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Fatality Reports (Sept. 2023)

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

Confined spaces and excavations continue to present fatal hazards to workers, and OSHA continues to take notice. While OSHA lists fewer confined space accidents in 2021 than in 2020, 100% of them involved fatalities.

Trench collapses are among the most serious dangers in the construction industry. Excavations can collapse in seconds and can potentially bury workers under cubic yards of soil, each weighing as much as 3,000 lbs. In 2022, OSHA reported that at least 39 industry workers died. From 2011 to 2018, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports 166 workers died in trench collapses.

The following summaries are from OSHA News Releases (osha.gov). These tragedies serve as reminders to employers and rescuers of the inherent dangers involved in confined space entry and trench work.

Company’s Safety Failures Led 19-Year-Old Worker to Suffer Fatal Injuries Inside Concrete Mixer

cement picCANTONMENT, FL — A Georgia-based concrete pipe manufacturer could have prevented a 19-year-old worker from suffering fatal injuries after a concrete mixer restarted while the teen tried to clean the machine's inside in Cantonment in March 2023.

OSHA found that two workers had climbed inside the mixer initially to use a hammer and chisel to chip away hardened concrete. As one of the workers left the mixer, the machine restarted with the other inside.

OSHA inspectors cited the company for willfully exposing workers to crushed-by hazards by allowing them to enter the mixer without making sure to first follow energy-control procedures. The agency also found the company exposed workers to confined spaces hazards by not making sure a safe atmosphere existed inside the mixer before the workers entered and by failing to have an attendant ready to retrieve workers safely.

“Failure to implement well-known safeguards cost the life of a worker just beginning their adulthood,” said OSHA Area Office Director Jose A. Gonzalez in Mobile, Alabama. “This preventable tragedy should serve as a reminder of the importance of complying with safety and health standards, as required by law.”

Project Manager’s Death in Trench Collapse

OKLAHOMA CITY – A U.S. Department of Labor workplace safety investigation found that a contractor could have prevented a trench collapse that fatally injured a project manager at a work site in May 2023.

Investigators learned that the project manager and other workers were putting gravel rock around a newly replaced 24-inch sewer line in a 10-foot-deep excavation when the trench collapsed. OSHA determined that — by not following federal safety standards for trenching and excavation work — the company exposed its employees to trench hazards.

OSHA cited the company for one willful violation for not using protective systems in a trench deeper than five feet. The agency also identified serious violations for:

  • Failing to secure obstacles on the surface area near the trench.
  • Not providing safe entry into or exit from the trench.
  • Allowing standing water in the trench.
  • Failing to perform daily inspections.

“A worker has lost their life because the company disregarded its responsibility to ensure the safety of its employees,” said OSHA Area Director Steven Kirby in Oklahoma City. “Employers are required by law to follow safety and health procedures that are put in place to prevent tragedies like this from occurring.”

Grain Silo Operator Failed to Provide Required Safety Procedures in Deadly Engulfment

grain siloCOLQUITT, GA — A federal investigation into how a 59-year-old worker at a grain silo became engulfed and suffocated in April 2023 found the operator could have prevented the fatality by following required grain-handling safety regulations.

An employee entered a half-full bin to unclog clumps of grain as the bin's auger turned below. As they stood atop the grain, the pile shifted and quickly engulfed them. One other worker onsite rushed over and saw a rope that was tied to the worker disappearing into the grain but could not rescue their co-worker.  

OSHA cited the company for nine serious violations for exposing employees to engulfment hazards and failing to do the following:

  • Train workers on how to safely enter a grain bin.
  • Issue a permit and adequately evaluate hazards before employees enter a bin.
  • Require augers and other equipment components to be de-energized and effectively locked out.
  • Keep employees from performing tasks that require them to walk on moving grain inside a bin.
  • Make sure body harnesses and lifelines were adequate to avoid engulfment hazards.
  • Employ adequate communication methods, including communication with an observer to support workers inside a bin.
  • Provide rescue equipment for employees entering a bin.

“Our investigation found that following required federal safety standards might have saved this worker's life,” said OSHA Acting Area Director Heather Sanders in Savannah, Georgia.

OSHA investigators also found the company exposed employees to caught-in hazards related to the powered auger system by not following required lockout and tagout procedures to shut down the system and prevent the auger from moving. Additionally, they failed to test oxygen levels inside the bin to protect workers before they entered.

Contractor Endangered Employees in Trench, Despite Knowing the Risks…  

GUAM — Two weeks after federal workplace safety inspectors warned a construction company of hazardous conditions facing employees working in an excavation, they returned to find the company again exposing workers to potentially deadly trench hazards as they installed a sewer line.

Following a May 2023 OSHA inspection, two serious violations were issued related to the company's failures to provide adequate means to enter and exit the trench within 25 feet of the workers and test oxygen levels in the trench before employees entered.

"Working in a trench is demanding and dangerous work that requires specific precautions and protections to keep workers safe," explained OSHA Area Office Director Roger Forstner in Honolulu. “By running soil compactors and excavators within 20 feet of workers in the trench and failing to provide accessible ladders, the company chose to put production before safety, endangering the lives of its employees.”


Roco Rescue CS Attendant Requirements

Additional Resources



Penstocks & Confined Space Rescue

Sunday, October 1, 2023

penstockThe term “penstock” is one you will hear if you work in the Energy Sector or occasionally in Emergency Response. Those working in the Energy Sector generally have a strong grasp of the term and what it entails. If you work in Emergency Response, can you say the same?

So, what exactly is a penstock? The most common usage of the word is a control structure used in various engineering applications, most commonly in hydropower plants and water distribution systems. It is essentially a large pipe or conduit that controls the flow of water, usually from a higher elevation to a lower elevation. Penstocks are designed to regulate the movement of water, whether for power generation, irrigation, water supply, sewer systems or flood control.

At Roco Rescue, we recently worked with a client who was diligently looking for a solution to protect their employees who would be working in a penstock. This penstock was enormous 10’ in diameter and 9 miles in length. It presented a multitude of logistical challenges for rescuers, including remote location, internal transportation, communications, ventilation and Lock Out/Tag Out.

As our most experienced rescue technicians worked with our management team on the best approach to providing Confined Space Rescue Standby Services for the job, one of our people remembered a confined space incident in a penstock that occurred 15 years ago. A little research refreshed our memory of the incident that ultimately took the lives of five workers.

The Chemical Safety Board (CSB) investigated the incident and produced an informative video that clearly lays out what went wrong, resulting in the deaths of five individuals.

Click HERE to see video.

(Video provided by the U.S. Chemical Safety Board)

Additional Resources

Bridge Rescue from California’s Tallest Bridge

Monday, September 25, 2023

Bridge Rescue Sept 2023

Last week, a teenager dangled from a rope suspended from the 730-foot Auburn Foresthill Bridge, the tallest in California and the fourth tallest in the country.

The 19-year-old man and his 17-year-old friend accessed the catwalk underneath the bridge. According to the sheriff's office, the older teen then used a rope and harness to swing from the bridge while his friend filmed him.

The sheriff's office said his equipment soon failed, leaving him hanging from the underside of the catwalk approximately 30 feet. After deciding he couldn't get back to safety without help, the 17-year-old called 911.

Sheriff's deputies found the thrill-seeker dangling from a rope around 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, September 17, 2023. First responders from other agencies, including the sheriff's mountain search and rescue team, also arrived.

First responders were only able to rescue the teen by sending a rescuer rappelling down on a rope of their own to bring him back up to the catwalk, the sheriff's office said in a post on Facebook.

The 19-year-old refused medical attention after being evaluated on scene by medics, the sheriff's office said. Both teenagers were cited for trespassing.

Click HERE to read full story.

(Story by Eric Lagatta, USA TODAY)

Service Life Guidelines for Rescue Gear

Friday, September 15, 2023

little boy

I miss being a kid. No smart phones, no tablets, no TikTok. Twitter was what my stomach did if a cheerleader said hello in the hall. If you wanted to go run the streets with your friends until it got dark, you only had to do one thing. Get mom to tell you to get out of the house. It was a risky game. Act obnoxious enough and she told you to go play outside. Act too obnoxious and you risk getting sent to your room. The better way was to be the good kid. In my house, it sounded something like this.

Me: (yelling from my room) “MOM, CAN I GO OUTSIDE TO RIDE MY BIKE?”

Mom: “Did you finish your homework?”

Me: “Yes.”

Mom: “Is your room clean?”

Me: “Kind of.”

Mom: “Clean your room and you can go out.”

Me: “Why do I have to clean my room?”


And there it was, the true rallying cry of our childhood…  BECAUSE I SAID SO.


Imagine if we applied that same conversation to Technical Rescue. Would it go something like this?

Rescuer: “Hey boss, can we rappel?”

Program Manager: “Have you inspected your gear?”

Rescuer: “We did that last year.”

Program Manager: “Inspect your gear and you can go rappel.”

Rescuer: “Why do we have to inspect our gear before we go rappel?”

Program Manager: “BECAUSE I SAID SO!!!!”

If only it were so easy. My mom should be the CEO of the World. Things would get done.


Today we have a multitude of resources for inspecting our equipment. These resources tell us when, who, how and how often. The myriad of guidance can sometimes make us wish mom would just send us to our room. Let’s take a look at those resources and decipher what truly needs done so we can just go rappel.

The first thing we need to know is this. Regardless of the stated service life, the condition of rescue equipment – as determined through inspection by a qualified person – is the primary factor in determining whether a piece of equipment is fit for service. Stated service life is the long game. Ongoing inspection programs are the short game that we rely on to keep our people safe.

Regardless of the stated service life, the condition of rescue equipment – as determined through inspection by a qualified person – is the primary factor in determining whether a piece of equipment is fit for service.

Manufacturers should always be the first resource. They built the equipment to required standards. They know best how to inspect the gear with their name on it. When you break out that new piece of kit and tear off that little attached book, turn that shiny piece of gear over and over in your hand. Admire the clean-cut router work and the gorgeous anodization. Then put it down and read the instructions. Every single time.

While the manufacturer’s booklets might look long, the user instructions are generally manageable and delivered in multiple languages. The few minutes reading the language section applicable to you will be invaluable. It will tell you what you can and can’t do, and it will tell you how to inspect it. How often do we get all of the information about something we buy in a small package that we can keep around? Take advantage.

Manufacturers vary in their specifications for service life of rescue equipment. Petzl specifically defines the “potential” service life of plastic or textile products to be no longer than 10 years. For metallic equipment, they state that service life is indefinite. CMC, on the other hand, does not give specified times for their hard equipment, stating “The service life of equipment used for rescue depends greatly on the type of use and the environment of use.” Because manufacturers use standards vary greatly, a definitive service life of the equipment cannot always be provided.

Although the definition of equipment lifespan is very broad depending on the manufacturer, each will provide specific instructions on proper inspection of equipment and detailed explanations on when to the retire service item.

Most manufacturers follow the same general guidelines for removing equipment from service. Several general identifiers that pertain to all equipment are shown below. 


  • Item fails to pass any pre/post use or competent person inspection.
  • Item has been subjected to a major fall or load.
  • Item is constructed of plastic or textile material and is older than 10 years.
  • You cannot determine the complete full-use history of equipment.
  • You have lost confidence in the equipment.

Most manufacturers will provide service for equipment items that are repairable. However, most caution against repair because the cost typically exceeds the cost of replacement. Any repairs attempted outside of the manufacturer’s guidance may void any warranty and will release the manufacturer from any liability or responsibility. All manufacturers recommend destroying equipment once it has been retired from service to prevent items from inadvertently being cycled back into active service.

Manufacturers also provide indicators for different types of equipment that require it to be retired from service. These not only capture the general conditions mentioned above, but also address conditions that are specific to each category of equipment. It is important to identify these specific conditions as they are vital to the dependability and functionality of each component. These are commonly categorized as harnesses, hardware and software.


Harnesses are one of the most personal components of life safety equipment. Without a certified harness in serviceable condition, the best life safety rope and hardware will do little to protect the user. All individuals who are required to wear harnesses should be trained and authorized in the inspection process. Harnesses should be inspected before, during and after use as well as once annually by an individual deemed a competent person by the facility or department.

Harnesses should be inspected before, during and after use as well as once annually by an individual deemed a competent person by the facility or department.

Since harnesses are a nylon product, they fall under the guidelines set forth by ASTM International (formerly American Society for Testing and Materials) Consensus Standard F1740-96 and have a service life of 10 years. Manufacturers also state that hard or excessive use may significantly reduce service life. It is important to conduct routine inspections as well as keep records of harness use. This “usage” history could indicate signs that would require the equipment to be retired early.

Some conditions that may tell you it’s time to retire your harness:

  • It has been more than 10 years since the manufacture date.
  • Webbing shows signs of cuts, significantly worn or frayed areas, soft or hard spots.
  • Webbing shows signs of discolored or melted fibers.
  • Stitching shows signs of pulled threads, abrasion and/or breaks.
  • Hardware shows signs of damage, sharp edges, excessive wear, or improper function.
  • If the harness has been subjected to shock loads, fall loads, or abuse.
  • If there is any doubt about the integrity of the harness.

If the harness demonstrates any of these conditions, it should be removed from service and destroyed.

Life Safety Rope, Webbing, Anchor Straps, Accessory Cord:

Software products are also nylon or textile based; and as such, they fall under the same inspection process as harnesses. A complete inspection of life safety rope and associated products includes not only a visual inspection but a tactile (or touch) inspection as well. The tactile inspection should be done with tension on the rope, webbing or strap. 

The inspector is looking to identify any of the following conditions:

  • Chafed, glazed or discolored surfaces (these areas should receive a more thorough inspection).
  • Abrasions or cuts in the sheath where the core is exposed.
  • Variation of diameter of the rope that could indicate potential damage to the core fibers.
  • Soft or hard spots that could indicate core damage or that the fibers have been over stressed.
  • If the rope has been subjected to shock loads, fall loads or abuse.
  • It has been more than 10 years since the manufacture date.

A complete inspection of life safety rope and associated products includes not only a visual inspection but a tactile (or touch) inspection as well.

If any of these conditions are noted, then the item should be retired and destroyed immediately. It is important to remember that an accurate history should be maintained for all life safety rope products. The date of manufacture should be identified and recorded as products are being put into service. Equipment inspectors or users should ensure that these products do not exceed their service life. As with harnesses, the quantity, type and conditions of use can drastically reduce the service life of these products.



Hardware such as carabiners, descent control devices, pulleys and cams are metallic and plastic. Because of these materials, they do not fall under the ASTM service life recommendation of 10 years. If these products are in serviceable condition and properly maintained, they have an infinite service life unless specifically noted by the manufacturer. Even though they do not have a dedicated service life term, it is still important to conduct the same pre/post use and annual inspections. 

Some conditions that would require the equipment to be retired from service include:

  • Gear has been dropped a significant distance.
  • Exposed to heat sufficient enough to alter the surface appearance.
  • Cracks, distortion or deep gouges.
  • Corrosion or deep pitted rust. (Note: Surface rust may be removed with a fine abrasive cloth and coated with a preservative such as LPS #1 according the manufacturer’s recommendations.)
  • Sharp edges that could cause damage to life safety rope (minor edges may be smoothed with the same process as rust removal).
  • Gate does not line up when closed.
  • Gate action does not return to closed position when opened and released.
  • Locking mechanism does not fully engage.
  • Complete history of use cannot be determined.
  • Wear indicators are worn beyond manufacturer’s recommendation.

If any of these conditions exist, the equipment should be removed from service and destroyed. Records of use and inspection should be kept on these items even though the service life of the product is infinite.

Service History:

Service History is an extremely important part of ensuring life safety equipment is properly maintained and that service life is not exceeded. Not only does this help rescue teams control inventory and operational capability of equipment by documenting each use and inspection, it also assists the teams in forecasting budget costs for the replacement of items that are nearing the end of their service life.

Maintaining records of the manufacturer’s information received when purchasing new equipment is vital to identifying and keeping track of the manufacture date. It is also important to keep this information on file for the exact procedures for inspecting and removing equipment from service.

Service history is an extremely important part of ensuring life safety equipment is properly maintained and that service life is not exceeded.

If the manufacture date of equipment, such as life safety rope and harnesses, cannot be identified; it poses extreme liability for agencies or facilities whose teams may potentially be operating with equipment that has passed its service life. It could also create a compromise in the safe operation of the equipment.

If record-keeping of equipment inspection and use is not a primary focus of an organization, it could potentially expose team members to operating with unsafe equipment due to abuse or excessive/extreme conditions that go undetected.

Gear Inspection:

All team members should be qualified and knowledgeable enough to perform pre- and post-use inspections of equipment. It is crucial that all members document each use of equipment, denote any deficiencies, and report to the proper person. One person should be designated to perform the competent person annual inspection. This person should have complete knowledge of the equipment and inspection procedures as well as the authority to keep or remove equipment from service as they see fit. If team members are unable to fill this role, a qualified third party with applicable manufacturer certifications in competent person inspection should be brought in to assist in determining the condition and estimated service life of rescue equipment.

For assistance from our Roco Rescue equipment professionals, call us at 800-647-7626.


Brad WarrBrad Warr is a Senior Chief Instructor for Roco Rescue. He joined Roco Rescue in 2003 and currently 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 Teams (CSRT), providing standby rescue services for plants, refineries and other industrial facilities. Brad became a firefighter for the Nampa (ID) Fire Department in 1998 and was promoted to Captain in 2006. He retired earlier this year. His responsibilities included training the department’s Heavy & Technical Rescue Team. Before joining the fire department, Brad worked as an Emergency Response Technician for a large manufacturer in Boise, where he was responsible for OSHA compliance, emergency medical response, confined space/rope rescue response and hazardous materials response.

Additional Resources

Gear Service Life Checklist 2023

Gear Inspection Checklist (download)

Cleaning Your Rope…Here’s What the Experts Have to Say

Guidelines for Permanent Marking of Rescue Hardware


What Does NFPA Have to Say about Confined Spaces? (Part 1)

Friday, September 1, 2023

NFPA 350 Cover The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has released the 2022 edition of NFPA 350 Guide for Safe Confined Space Entry and Work. Developed through a consensus standards development process and reviewed for approval by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), NFPA standards are afforded a place of immense importance in the world of emergency response.

In the world of confined space rescue--and confined space work in general—it has been OSHA’s 1910.146 that has been most revered in the 30 years since its promulgation. But confined space rescuers and workers have long recognized that 1910.146 is a minimum-requirement standard that contains gaps along with causing some confusion in the way it handles terminology.

The newly released NFPA 350 aspires to close these gaps, simplify terminology, and provide practices workers and rescuers can follow. NFPA 350 has been careful not to conflict with 1910.146, but rather seeks to establish “best practices and how-tos for confined space entry, translating what is required in regulations into practical approaches” for everyday use.

confined spaceAs NFPA standards go, one of the first things readers will notice is it is quite comprehensive and thus a very large standard. Regardless, everyone who has any dealings with confined space work should take the time to read and digest it in its entirety. In this article we will provide a high-level overview of the standard as it relates to confined space work and rescue in light of the content with which we are familiar in 1910.146.

A primary difference of NFPA 350 from 1910.146 is how it—NFPA 350—handles terminology. The standard acknowledges that when there is confusion over terminology, that can translate into mistakes in workplace safety. And as we all know, these kinds of mistakes can translate into worker injuries and deaths. This has been the case where organizations debated as to whether they were dealing with a “permit-required confined space” or a “non-permit space” as defined in 1910.146.

The standard stresses the importance of verifying the competency of the rescue services selected. It specifically warns against assuming that all rescue services are prepared for entry-type confined space rescue.

NFPA 350 kept it simple by calling everything a “confined space” that meets 1910.146’s definition of a confined space, irrespective of the presence of atmospheric, engulfment, or internal configuration hazards.

Because NFPA 350 essentially treats every confined space in the same manner that 1910.146 treats a permit-required confined space, the default recommendation is to perform air monitoring in all confined spaces prior to entry. In light of the continued rate of fatalities in confined spaces involving bad atmospheres, we at Roco feel this requirement is well warranted.

Supporting the requirement for atmospheric monitoring, the standard also introduces new roles for confined space entry teams—Gas Tester and Ventilation Specialist. The “Ventilation Specialist” is self-explanatory, but a “Gas Tester” is a “qualified person responsible for operating a gas monitor and able to interpret results for atmospheric monitoring.” The inclusion of “able to interpret results” is a key component of the standard. Without this, testing can be ineffective at best, and deadly at worst.

lotoIn addition to these new roles, the standard also directly addresses the hazards associated with lockout/tagout (or lack thereof), and the failure to blind or isolate with the role of Isolation Specialist. An “Isolation Specialist” is the “person responsible for protecting the confined space from the unwanted release of energy (electrical, mechanical, and/or hydraulic), as well as liquids, gases, chemicals, and other materials impacting upon the space.”

Rounding out the new roles is that of Standby Worker. A “Standby Worker” is a “person assigned to perform work in support of confined space operations.” The previous roles we are all familiar with from 1910.146—Entrant, Attendant, and Entry Supervisor—continue to be included on the confined space entry team.

A unique feature of NFPA 350 is that, along with these new roles, instruction—or “how to” guidance—is included. We consider this to be a major plus for anyone involved in confined space work. The standard provides valuable information on air monitoring, including selecting, calibrating, and using air monitors to test a confined space. And it also stresses the value of ventilation by describing the various types of ventilation devices and their configurations.

qualified rescue service5While most of the standard is focused on keeping workers safe and preventing accidents, everyone is cognizant that as long as workers enter confined spaces, there will be accidents where rescue is required. The standard describes both non-entry rescue and entry-type rescue. Regardless of the method selected, the standard stresses the importance of verifying the competency of the rescue services selected. It specifically warns against assuming that all rescue services are prepared for entry-type confined space rescue.

NFPA 350 states that “[t]he degree and rapidity of response should be driven principally by the anticipated hazards.” To this end, it recognizes three levels, or tiers, of rescue response:

Tier Graphic

NFPA 350 is a very comprehensive standard and even delves into topics such as “Prevention through Design (PtD)” which seeks to prevent confined space emergencies through better design. Those with responsibilities involving confined space work or rescue are well advised to give it a read when you have the chance.

In this article, we reviewed the standard in broad strokes. In the follow up Part 2 Article, we will drill down more with a focus purely on the rescue aspect of the standard.


Additional Resources

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