined space rescue team. It contains criteria that may be used to evaluate the capabilities of both prospective and current rescue teams. (Note: Although Appendix F is “non-mandatory”, the standards of 1910.146 are not. Appendix F is OSHA’s recommended method for compliance. Learn why you should pay close attention to Appendix F, even though it is “non-mandatory.”) 

The Two Components Of A Rescue Service Evaluation:

  1. An initial evaluation, in which employers decide whether a potential rescue service or team is adequately trained and equipped to perform permit space rescues of the kind needed at the facility and whether such rescuers can respond in a timely manner; and
  2. A performance evaluation, in which employers assess the skills of a prospective rescue team or rescue service during an actual or practice rescue.

Step 1: Initial Evaluation

The initial evaluation considers:

  • A team’s technical skills as evidenced by documented training
  • Number of personnel
  • Availability
  • Timeliness based on the hazards inherent in the space
  • Whether they meet the requirements of 1910.146 (k)(2) with regards to access to personal protective equipment (PPE), training in both technical rescue and first aid/CPR, and practice in representative permit-required confined spaces at least once per year
  • The ability to notify the employer when they are unable to respond – which is of particular importance for employers using 911 as their rescue service
  • and more (see Section A, Initial Evaluation in OSHA 1910.146 Appendix F)

Step 2: Performance Evaluation

Once employers have selected one or more rescue services that meet their criteria on paper, employers should provide the rescue service access to their worksite and ask them to perform in various scenarios of the employer’s choice. Performance evaluations should be administered to a prospective rescue service, as well as to periodically evaluate your current rescue service.

Consider Using A Third Party To Evaluate Your Rescue Service

Employers may opt to use a third party to evaluate their prospective rescue service. Third-party evaluations provide a number of added benefits:

  • They are useful when employers may not have the in-house expertise necessary to administer an accurate evaluation, or for employers who prefer having a third-party evaluation as a documented, independent, and unbiased record of the rescue service/team’s capabilities.
  • They provide an opportunity for the evaluator to recommend minor changes in equipment or techniques that would enhance the capability of the team.
  • In cases where contractors will be providing their own rescue capability, third-party evaluations help ensure that all parties are doing their due diligence where permit space entry is required. Some host employers mistakenly believe that they are relieved of all responsibility when a contractor’s employees are performing the entries. But 1910.146(c)(8) and (9) place reciprocal responsibilities on host and contractor. This includes the host employer informing the contractor that permit space entry is allowed only through compliance with a permit space program meeting the requirements of 1910.146, and the contractor informing the host employer of the permit program it will be following.

Taking the time to ensure that the rescue service you choose has the proficiencies and equipment to perform the specific types of rescue required at your facility could not only prevent injuries, it could even save lives.

If you would like additional information on utilizing Roco Rescue’s documented Team Performance Evaluation for your rescue service, please call 800-647-7626.

 


 

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