Non-Entry Confined Space Rescue…Are You Sure?

Tuesday, May 07, 2019
by Pat Furr, Safety Officer & VPP Coordinator

There are three generally accepted types of confined space rescue: self-rescue, non-entry retrieval, and entry rescue. Just as with the hierarchy of hazard mitigation, confined space rescue should be approached with an ascending hierarchy in mind. 

  1. Self-rescue is typically the fastest type and eliminates or at least greatly reduces the chance that anyone else will be put at risk. For these reasons, it is the first choice, but it is unrealistic to think that an entrant would be able to rescue themselves in all situations.
  2. Non-entry retrieval is the next choice. OSHA stipulates that non-entry retrieval must be considered as a means of rescue – more on that shortly.
  3. Entry rescue is the last choice, largely because it exposes the rescuers to the same hazards that the original entrant faced.

Non-Entry Confined Space Rescue…Are You Sure?

OSHA recognizes the inherent danger of entry rescue, which is why the organization mandates “retrieval systems or methods shall be used whenever an authorized entrant enters a permit space.” However, OSHA goes on to qualify this statement with two very important exceptions. OSHA requires non-entry retrieval, “unless the retrieval equipment would increase the overall risk of entry or would not contribute to the rescue of the entrant.”  Let’s examine each of these two provisions more closely... 

  1. Non-entry retrieval is required “…unless the retrieval equipment would increase the overall risk of entry.” For example, if the retrieval line would create an entanglement hazard that would impede the entrant’s ability to exit the space, then the retrieval system should not be used and entry rescue should be the choice.
  2. And non-entry retrieval is required unless the equipment “…would not contribute to the rescue of the entrant.” The key here is that the non-entry method employed must be viable. It must work when called into action.

For non-entry retrieval systems, we are relying on that retrieval line to exert forces on the entrant to pull them out of the space without help from any other device or human intervention within the space. It must perform without someone inside the space maneuvering the victim or otherwise providing assistance to the retrieval system. It has to work independently of any other forces other than what is generated from outside the space. This extremely important point is often overlooked and has resulted in many fatalities. Sadly, many of those fatalities were the would-be rescuers that attempted entry rescue when the retrieval system failed to do its intended job.

Situations that may render the retrieval system useless would be any configuration or obstruction inside the space that would prevent the system from pulling the victim clear of the space in an unimpeded manner. This could be pipework or obstructions on the floor for a horizontal movement. Likewise, pulling an unconscious victim around corners may render a retrieval system ineffective. If the entrant moves over any edge and down into a lower area offset from an overhead portal even at moderate angles, the retrieval system will probably not be able to pull an inert victim up and over that edge, even if the drop were only a foot or so.

It must be clearly understood that retrieval systems may quite possibly be applying forces on a limp human body, which, as harsh as this sounds, becomes a sort of anchor. It requires a very thorough and honest evaluation of where the entrant will be moving in the space in order to perform their planned work, and what obstructions or structural configurations are in that path. If there is any possibility that the system will not be able to pull an unconscious, inert victim along that path, then the retrieval system is NOT viable.

Human Nature vs The Best Laid Plans - An Example

Okay, so you have done a thorough and honest evaluation of the space, its configuration, and internal obstructions and determined that there is a clear path from the entrant’s “planned” work area, which is offset ten feet from the overhead portal eight feet above. Clearly, the retrieval system will be able to pull the victim out of the space should the need arise. Enter human nature, and with that comes bad decisions. Murphy’s Law has a very nasty way of changing things for the worse. 

What if, in the course of the planned work, our entrant drops his wrench down into a sump immediately adjacent to his work zone but further from the overhead portal? The fixed ladder down into the sump is only five feet and he can clearly see the wrench stuck in the sludge below. He asks for slack on the retrieval line, climbs down into the sump, bends down to grab his wrench and is nearly immediately rendered unconscious due to an undetected atmospheric hazard. 

The attendant/rescuer sees that the entrant’s head and shoulders do not reappear and within several seconds calls to ask if he is ok, only to hear no answer. He calls several more times, but still no answer. He begins to haul with the retrieval system, which consists of a wire rope winch mounted to a tripod.  The cable becomes tight and the tripod shudders and shifts slightly, then all progress stops. The would-be rescuer tries with all his might to pull the entrant’s limp body up and over the 90-degree concrete edge, but cannot. 

In a panic, the attendant/rescuer climbs down into the space and over to the sump where he sees the entrant pulled tightly against the wall of the sump but not off the floor. He climbs down into the sump to attempt to lift the entrant’s 200-pound limp body up and over the five-foot wall. As soon as he bends down to cradle him, the hazardous atmosphere overcomes him also. Two fatalities later, we wonder how our non-entry rescue retrieval system could have failed us. It would not have, had human nature not interfered and caused two people to make bad decisions. 

That story was intended to point out that things do not always go according to plan. Not only do we humans make bad decisions on occasion, but we also have accidents due to trips, slips, and falls that may send us to an area that the retrieval system may not work. Conditions inside the space may change in such a manner that it affects the retrieval system. 

For all these reasons I implore you to evaluate the capability of the retrieval system to work not only when things go according to plan, but also to evaluate the system based on the “what ifs.” For the “what ifs” that involve bad decisions, that is a matter of training and communicating to the entry team why they cannot deviate from the work plan, even to fetch that dropped wrench. For the “what ifs” that include trips, slips, falls, or equipment failures, it may be time to consider a back-up plan, which may include an entry rescue capability. 


Pat Furr
Pat Furr

Pat Furr is a chief instructor, technical consultant, VPP Coordinator and Corporate Safety Officer for Roco Rescue, Inc. As a chief instructor, he teaches a wide variety of technical rescue classes including Fall Protection, Rope Access, Tower Work/Rescue and Suspended Worker Rescue. In his role as technical consultant, he is involved in research and development, writing articles, and presenting at national conferences. He is also a member of the NFPA 1006 Technical Rescue Personnel Professional Qualifications Standard. Prior to joining Roco in 2000, he served 20 years in the US Air Force as a Pararescueman (PJ).

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Alex Reckendorf Named as Roco's General Manager

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Alex Reckendorf Named as Roco's General ManagerAs General Manager for Roco Rescue, Alex’s primary role can be described as that of a visionary, where he collaborates with owner and President Kay Goodwyn to develop the company’s vision – and perhaps also as an air traffic controller, where he works to ensure that other company leadership receives the support and resources needed to put that vision into action.

During his six years with the Air Force, Alex served as a Pararescueman (PJ), where he took courses with Roco Rescue. In was in these courses, that he discovered a passion for teaching technical rescue. He worked part time with Roco’s Tactical Mobile Training Unit until he later received a full-time job offer. He has been with Roco full-time since 2010.

Alex splits his time outside the office between Maine and Florida, where he enjoys being outdoors with his wife and two young sons.

"Yes, this is for me."

This is how Alex Reckendorf responded when a friend pointed him toward technical rescue as a career – a calling that he has found deeply fulfilling since 2002.

From an early age, Alex was service-minded. He enlisted in the United States Air Force immediately after finishing high school, and his six years of active duty included multiple deployments with the Pararescuemen (PJs). Alex notes that many still picture PJs performing traditional rescues by “hopping off a helicopter and picking someone up,” but that simple mission profile has become a highly skilled discipline, leading him to a long career in tactical rescue instruction.

Alex was first introduced to Roco Rescue in 2006 when he attended a training class in Montana – a three-day tactical course on deep mineshaft rescue – to hone his skills as a PJ. Just over one year later, he enrolled in Roco Rescue’s two-week tactical course, which he describes as “bread and butter” skills training for Pararescuemen: confined space rescue, high angle training, rope access, urban climbing, structural collapse rescue, and vehicle extrication.

Upon returning from his last deployment with the PJs, Alex got out of the Air Force and charted a path towards becoming a firefighter. He changed his plans, however, when a phone call to a former instructor and mentor at Roco Rescue turned into a job offer.

A Passion for Training and Teaching

Throughout his career with Roco Rescue, Alex’s role has evolved. He started as an assistant tactical instructor and until recently still occasionally served as a lead instructor for Roco’s various tactical training programs, including confined space training, structural collapse rescue, rope rescue training, climbing, high-angle/mountain rescue training, and other forms of technical rescue. Throughout the years, his work has entailed setting up highline traverse systems over gorges, rappelling down sky-high cargo containers on vessels, and guiding students through exercises in World War II warships to practice confined space rescue tactics. He particularly loves working with experienced Pararescuemen, in part because, “…we learn, too. They have excellent questions…Then we get into problem-solving, and that’s where I have the most fun.”

In recent years, Alex has spent most of his time on a variety of managerial duties. He handled proposals and pricing, managed large government contracts, and was deeply involved in both the finance and human resources functions of the company. While most of these are considered back-office activities, Alex knows from his days as a PJ that success often depends on the planning and administrative work that happens behind the scenes almost as much as the efforts of those on the front lines.

And as his managerial responsibilities have grown, Alex’s love for teaching rescue has grown to include other ways that Roco serves rescuers…and those they protect. “Whether we’re training a rescue team or providing one of our own standby teams for a client facility, our commitment to emergency responders at all levels ultimately, including our own rescuers, makes sure that people return safely to their families each night. From the welder at a plant to the infantryman in the Middle East, Roco exists to bring them home safe.”

Rescue as Prevention

Alex summarizes Roco Rescue’s mission in one word: Safety. “We do that through the education of the rescuers,” he says. “Keeping them safe, and helping them keep the people they’re looking after safe.”

When asked what differentiates Roco Rescue from other technical rescue companies he says, simply, “our people.”

“We’ve got some really unique, experienced people. All of that gets distilled into our training.” While there are other technical rescue companies, Alex believes people continue to come to Roco Rescue because “we are better at keeping people safe. We don’t just fill a square. We make rescuers better at what they do.”

Speaking specifically about Roco Rescue’s Contracted Safety and Rescue Teams (CSRT), Alex says, “We really don’t do many rescues, and that’s the point -- because we work to prevent them.”

And it’s no secret that Roco Rescue does this extremely well. In his experience teaching tactical training courses, Reckendorf has witnessed incredible success stories. When a PJ team that was training on the U.S.S. Alabama happened to witness a ship worker fall and injure himself, the Roco Rescue students were able to lower the man from the ship’s platform and call for medical help. You can read about that rescue here. And when Roco Rescue-trained PJs deployed to Haiti after the devastating earthquakes a few years ago, a responding FEMA team wrote letters lauding their skill and dedication.

Alex’s Vision for Roco Rescue

Alex anticipates tremendous growth for Roco Rescue’s industrial rescue programs in the coming years, particularly given the continued focus on assembling strong teams for contracted safety/rescue work, as well as mobile training teams. Providing the highest caliber training for military and municipal teams across the country will also remain an area of focus. “We’re constantly updating our course content,” he says, “tweaking our equipment kits and modifying our techniques to be safer and more efficient.”

Alex also hopes to call greater attention to Roco Rescue’s refresher courses. “We get great reviews,” he says, but he emphasizes how important it is for course alumni to return every few years to refresh their training and refine their rescue skills. This is particularly important in a culture where many people don’t understand that rescue skills are perishable – they are “use it or lose it” skills that need to be reviewed and practiced. Alex stresses that this is not a matter of checking a compliance box, but rather, it is about prevention, safety, and ultimately, preserving lives.

More Than a Job

Alex resides in both sunny Florida and snowy Maine, where he enjoys spending time with his wife and two young sons. Beyond that, he deeply enjoys his work with Roco Rescue.

“This is not just a job, for any of us. It’s a whole lot more than that,” he says. “I think our clients know this. We care, from the owner right down to the individual instructor and rescuer.”

Alex recognizes that what it comes down to is, simply, “we are the people we serve.” Many Roco Rescue instructors and rescue crew members are still active firefighters, PJs, or other military reservists, and so they know well and understand the importance of what they are doing. This makes the work they do close to home, relatable, tangible, and critical.

Because of this, Alex says, their work “is, and always will be, near and dear to our hearts.”

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Cindy Sharrer Named as Roco's Chief Financial Officer

Thursday, May 02, 2019
 
Cindy Sharrer Named as Roco's Chief Financial OfficerAs CFO for Roco Rescue, Cindy oversees all corporate finance and accounting-related activities. This includes leading the team that processes all the financial transactions, from purchase orders and paychecks to customer invoices. Cindy ensures that the books are in order and that the company has adequate liquidity. She provides reporting and guidance on financial matters that ensures the overall health and vitality of the organization.

Cindy also provides the vision, develops the design, and implements the plan for the company’s information systems, drawing on her experience in a past life as an IT consultant and systems integrator. She is particularly passionate about automation and driving efficiencies, helping to eliminate mundane tasks which allows the staff to focus on the more specific needs of Roco’s customers.

Prior to joining Roco Rescue in 2001, she worked as an IT consultant helping a variety of businesses manage the complexities of their operations with IT solutions. Roco was one of her customers in this role. She has also worked for a bank and an oil & gas company, where in both cases she helped them streamline their business processes, navigate periods of transformation, implement new solutions, and install tools to manage the synthesis of technology.

Born in New Orleans, Cindy moved to Baton Rouge as a child and has made the city her home. Her family is her greatest blessing and she enjoys spending all her free time with her loved ones. She is married and has three daughters. Her oldest daughter owns a dance studio and her two younger daughters are active in competitive cheerleading. Cindy spends much of her spare time away from work travelling to competitions and recitals to cheer them on. In her even less spare time, she enjoys sewing, working out and is active in her church.
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Trenches: A String of Fatalities

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

A rash of trench incidents has left behind multiple fatalities and untold devastation to families. The following incidents occurred in only a matter of weeks. We log these incidents as a reminder of how deadly trenches can be. Proper training and the right equipment are needed before attempting a rescue; or, as in most cases, a recovery.

These events came to our attention over recent weeks including one incident in which the victim was not even in the trench until the ground collapsed beneath him. Another incident happened adjacent to the department where one of our Roco Chief Instructors (Brad Warr) works in Idaho. His department also responded.

As you read these accounts, pay careful attention to how tragic and deadly these incidents can be.

We’ve also included two successful trench rescues at the end of these stories.

REMEMBER: OSHA advises to “Protect Yourself…” Do not enter an unprotected trench! Trenches 5-feet deep or greater require a protective system unless the excavation is made entirely in stable rock. Trenches 20-foot deep or greater require protective systems designed by a registered professional engineer. OSHA also requires safe access and egress to all excavations, including ladders, steps, ramps or other safe means in trenches 4-feet or deeper. The devices must be located within 25-feet of all workers.

Worker Killed After Being Trapped in 16-Foot-Deep Trench

(4/26/19) DEKALB COUNTY, GEORGIA 

Fire-Rescue crews were called out to a subdivision construction site Friday afternoon in DeKalb County after crews reported that a 16-foot trench had collapsed on top of a worker.

Firefighters said that the man was helping to guide a backhoe as it dug the trench and the ground gave way, trapping the construction worker inside.

"The ground below him caved in and he fell into the hole. The hole was about 16 feet deep and about two feet of dirt on each side of the hole fell on top of the victim and covered him up," said Capt. Dion Bentley with DeKalb Fire Rescue.

Firefighters reported that two other construction workers at the site tried to rescue the victim when it first happened.

Investigators said there was no trench box inside the hole when the collapse happened. Crews said that was because no one was working inside the trench when the collapse happened. It is unclear if that violates OSHA rules. OSHA officials will now be responsible for investigating the incident.

Man Dies Before Being Rescued from Trench

(4/25/19) ALPINE, UTAH

A man working to install a pool in the backyard of a home died in a trench collapse Wednesday afternoon, authorities said.

The victim, a 53-year-old man, was pronounced dead at the scene from injuries suffered in the collapse, Lone Peak Fire Chief Reed Thompson said.

Lone Peak Fire Department crews responded to the collapse shortly after 1 p.m. When crews arrived, they found a man with dirt up to his waist.

"We were told by others on scene that prior to our arrival, he had been encapsulated up to his neck," Thompson said.

The man died before crews could rescue him from the fallen trench, Thompson added. The Lone Peak Fire Department was helped in the recovery effort by the Utah County Technical Rescue Team, which includes crews from American Fork, Lehi, Pleasant Grove and Orem.

"In this particular incident, the victim was in a trench that did not have any security measure in place — such as shoring — and was deeper than what OSHA requires at 4 feet," Thompson said. "As a result of that, you've got heavy dirt and other materials that can potentially fall or collapse into the open hole, which is what occurred."

Trenches: A String of Fatalities

Man Dies When Trench Collapses

(4/21/19) LYCOMING COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA

One man was killed in a rural area when a trench dug to fix a water line problem collapsed around him. The man was pronounced dead in the trench but it took nearly three hours to remove the body. Rescuers first had to shore the sides of the eight-foot deep ditch. The coroner listed asphyxiation as the cause of death.

While there were no witnesses to the collapse, family members believe he was buried about 15 minutes in the 15-foot long x 6-foot wide trench. Family members had cleared the clay-based soil from around the victim’s head before emergency responders arrived at the scene.

Although no pulse was detected, rescuers continued to remove dirt down to his waist in a rescue effort. Those efforts were discontinued once a paramedic with a heart monitor determined he was dead.

Two Workers Die in Colorado Trench Collapse

(4/17/19) WELD COUNTY, COLORADO

Trenches: A String of Fatalities

Two construction workers died after having been trapped in a 15-foot-deep trench that collapsed on top of them at a Colorado residential property.

The Fire Chief of Windsor Severance Fire Rescue said that the two men were working in the trench when it collapsed, completely burying them in dirt and compact soil.

Despite an hours-long rescue operation, both men died from injuries sustained in the incident. It was early the next morning when the fire department announced that the operation had switched from a rescue to a recovery effort, which was expected to take several more hours.

When Windsor Fire Rescue arrived on the scene, workers had been able to insert a PVC pipe to one of the trapped men, allowing him to communicate with the rescue crews above ground. No contact with the second worker was made, the release said.

The soil condition of where the workers were trapped made the excavation process more difficult as only small hand shovels and buckets could be used since the ground was both unstable and compacted.

Extreme caution was used to prevent further injury to the two men, the release said.

When rescue workers reached the trapped men, they had already succumbed to their injuries.

(Photo used above is courtesy of Windsor Severance Fire Rescue.)

Two Dead After Trench Collapse

(4/10/2019) NEW PLYMOUTH, IDAHO

Two men, working for a private company installing irrigation pipes in a rural area, were killed when the trench they were working in collapsed. Emergency responders were able to extricate the two men from the trench, but were unable to resuscitate them.

Payette County dispatchers sent three different fire departments, paramedics, law enforcement, two separate highway departments and a private construction company to the scene to extricate the men.

TRENCH RESCUES:

Man Rescued after being Buried Up to His Waist

(April 2019) FREMONT, CALIFORNIA

Trenches: A String of Fatalities

A man was rescued when he was trapped up to the waist in a trench incident. The Fremont Fire Department was able to remove the individual from the trench. The victim was hospitalized with moderate injuries.

Construction Worker Rescued from Trench

(April 2019) CALDWELL, IDAHO

A construction worker was taken by air ambulance to a local hospital after getting hit by a bucket that fell off a tractor into a trench, according to the Caldwell Fire Department.

Either water or sewer lines were being installed when a bucket detached from a tractor and injured a construction worker in the approximately 20-foot-deep trench, said Caldwell Fire Chief Mark Wendelsdorf.

The bucket had to be removed from the trench before the man was rescued, though Wendelsdorf did not know if that meant the man was pinned by the bucket, or if it was only preventing him from getting out.

The Nampa Fire Department’s ladder truck was used and acted as a rigging system to get the injured man out.

The trench did have a trench box and shoring in place. OSHA is investigating the incident, according to a Department of Labor spokesperson.

The rescue took about an hour, as crews made sure that the trench would not collapse while the technical rescue took place.

NOTICE:
At some time, every emergency responder may be called to a trench incident – whether a rural area or industrial construction site. Know, at minimum, how to protect yourself. Roco Trench Rescue courses offer safe, practical techniques for dealing with trench rescue incidents. Sign up now or call to observe one of our hands-on trench classes.

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Roco Chats with the Experts | Petzl America

Friday, April 05, 2019

Pat Furr: Welcome to the second installment of Roco Chats With The Experts. I’m Pat Furr from Roco Rescue and this month we are pleased to welcome Michel Goulet and John Dorough of Petzl America. We are going to do a deep dive on some of Petzl’s most popular items, which is great because readers will get insights straight from the experts on the Petzl I’D and the JAG Syst
em, the Rescucender cam, the ASAP and ASAP Lock, the latest in helmets and more.

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If you are involved in technical rope rescue, or work in the vertical environment, and you areNOTfamiliar with the Petzl brand, you are indeed a rare bird. My introduction to Petzl was in the mid 1980’s when I finally hung up my Willans harness and got my first of many Petzl sit harnesses. To understand the leap from my old Willans diaper to a modern, comfortable, and genuinely safe harness, I would compare it to going from an oil lamp to LED light bulbs. Well, nearly that big a leap anyways.

Michel and John, if you are ready, I would like to start out by asking you to introduce yurselves and tell us what got you started with Petzl and working with equipment to support folks in the vertical realm…

Michel Goulet: Well, I have always been active in the outdoors and in 1980 I started an outdoor rock-climbing school in Ottawa. I ran that for about 6-7 years and I quickly realized that most of our students were coming for professional reasons instead of for recreation. That gave me the idea to switch the focus from outdoor recreation to working with professionals at height, which made the wife happy as we didn’t have to work as many weekends. I met some of the Petzl folks, after I made a presentation at the North American Technical Rescue Symposium here in Kelowna, BC in 1996. A job opened up and I was hired in 2003.

John Dorough: My association with Petzl nearly mirrors Michel’s. I was in college getting my degree in Natural Resource Management, but on my off time I drank the juice of all things rock-climbing. My goal was to get out to Yosemite Valley and somehow write it off as school work. I was able to convince a couple of professors and my parents and ended up going out there to complete some practicals toward my degree. I got into big wall climbing where I met the Yosemite Search and Rescue team. I needed to do an internship for my degree and ended up finding one with Petzl, which was great because they paid me in climbing gear. Fast forward to now, I am one of the principle Petzl representatives along with my brother for the Mid-Atlantic, South East and South Central regions of North America on the professional side.

PF: Michel, you mentioned at your outdoor rock-climbing school that a lot of your students were there for their work instead of recreation. Was that a precursor to your involvement in rope access?

MG: That was the mid to late 90’s, pretty much when SPRAT got going. I think IRATA was about 10 years old but didn’t have much presence in Canada. This was a time when a lot of steel workers, bridge inspectors, and riggers were starting to use rock-climbing techniques as a way to safely access work at height.

PF: Rope access is such a safe and efficient option it seems it’s mostly just a matter of introducing industries and employers to it. I know Petzl and Petzl equipment is integral to rope access continuing to move forward. How do you come up with the ideas for new equipment?

MG: In the early days we got into the habit of deciding what the customers wanted and needed. Frankly, that has changed dramatically in the last ten years or so. We have opinion and thought leaders representing the 7 or 8 industries that we work with most. Some of the best ideas come from the practitioners who are always looking to find a more efficient and safer way to work at height. Once we decide to move forward on a product, we try to be as innovative as possible. For most products, we field test it for 2-3 years by turning it over to select practitioners to evaluate. They are experts at their jobs, while we are product experts, so it is a great partnership.

JD: Petzl is really good with innovation, but equally as good about product evolution. For instance, the I’D is on its 3rdgeneration, and the ASAP has also evolved to its current 2ndgeneration. We have the ability to talk with the practitioners in the various industries and from different regions. The tower workers in Texas may have different needs and use different techniques than those in Europe. In this way we are able to identify gaps as well as common needs, region to region. We really listen to all the markets and the practitioners’ needs.

PF: Is it challenging to design products that not only meet the needs of the users, but also conform to the various legislated or consensus standards requirements?

MG: That is a gigantic challenge for any global manufacturing company with a market that includes over 60 different countries. Our rope access harness has 5 different certifications. It would be great if there were an ISO standard for our types of products so we could meet just the one standard.

PF: I have my favorite pieces of kit, and you are probably not surprised to hear that the Petzl I’D is absolutely one of my favorites. It is so much more than a mere Industrial Descender (I’D). How and when did you realize that it has so many capabilities beyond its name? 

 

(photo courtesy of Petzl)

MG: I made a presentation at a symposium when the I’D first came out in the mid-90s. I saw how it could be used as a progress capture device and back pulley on a haul system. Arborists are using it as a releasable anchor for emergency lowers. We are launching an updated version of the I’D this April. And we are adding the I’D Evac to the line. The updated I’D will automatically lock when you release the handle, so it is no longer a point of failure on rope access evaluations if you do not manually lock the device. It also has some added features that prevent the rope from twisting on long descents and has more durable steel materials on the rolled edge and the capstan. On the I’D Large, we reintroduced the safety clicker (quick release side plate) - since NFPA changed the strength requirements for descent devices.

PF: I must say I was disappointed when the I’D Large came out without the quick release side plate. So I am very glad to see its return.

JD: Hey, don’t blame us though, that was driven by an outside organization.

PF: Oh I know, it was that dang NFPA 1983 tech committee. Note: that was tongue in cheek as the author is a member of the NFPA 1006 tech committee.

MG:Unfortunately we had to work with a finite minimum breaking strength and couldn’t include the fact that the I’D as well as most of our products are designed to slip under a load of about 4-5 kn, and the chances of bringing the I’D to failure are reduced tremendously provided there is not a stopper knot tied behind the device. The new I’D has a means of attaching an auxiliary piece to it’s moving side plate that becomes a redirect which adds friction and control of heavier loads.

PF:That redirect will also make it easier for technicians to operate the device on a lower when the I’D is mounted at shoulder height or higher as they will no longer have to hold the standing section of rope high over the device while operating it.

MG:Precisely, and that’s why we have added the I’D Evac to our JAG rescue kit. The I’D Evac operating lever opens the device to allow travel 90 degrees out from the regular I’D. This is a much more intuitive and comfortable position for high mounted friction control devices

JD:Pat, to your earlier point that the I’D may be thought of as only a descender. But what I would say is it can perform the four major food groups of rescue and rope access. Those being; ascent, descent, haul, and lower. When the I’D first came out and for a year or so after, we would go out to visit the users and they were only using it for personal descent, but now when we visit, they are using it for all four of those types uses.

PF:Michel mentioned it being used as a releasable anchor. We have many clients who work as a two-person team using basic rope access techniques. We teach them to use the I’D as a dynamic anchor on both the main and safety line. This way it can be used as an immediate emergency lower, or it can be quickly built into a Z-rig for a 3:1 or 5:1 emergency haul on either of the ropes.

MG:It is a great device to use as an anchor for high lines as you are essentially introducing a slip gear to the system, so you are less likely to overload your anchors. But ropes from various manufacturers will slip and perform slightly differently so it is important to practice & test and see what the difference is in performance.

PF:The I’D only gets better when the user learns some of the subtleties regarding its use. For instance, when you need to remove slack through the device, I have seen users fumble trying to push and pull rope through and it generally gets hung up on the anti-error catch. Once they learn to keep a bit of tension on the working section of rope and pull harder away from the anchor on the standing section all of a sudden, things are much easier. Or if you need to feed rope to the working section, just turning the device 90 degrees to the anchor will allow rope to feed through easily. It is great to see users who have been practicing with the I’D performing these skills as if it were second nature.

MG:Just a word of caution if you are turning the I’D 90 degrees to the travel of the rope, you are defeating the camming effect, and if you have a load or are using it to belay, you must have a very light grip on the device so it will pull itself inline and stop the load should the need be.

PF:One issue our end users are constantly fighting is having enough time to practice their skills and maintaining proficiency. When it comes to mechanical advantage systems, sometimes they get a little befuddled building an MA up from scratch. Or if they rely on pre-built MAs, if they are not careful how they stow or pull the pre-built MA out of the bag, the bottom set of pulleys may flip through and between the lines and create a tangled mess. But Petzl has the JAG systemwhich is a pre-built 4:1 or 5:1 MA that has a mesh sock around it which prevents the system from becoming entangled. Have you considered building the JAG into longer lengths to add additional throw to the system? Or even with larger diameter pulley sheaves?

JD:When we consider innovative products, we try not to limit it to the high-end proficient user that is looking for the little bit of advantage in efficiency or safety. Often times there are opportunities to make products that are most helpful to the less proficient user, and the JAG is one product that certainly helps the user that struggles to build MAs or struggles to keep their MAs from tangling. We see that situation all the time where a rescue team will pull their pre-built MA out and it is so tangled that they end up taking it apart and rebuilding it from scratch. So the innovation of placing the mesh sock over the system really helps the less proficient user especially when confronted with the stress of an actual rescue, knowing that when they pull the JAG out of its bag it will be straight and ready for use.

 

(photo courtesy of Petzl)

MG:I will add that the JAG is now sold in three different lengths: 1, 2, and 5 meter lengths. We are really starting to encourage the use of twin tensioned line rescue systems for hauls and lowers. And we like to use the 5 meter JAG piggybacked onto the haul lines. Depending on how you orient the system, you end up with an 8:1 or 10:1 MA with the travel distance of a 4:1 or 5:1 since both systems are in play.

PF:That is really an advantage if you are short of manpower and end up with an 8:1 MA that may be enough for only two haul team members, one on each system with the benefit of having a belay function with the two tensioned system.

JD:The JAG System sock, as we like to call it, may cause concern for users regarding inspecting the system, but it is very easy to remove so they can inspect, or if they need to replace it should it be damaged.

PF:One of my pet peeves is seeing folks walking about with a two-piece mechanical cam hanging from their harness and the shell is not pinned to the shoe. This usually results in the two pieces breaking apart from each other and the shell is dropped to who knows where. Your current generation of the Rescucendercam has fixed that issue.

 

(photo courtesy of Petzl)

MG:When we first started to design that we were looking for an alternative to the Shunt possibly recommending it as a back-up device. We even had a small hole drilled into the body for the attachment of a light cord to tow the device on descent. But while talking with the practitioners, we decided we were going about this in the wrong way.  And about 8 years ago now, we decided the best backup device for self belay is the ASAP, so we shifted the intent for the new Rescucender for both a cam and a backup device to strictly a cam. For those of you not familiar with the new Rescucender, we replaced the wire that connects the shell and the cam with a steel flange. That wire would sometimes cause entanglement if the rope got wrapped into or behind it when assembling the cam. And if you needed to be fast with the device, lining up the holes with the safety pin could really be a bit of an aggravation. Now you can keep your pulley connected to the Rescucender and attach it to the rope which really speeds things up and reduces the potential for dropping the device. It has dual safety catches one on each side of the shell body. On fat, unloaded 12.8-13 mm rope, the device is a little tight when you are mounting it on the rope, but once it is mounted it works just fine.

JD:And as an instructor at the end of a long hot day, we have all been victims of demonstrating how to place the older two piece cams on a rope and with the sweat in our eyes fumbling with the pin trying to line things up, then dropping the cam, and having to start all over again, the new Rescucender makes it that much less likely we embarrass ourselves.

PF:Yup, been there done that…

JD:A byproduct of the new Rescucender is it makes all us instructor types look that much cooler. It is very intuitive to place and strike off the rope.

PF:We were talking about using the Shunt as a tended self belay, but now we have the ASAP and the ASAP Lock, which are both much better mousetraps than the Shunt for self belay. So not only do we have 100% arrest assurance with the ASAP versus having to remember to release the tow string on the Shunt, but the ASAPs are true automatic rolling belays that follow you up on ascent and lead you down on descent untended.

(photo courtesy of Petzl)

MG:That being said, I do want to say that no piece of equipment is foolproof, but the ASAPs are better devices for belay than the Shunt.

PF:Agreed Michel, and as we use the ASAPs both in training and operationally we realize there are certain considerations that require attention. You have a second generation ASAP called the ASAP Lock. Can you tell us how the device is different from the original?

MG:We have seen a huge growth in the wind industry and more bridge inspections are being performed using rope access techniques. These happen to be areas where there is a lot of wind, right? When you are working 150’ down from the hub, on the tip of a wind turbine blade, you have a lot of wind pushing against the rope between your anchor and the ASAP. Because the wheel of the original ASAP is freewheeling, it tends to let the wind push a loop of rope above the ASAP creating a significant fall potential, unless you remember to set the ASAP.  On the ASAP Lock, once you engage the lock, the rope will not pull up through the device creating that big loop. But the device will still move up the rope if you were to reposition. I think what people really like about the Lock version is you can keep the device connected to your harness when you are bypassing a knot or a redirect anchor. The ASAP 1 and 2 have to be disconnected from your rope by unclipping them from your lanyard and we see a lot of folks adding a light keeper loop to the body of the device to hook a lanyard to so as not to drop it. There exists a chance to wrongly reconnect the body of the ASAP to the rope without connecting the ASAP to your full strength lanyard and that could lead to disastrous results in the event of a fall. The new ASAP Lock can stay attached to your harness via the shock absorber and has 2 independent spring loaded catches to allow easy mounting and dismounting to your rope.

JD:Also on the original ASAP, to load the device onto the rope, you had to manually open the wheel with your hand to allow the rope to fit, and that was sometimes cumbersome. With the ASAP Lock, there are two spring loaded catches reminiscent of what you have seen on handled ascenders. These will hold the wheel away from the body of the device as you load the rope and you only need to bump the catches slightly and they lock the wheel onto the rope. One thing to note is that the ASAP and ASAP Lock are now compliant with ANSI standards when used in a vertical lifeline configuration with our ANSI compliant rope, shock absorbers and connectors.

MG:During rescue operation, the belay device needs to essentially be defeated to allow the rope to move through the mechanism when the load is moving away from the anchor point. Several field tests have been conducted over the past few years showing that the belay person needs to be very attentive and act swiftly when there is a mainline failure, disconnect or over-speed and they need to respond accordingly, allowing the belay device to capture and hold the load. Successful rescue load catches are not always possible when you add in a human factor.  With the ASAP you really take that guesswork away because the ASAP includes a brake that relies on centrifugal force, which is always present, and is a much surer way to eliminate a faulty belay activation method. Several fire departments have started using an anchored ASAP for their belay and have eliminated their miss-catches that they sometimes experienced in training and testing.  Petzl now allows the use of the ASAP LOCK in this fashion as long as an ASAP’SORBER AXESS  is used with two person rescue loads.

PF:I would like to think that most of us who build rescue systems or rope systems to support vertical work, need to use not only our physical attributes, but also our brainpower too. So it makes sense to protect our noggins. You have some interesting helmets that have some unique and specific features. Please tell us about some of your Petzl helmets.

JD:This is an exciting time because in 2019, we are launching our next generation Vertex helmet and introducing a new line called the Strato. We now have a flip and fit system for our suspension system which allows you to flip the entire suspension system up into your helmet where it is protected by the helmet shell. This prevents it from becoming maladjusted during transport or while jammed in your rescue bag. All our helmets for the professional market are type 1, top impact rated and meet ANSI standards as well. If you look in detail at the ANSI standards, you will see there are two types, one for work on the ground and one for work at height. So now we have a dual chinstrap that can convert to meet the ANSI standard for both work situations. We have been adding more and more accessories to our helmets through the years. We have had our VIZEN and VIZIR face shields. We’ve added a full face mesh. We have also added a means to protect these face shields by adding a garage for them where they just push the shield up into the garage when not in use. We have a disposable clear cover that fits onto the helmet shells to protect it from paint and any other staining products. We now have the EZ Clip for mounting accessories which eliminates the need to bolt on accessories using tools and time. Attaching and removing accessories now take seconds instead of minutes.

MG:We have also been able to reduce the price of the Vertex by about 20%. And the chinstraps are now interchangeable and come in two lengths. The face shield protector also allows the use of the headlamp to still fit into its slotted receiver. 

PF:Michel and John, I wish we had more time to go on to talk some more but I am afraid we will have to wrap things up for now. I hope we can revisit and talk about more of your products and even some techniques that are now available because of your products. Thank you so much for your time and I am sure we will see each other around soon.

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