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Q&A: Respiratory Equipment in Rescue Settings

Monday, June 10, 2024

Q&A_4.22QUESTION: How often should respiratory protection equipment be inspected, cleaned, and replaced in an industrial rescue setting?


That's a great question! While OSHA’s 1910.134 – Respiratory Protection Standard doesn't provide a specific schedule for inspection, cleaning, and replacement, it does emphasize the need for you and your company to create one. This schedule should follow the manufacturer's guidelines for your specific respiratory protection equipment. Remember that this is a general guide and not specific to your equipment.

"Always refer to the manufacturer's guidelines for the best results."

EntryHalf-face respirators are a type of protective gear that covers the nose and mouth. They use replaceable filters or cartridges to remove contaminants from the air. These respirators are ideal for environments with moderate levels of airborne hazards. Some of the places where half-face respirators are commonly used include manufacturing plants where workers are exposed to moderate levels of airborne particulates like dust, pollen, or metal fumes, as well as laboratories where there is a risk of exposure to low concentrations of hazardous chemicals or solvents during handling or mixing processes. When using half-face respirators, it is vital to inspect the facepiece for cracks, tears, or distortion. The condition of the straps or head harness should also be checked for elasticity and proper adjustment. Additionally, the inhalation and exhalation valves should be examined for any signs of damage or deterioration and inspect the filter or cartridge connections to ensure they are securely attached without any leaks.

Full-face respirators are designed to provide both respiratory and eye protection. They cover the entire face and offer superior protection against gases, vapors, and particulates. These devices are particularly useful in workplaces where workers are exposed to chemicals or toxic fumes, such as chemical processing plants or industrial painting operations. Inspection should involve checking the entire facepiece for any cracks, scratches, or damage that could compromise its integrity. The condition of the head harness and straps should also be assessed to ensure that they are intact and adjustable. Additionally, the respirator's lens should be inspected for scratches, fogging, or other impairments affecting visibility. Finally, test the operation of the inhalation and exhalation valves to ensure that they open and close correctly. 

shutterstock_1427137544Self-contained breathing Apparatus (SCBAs) offer the highest level of respiratory protection and are utilized in environments where the air is immediately dangerous to life or health (IDLH). They include a full-face mask connected to a compressed air cylinder worn on the back.  SCBAs are commonly used in confined spaces like storage tanks, sewers, or underground tunnels where there is a risk of oxygen deficiency or the presence of toxic gases. They are also used in firefighting operations where firefighters need respiratory protection in environments with high levels of smoke, heat, and toxic gases.

Before using SCBAs, it is important to inspect the facepiece, head harness, and straps for any signs of damage or wear. Additionally, check the cylinder for dents, corrosion, or any other signs of damage. Inspect the regulator, pressure gauge, and other components to ensure they are functioning properly. Finally, make sure that the emergency bypass valve is operating correctly.

SARCoursePicSupplied Air Respirators (SARs) are devices that deliver clean air from an external source, such as an air compressor or compressed air cylinder, to the wearer's mask or hood. These respirators are commonly used in environments with limited oxygen or high concentrations of contaminants. SARs can be particularly useful in welding operations where workers require a continuous supply of clean air to protect against metal fumes and welding gases. 

To ensure that SARs function correctly, it is crucial to inspect the airline hose for cuts, kinks, or abrasions. Additionally, it is vital to check the connections between the respirator and the air supply source for leaks. Furthermore, ensuring that the regulator and pressure gauge are functioning correctly is crucial. Finally, verifying that the air supply source provides clean, breathable air is essential to the safe and effective use of SARs.

"It all comes down to this… The human body takes about 20,000 breaths per day. How much do you trust your equipment with one of those breaths?"

brannon headshot copyBrannon Aaron, ASP, NRP is an Associate Safety Professional through the Board of Certified Safety Professionals and a Nationally Registered Paramedic who works as a Safety Specialist and CSRT Crew Chief at Roco Rescue. Brannon has an extensive military background as well as years of experience in Pre-hospital Emergency Medical Services and emergency response settings. 



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Q&A: Fall Arrest vs. Fall Restraint

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

What's the difference between a fall arrest and a fall restraint system, and in what situations should each be used? Are there any regulations or best practices to follow? 



FallProPoster-03Fall Arrest vs. Fall Restraint: 

A fall arrest system is designed to stop a fall that is already occurring. It includes components such as a full-body harness, a lanyard, and a secure anchorage point, all aiming to safely catch the worker if they fall, minimizing injury during the deceleration process. In contrast, a fall restraint system prevents the worker from reaching a point where a fall could occur. This system involves a tether attached to a worker's harness, restricting movement to a safe distance from the edge. 

Minimum Requirements vs. Industry Best Practices: 

OSHA regulations are considered minimum requirements and govern both fall arrest and fall restraint systems, ensuring they meet the baseline for strength, durability, and performance. For fall arrest systems, these requirements specify a maximum arresting force of 1,800 pounds when using a body harness and necessitate anchorage points capable of withstanding at least 5,000 pounds of force. Additionally, these regulations limit the maximum deceleration distance to 3.5 feet and the maximum free fall distance to 6 feet. 

The standards found in ANSI Z359 are generally considered industry best practices and provide more comprehensive guidelines for both types of systems. For fall arrest systems, they outline specifications for each component, including design, testing, and compatibility requirements. They emphasize using energy-absorbing lanyards to reduce arresting force, require harnesses to evenly distribute forces across the body, and insist on proper maintenance schedules to ensure continued performance. For fall restraint systems, industry best practices focus on prevention, recommending adjustable tethers and lanyards to limit workers' reach and ensuring all components are rated for their intended use and compatible with each other. They also outline regular inspection and maintenance requirements to ensure system reliability.

fallpro2Choosing Between Fall Arrest and Fall Restraint: 

The choice between a fall arrest or fall restraint system depends on the work environment and the tasks being performed. If it's possible to completely prevent a fall by using a restraint system, this is often the preferred approach due to its preventive nature. However, in situations where workers must work near or beyond the edge of a fall hazard, and restraint is not feasible, fall arrest systems are necessary. 

For example, in rooftop maintenance, where workers are scheduled to perform routine checks on HVAC units and solar panels on the top of a building, a fall restraint system may be preferred. The workers use a tether attached to their harnesses, anchored to points on the roof, restricting their movement and preventing them from reaching the roof's edge or getting too close to skylights or other openings. In contrast, in steel framework construction, where workers are assembling a new steel structure for an extension of the facility, a fall arrest system might be necessary. This task involves maneuvering across beams at significant heights, climbing ladders, and working near edges. A fall arrest system allows this flexibility while providing safety, catching workers if they fall, and minimizing injury during the deceleration process. 

By distinguishing between fall arrest and fall restraint systems and understanding both minimum requirements and industry best practices, workers and employers can take proactive steps to mitigate the risks of working at heights. The goal is to stop falls, ensuring every worker returns home safely at the end of the day.  

Warrick headshot copy Chris Warrick, NRP is a Nationally Registered Paramedic, Confined Space Rescue Technician, and EMS educator who serves as Medical Program Manager at Roco Rescue. 


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Q&A: The Role of Spine Boards in Rescue

Friday, April 26, 2024

What is the role of a spine board in emergency medical response, specifically when dealing with confined space and high-angle rescues?


NOTICE: It is extremely important to follow local protocols in providing emergency medical care.


For many years, spine boards have been a staple in emergency medical responses for moving and transporting patients with suspected spinal injuries. In rescue operations, spine boards do an excellent job of immobilizing the patient as well as providing a means of transporting the patient from one location to another.

The mindset of always using a backboard may not be the best for every patient - in fact, there is a risk of harm. 

www.rocorescue.comwp-contentuploads2019082012_Chal_h_114Studies in emergency medicine have brought a critical perspective to the use of spine boards. While they are indispensable in certain situations, these studies highlight the negative effects of prolonged immobilization on a hard surface. Issues such as pressure sores, discomfort, and breathing problems have been reported, suggesting that the use of spine boards should be carefully considered and not automatically applied to all EMS cases.  

The approach to using spine boards is becoming more selective and nuanced. Medical professionals now advocate for a protocol known as "Spinal Motion Restriction," which tailors the immobilization method to the specifics of the injury and the rescue context. This might involve using devices like C-collars or employing techniques that minimize movement without the complete rigidity of a spine board, especially if the rescue scenario allows for careful handling. 

Team protocols and procedures should stress the importance of not causing additional harm through interventions.

The decision to use a spine board should be based on a thorough assessment of the injury, the patient's condition, and the rescue environment. Especially due to research that indicates unnecessary use may lead to complications that could potentially outweigh the benefits.

In rescue, spine boards still provide an excellent means of securing a sick or injured patient. It provides a rigid means of transport offering protection of the patient's neck and back. This can be particularly vital in scenarios like high-angle rescues or extractions from confined spaces, where the risk of challenging movements is significant. rescue compliance

While spine boards are a critical tool in certain rescue operations, their use should be judicious and tailored to each unique situation. As emergency response techniques evolve, so will the strategies for spinal protection, ensuring that patient safety and outcome remain at the forefront of rescue operations.  

Additional Q&A Resources

Q&A: Energy Absorber Systems and Safety Lines

Thursday, April 25, 2024

Q&A: Energy Absorber Systems and Safety LinesREADER QUESTION: 
Is an energy absorber system needed on the safety line to help limit the impact forces should the belay system be engaged to arrest the falling load?


Since we first answered this question here on our site, twin tensioned systems have become more and more popular. However, many rescue teams still employ traditional untensioned belay systems, which can still be effective. Therefore, familiarity with proper use is essential.

Additionally, modern equipment has provided an alternative option somewhat between the twin tensioned and untensioned methods: the “tight” belay system.

When using a “tight” belay system, such as an anchored ASAP, the shock absorber is incorporated into the anchor. This is still categorized as an untensioned safety line rather than twin tensioned system, but the rigging makes it easier for operators to keep the line tighter and minimize the potential free fall distance.

If your team has adopted use of twin tension systems, then the energy absorber may be a moot point for you. These twin tension systems ensure that both lines are under load at all times. This eliminates the free fall potential – if one fails, you have a load transfer (on a tensioned line) rather than a shock load.

Roco trains with all three types: traditional untensioned safety lines, “tight” belay systems and twin tension main/belay. In the untensioned belay systems, we do indeed incorporate an energy absorber (shock) on the end of the line.

Whichever system your team uses will be up to you. If you choose to use an untensioned safety line, OSHA and ANSI each may have a role to play in guiding what equipment you use.

While OSHA does not address specifics when it comes to rescue systems, there is some overlap from the OSHA as well as the ANSI standards that is helpful when considering the belay system during rescue. 

NFPA 1006 Standard for Technical Rescue Personnel Professional Qualifications, sections 5.2.9 through 5.2.11, provides guidance for the construction of a belay (safety line) system. Specifically, the 5.2.11 objective statement calls for the belay system to ensure “the fall is arrested in a manner that minimizes the force transmitted to the load.” The annex information adds: “Belay systems are a component of single-tensioned rope systems that apply a tensioned main system on which the entire load is suspended and a non-tensioned system with minimal slack (belay) designed, constructed, and operated to arrest a falling load in the event of a main system malfunction or failure. 

While these traditional systems used for lowering and raising are in common use, two-tensioned rope systems can also be used to suspend the load while maintaining near equal tension on each rope, theoretically reducing the fall distance and shock force in the event of a singular rope failure. To be effective, two-tensioned rope systems must utilize devices that will compensate appropriately for the immediate transfer of additional force associated with such failures.”

Additionally, the NFPA 1006 definition of belay is “The method by which a potential fall distance is controlled to minimize damage to equipment and/or injury to a live load.” And Annex information “This method can be accomplished by a second line in a raise or lowering system or by managing a single line with a friction device in fixed-rope ascent or descent. Belays also protect personnel exposed to the risk of falling who are not otherwise attached to the rope rescue system."

So, where can OSHA help in all of this? OSHA requires the maximum force of a fall arrest system not to exceed 1,800 pounds. ANSI is more protective and requires arresting forces not to exceed 900 pounds. NFPA does not state what the arresting forces need to be limited to, but the performance measurement is to “minimize damage to equipment and/or injury to a live load.” OSHA and ANSI have already done the homework on this and stated their performance requirements. One proven way to meet NFPA 1006 as well as OSHA and ANSI requirements is to incorporate an energy absorber in the belay (fall arrest) system. Whether 1,800 pounds or the ANSI required 900 pounds is appropriate, or if you use a two tensioned system, this is up to your AHJ. 

Your Rescue Gear Will Soon Have New NFPA Markings

Monday, March 13, 2023

NFPA has started a process of grouping related standards into one volume. For example, it has now grouped NFPA 1983, 1858, and 1670 into one volume, NFPA 2500, “Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents and Life Safety Rope and Equipment for Emergency Services.”

NFPA 2500

So, NFPA 2500 will include all three of these standards. However, NPFA 1006 “Professional Qualifications for Technical Rescuers” still remains a separate document.

PMI LogoAccording to a blog post by CEO Loui McCurley of PMI, one of the most noticeable changes will probably be on equipment that will now be marked with NFPA 2500 instead of NFPA 1983. NFPA has decided to include the old standard numbers as a reference. For example, equipment previously would have been marked:

                                    NFPA 1983 (2017 ED)

It will now look more like this…

                                    NFPA 2500 (1983) 2022 ED

There will be a “G”, “T” or “E” to indicate General Use, Technical Use or Escape.

The big change is that as of Spring 2023, manufacturers must stop selling equipment marked to the 2017 edition of 1983. Retailers will still be able to sell the equipment until their stocks are depleted.

Your next question might be, “Will users be required to switch to the new NFPA 2500 marked equipment?” Or, “When must I stop using NFPA 1983 marked equipment?”

There is no NFPA requirement that says you have to use or buy equipment meeting the most current version of any standard. Ms. McCurley indicates that the good news is that there were not significant technical changes to the standard, so most all equipment properly certified to NFPA 1983 (2017) will also meet the NFPA 2500 (2022) standard.

NFPA new markings


Thank you to Loui McCurley, CEO of PMI, for providing the reference material here. Several videos about this topic are available at www.pmirope.com.


Additional Resources

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