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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Chad Roberson Named Interim Director of Training

Friday, March 29, 2019
“My drive is to help us get better.”
Growing up in a small northern Louisiana town, Chad Roberson admits he was “around the fire service a lot.” His father was a volunteer firefighter and from a young age, Chad understood what a life of service looked like. From age 16, Chad served as a volunteer firefighter at the same department where his father worked. After earning his bachelor’s degree from Louisiana State University, Chad became a full-time firefighter with the St. George Fire Protection District.

Chad excelled in the Fire District, working his way up to Captain, District Chief, and eventually Assistant Chief – the role he serves today. He also returned to school for two additional degrees: an associate degree in Fire Science from Louisiana State University and a Masters in Executive Fire Service Leadership from Grand Canyon University.Chad Roberson Named Interim Director of Training

Chad’s first introduction to Roco Rescue was as a student in the mid-1990s, when he took a training course funded by his fire department. After taking a few more courses, his instructors invited him to apply for a job, and he began his career journey with Roco Rescue working part-time on one of the company’s contracted safety and rescue teams.

In 2001, Chad completed an instructor development course and has been teaching for Roco Rescue ever since. In 2007, he was promoted to Chief Instructor and now serves as the Interim Director of Training.

A Career Steeped in Service
In his role at Roco Rescue, Chad draws heavily from his experience with the St. George Fire Protection District, where he leads technical rescue operations, manages vehicle, trench, structural collapse, rope, confined space, flood water, and boat rescue, as well as hazardous materials training. His exposure to technical rescue on the municipal side has benefitted his work at Roco Rescue. In his new role as Interim Director of Training he oversees all aspects of the training program, including instructor recruitment and development, curriculum updates, assessment and evaluation of both new equipment and new rescue techniques, and modifications to the Roco Training Center. He also spends a significant amount of time speaking with customers about course content, private training and custom classes.

His experience with the Fire District has also enhanced his people management skills. “When it comes down to managing people, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re in,” he says. “Management, leadership and supervision all go hand in hand. I’ve had a number of great mentors and role models, and the things I’ve learned at the fire department have been very useful to me at Roco Rescue, and vice versa.”

It is especially important, he says, to develop the ability to teach to a broad range of learning styles. “Everybody has a different learning style,” he says. “To be a successful instructor you have to understand this and be able to step back and think of different approaches; you’ve got to be versatile in your communication style and method.”

"Our instructors at Roco Rescue are especially skilled at recognizing and adapting to each student’s learning style,” says Chad, “and this is a key factor that sets us apart. It exemplifies how we care about our students and work hard to help them become great rescuers. It starts at the top, with the leadership style and the example Miss Kay sets. We treat everyone like family, whether we are training a team, doing a refresher course for a long-time customer, or providing a service at an industrial plant.”

Chad also cites the instructors’ willingness to encourage students to problem-solve and be versatile in their approach to performing a rescue, as something that differentiates Roco Rescue. “There are multiple ways to get things done,” he says. “There is no one correct way to do a rescue. But you need to make sure it’s an efficient process. We tell our students, ‘this is just one way to get it done.’ That sets us apart as a company as well.”

His “Why”
When asked why he has devoted his entire career to rescue, Chad’s answer is simple. “My drive is to help us get better,” he says.

“In Louisiana, we’ve seen so many natural disasters. And when that happens, you really see the areas for improvement and the need to help people out. Managing the incidents and being involved in process improvement to make rescues more successful and efficient – that’s my drive.”

What’s Ahead
Currently Chad’s priority is to expand Roco Rescue’s instructor base; a large part of his time is spent implementing strategies to search for and train the best of the best to join the team. He will also be playing a significant role in planning the annual Roco Rescue Challenge, a team performance evaluation in which rescuers put their skills to the test in a variety of realistic, hands-on scenarios.  

Keeping up to date on developments in rescue technology and evaluating equipment to ensure it is optimized for both comfort and safety is one of the most critical parts of his job. “Technology is driving just about every industry worldwide, and it’s no different in the rescue business or with the equipment we use,” he says. 
 
Finally, he is excited about finding new and better ways to listen to the voice of the customer in order to keep improving everything Roco does. 

Chad is trained extensively in executive leadership and planning, technical rescue operations, hazardous materials management, and more. He holds a COSS (Certified Occupational Safety Specialist) certification and a CFO (Chief Fire Officer designation). He is a certified EMT and is certified by the American Heart Association in Basic Life Support. He received accolades from the St. George Fire Protection District as Chief Officer of the Year in 2016 and a Unit Commendation Award in 2014. He is also a sought-after speaker, having presented at first responder training conferences nationwide, and his work has been published in a variety of national publications.

In his spare time, Chad enjoys spending time with his two young sons, coaching their basketball teams, and taking them on trips to visit family. He attends St. Jude Catholic Church in Baton Rouge, and he is a big fan of the LSU Tigers.
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Roco Rescue Safety Officer Pat Furr Named Duane Kuehn Outstanding Safety Professional

Monday, February 25, 2019

Pat Furr, VPP Coordinator/Safety Officer and Technical Consultant for Roco Rescue, was honored last Friday with the North Dakota Safety Council's Duane Kuehn Outstanding Safety Professional award, the organization's top honor.
Roco Rescue Safety Officer Pat Furr Named Duane Kuehn Outstanding Safety Professional

Over the course of his career, Pat has worn and continues to wear a variety of hats but his favorite role, he says, is sharing what he's learned about rescue and safety with an audience through a variety of platforms, from the written word to presentations at industry conferences. "If I can communicate my experiences to those who listen, I feel I am able to keep them safe," Furr says.

Please join us in congratulating Pat on this prestigious honor


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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You Get What You Pay For

Saturday, December 15, 2018
by Pat Furr, Safety Officer & VPP Coordinator 

You Get What You Pay ForIntroduction: According to the Chemical Safety Board “Contractor Safety Digest,” the agency has conducted several fatal investigations where insufficient safety requirements for contractor selection and oversight were found to be causal to the incidents.

The incident that caught our attention in particular was one involving confined spaces that occurred in Georgetown, CO, in 2007, in which five contract workers were killed. The company later adopted the CSB’s recommendations to include:

• Prequalifying or disqualifying contractors based on specific safety performance measures; and,
• Requiring a comprehensive review and evaluation of contractor safety policies and safety performance of contractors working in confined spaces.


The CSB also emphasized that a strong contractor selection process and contractor oversight policy helps to ensure quality work and that worker safety is maintained. Because of this, various industry organizations have developed recommended practices and safety criteria for selecting and prequalifying contractors. For example, the Construction Users Roundtable (CURT) lists staff qualifications, accident history, a contractor’s safety program, and an owner’s previous experience as potential criteria for safety prequalification of a contractor. 
 
Roco Comments: We couldn’t agree more. Safety performance must always be at the forefront. With more and more companies coming to rely on contractors to deliver both goods and services, this critical factor cannot be underestimated. Every situation differs, but the trend is undeniable, contractors are taking a bigger and bigger bite of the pie.

Many times, there are sound reasons for contracting out some of the work at a facility. It may be a reduction in costs such as employee benefits and workman’s compensation, a unique service or product that the host company just cannot deliver in-house, or it may be that the service or product is only needed for a short period of time. No matter what your reasons for considering a contractor, there are many factors to consider in addition to the lowest price bid.

You Get What You Pay ForThat old adage “You get what you pay for,” holds a lot of truth in so many instances, and especially so with contractors. Now I am not saying that you will never get high quality at a low price, but it is rare. When you put a job out for bid, it is important to list the specifications for the work or product that you need the bidders to meet, but equally as important is to list other specifications besides the job or product scope, and one of these specifications is safety.

As bids come in, don’t settle for the lowest bid until you have compared the bids to ensure all the specifications you have laid out are met. This is called “down select.” Cull out all the bidders that fail to meet your critical specifications, and one of the most critical is proven safety. If a bidding contractor refuses to submit their safety information as requested, then my recommendation is to cull them out of the running. Additionally, if a contractor has a safety record that falls short of your stated specifications, they should also be culled out unless they are able to satisfy your follow up questions to show extenuating circumstances.

So how do we determine if a bidding contractor is performing safely or not? Well, one measure is to request their OSHA recordable rates along with their NAICS or SIC codes. Then look up their Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) NAICS code rates to see if they are above or below their industry average. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. Several hiring clients require potential contactors to complete prequalification questionnaires that will dig deeper into that contractor’s performance record and current operations and programs.

Another option is to subscribe to one of the online contractor management and compliance database sites. These sites act as clearinghouses that collect contractor compliance, safety programs, insurance, and other valuable information in a one-stop shopping format. 
 
You Get What You Pay ForA hiring client can rely on the various sites to set default requirements for the type of work they need and the associated criteria that must be met, or the hiring client can modify or specify custom needs that must be met. The scoring for potential contractors typically is graded on some sort of easy to view scale such as green-meets all requirements, yellow-meets most requirements but falls short on one or more non-critical criteria, or red-fails to meet basic or critical criteria. Some score it like school grades A, B, C, D, F.

The advantage of these types of contractor management compliance vetting sites is they have access to a huge database of potential contractors and provide a quick and easy platform for narrowing the field. Of course, once a hiring client has narrowed the field down to a manageable level, it is always prudent to perform a more targeted interview of a potential contractor – and, focusing on safety, is one of the most important considerations! 
 
By taking the steps to evaluate potential contractors not only for their ability to deliver the goods or services you require, but also learning about their past and current safety record and programs just makes good sense. It is also an excellent means of demonstration not only due diligence, but ultimately settling on a contractor that will most likely perform safely at your facility.

You Get What You Pay ForWell, there is another old adage that goes like this “Who pays the piper, calls the tune.” Once you have engaged with a contractor, it is imperative that they understand your expectations regarding safety and accept that as part of the job performance. This is the time to ensure that not only legislated safety requirements are met, but also any hiring client safety policies that may exceed OSHA are also explained and understood.

So, you have settled on the contractor and are ready for them to begin work at your facility, or to deliver product. For the product, it is a matter of quality control and ensuring any certifications that you require are met. But when a contractor comes to your facility to begin work, it is important to provide adequate monitoring of the contractor to ensure they are meeting all of your requirements, especially when it comes to safety. Don’t forget that as a hiring client you have responsibilities not only for your employees’ safety, but to a certain degree the safety of the contractor’s employees. If the contractor employees are exposed to a hazard that you as the host employer created or control, then there are certainly liabilities that you must consider. Because of this, it is very important to develop and follow a program for monitoring the work activities and safety performance of ALL employees on your site, both your employees and any contractor employees.

 
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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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Successful Engulfment Rescue in Iowa

Monday, November 26, 2018

Successful Engulfment Rescue in IowaOur congratulations to the Burlington (Iowa) Fire Department on a successful grain bin rescue that happened in their community back in May of this year (2018). The incident was reported on Firehouse.com.

The Burlington Fire Department responded to an incident with a man trapped up to his neck inside a corn grain bin in a rural area. Upon arriving at the scene, the initial ambulance unit spoke with the victim’s son who told them that his father was buried up to his armpits inside the bin. The son had thrown a rope down to his father to prevent slipping further down into the corn. Fortunately, the victim remained calm and was able to communicate with the responders.

The bin, designed to hold up to 30,000 bushels of corn, was two thirds full on that morning.
Responders used a Res-Q-Throw Disc typically used in water rescue to lower an O2 bag with an attached non-rebreather mask to the victim.

As additional response vehicles arrived on scene, proper positioning of the apparatus was critical in assisting the rescue. The department’s aerial truck was positioned in a narrow lane between two grain bins and a barn where the aerial was deployed by the crew. The aerial was initially raised to the roof level where crews (two firefighters and two deputies) had assembled including the victim’s son.
To reduce weight on the roof of the structure, one of the deputies and the son came down from the structure.
Crews soon realized that the only way to rescue the gentleman was to set up a rope system and lower a responder into the bin. The aerial was put in place to assist this operation. An incident command vehicle was set up a short distance behind the aerial, offering excellent visibility to the Incident Commander.

Rescue equipment was gathered from various apparatus to include main and secondary life safety ropes as well as other needed gear. Pulleys were attached to the manufactured anchor points on the bottom of the aerial platform. A change-of-direction pulley was fixed to the front of the aerial truck directing the pulling action of the rope to a large grassy area in front of the truck. The main line was rigged with a 5:1 system while the secondary line was rigged with a 2:1 system. CMC MPDs were used as the descent-control device for both lines. On-scene personnel reportedly highly praised these devices.

A firefighter donned a Class III-harness to be lowered through a small opening in the top of the bin to the surface level of the corn, which was approximately 25 feet below. The aerial platform was positioned above the opening and remaining personnel on the room tended the lines. These personnel also assisted in lowering equipment down to the rescuer via a rope.

As part of the equipment being lowered were several milk crates and soda bottom flats, which became an essential part of the operation by distributing the rescuer’s weight on the corn. These crates, positioned in a horse-shoe pattern around the victim, allowed the rescuer to walk across the surface of the corn. A truck belt was lowered into the bin and was positioned around the victim’s chest. It remained attached to the secondary line to prevent the victim from slipping down further into the corn.

Finally, a six-paneled grain rescue tube was lowered into the bin panel by panel. Each panel was placed around the victim and then hammed into place with a TMT Rescue tool. The panels were fastened together to form a solid tube. When secured, the tube protected the victim from shifting corn and relieved some of the pressure being exert on him.
Throughout the process, the ground team kept the rescuer on a short leash to prevent him from falling into the grain himself.

A 4-gas atmospheric monitor with an extra-long sampling tube was used to test the air inside the bin to make sure the rescuer and victim were not in an IDLH atmosphere. The meter was monitored continuously throughout the rescue operation by fire personnel who was positioned on an extension ladder on the exterior of the bin near the opening. He also functioned as a safety officer for operations inside the bin and on the roof and relayed communications for the rescuer inside the space.

A neighboring fire department had brought a special grain rescue auger that was lowered into the bin. The rescuer inserted the auger inside the rescue tube and slowly removed the corn from around the victim’s chest. After the tube was secured around the victim, the IC had called for two relief cuts to be made in the bin – one cut near the victim and the other directly opposite it on the other side of the bin, which was used to empty the bin of corn. Crews used K-12 saws to cut a large triangular opening in the bin wall. The second opening was made by forcing open a door in the side of the bin near the victim. These doors, which swung inward, could only be opened after a significant amount of grain spilled from the cut made on the other side of the bin.

Local road crews which had been on site brought a large-end loader and a smaller skid loading to the scene and used them to push large amount of corn away from the openings in the walls, which enabled a continuous flow of corn.

In approximately 2-1/4 hours after crews arrived on scene, the victim was able to walk from the bin. He refused air transport but consented to ground ambulance transport where he was treated for minor injuries.

Again, our congratulations to the Burlington Fire Department as well as all the agencies involved in making this a successful rescue.

Notes:
The department noted several lessons learned which include:

• Grain bin rescue is a high hazard, low frequency event. The department recognized the importance of its training in ropes and rope operations as well as training with specialized rescue equipment.
• It was determined that the roofs of the grain bins hold far less weight than originally surmised.
• The aerial platform was a key factor in the rescue operation. It was used as an anchor point and for staging equipment. Physical limitations and maximum load-bearing capability must be carefully considered and even more especially when ropes are being utilized. Weight and angles of the aerial must be factored into the operation.

Source: www.Firehouse.com

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