Is Your Rescue Team Ready?

Monday, July 23, 2018

Guidance for improving and maintaining rescue team proficiency...

Is Your Rescue Team Ready?
We all want to succeed, no matter what we are doing. And success is always better than the alternatives…whether a mediocre performance or worse yet, failure. When it comes to rescue, all of a sudden, the difference between success and failure takes on much greater significance.Not only are the lives of the rescue subjects held in the balance, but also the rescuers. Multiple risks are involved with technical rescue and failure may cost the rescuers mightily, and this has been proven too many times. There are many things, however, that rescuers can do to help improve their chances of success, and that's what we will talk about here. 
 

We have found that the one thing that seems to be a lagging factor is a "lack of proficiency" in performing the required skills either as individuals or as a team. Having rescue preplans, the newest and best equipment, sufficient manning, and reliable communications are all pieces of the puzzle. But all of that becomes nothing more than window-dressing if the team or individuals on the team are unable to perform their duties safely and effectively. This is such an important consideration that several regulations and standards make a point to remind us that proficiency is a high-interest issue. 

For instance, OSHA 1910.146 paragraph K and Appendix F, as well as 1926.1211, require designated rescuers to practice making permit space rescues at least once every 12 months by means of simulated rescue operations in which they remove dummies, manikins, or actual persons from the actual permit spaces or from representative permit spaces. It is our position that this does not even come close to the training time needed to maintain an appropriate level of proficiency. 

Additionally, NFPA 1006 requires rescuers to demonstrate competency on an annual basis. One of NFPA’s recommendations is to attend workshops and seminars, read professional publications, and participate in refresher training as ways technical rescue personnel can update their knowledge and skills. 

I am routinely asked how often a rescue team should practice. And they're always a bit surprised when I do not give them a hard and fast answer such as quarterly or monthly for a minimum of 4 hours. My answer is and will always be, “as often as it takes to ensure you are proficient, as individuals and as a team, to safely and effectively rescue potential victims from any situation you may be called to respond.”

Is Your Rescue Team Ready?

You would be amazed at the spectrum of training schedules that are out there. Some teams practice on a bi-weekly basis and mix in different scenarios to ensure they will not miss any opportunities to improve their skills or to identify any gaps they may have in technique or equipment. Whereas other teams may feel that once a year is all that they need. Knowing how perishable these skills are, we tend to disagree.

It has been our experience that the teams who practice on a very regular basis and really mix it up when they design their training scenarios are the ones who perform best when they come to our facility or we go to theirs for a team performance evaluation (TPE), which can also include an individual performance evaluation (IPE), if desired. The teams and individuals that struggle most during our TPE/IPE visits are the ones that seldom train. And, even though we all call these TPE/IPE visits, we do provide tips and spot training to help correct any deficiencies observed. 

But frequency is no guarantee of excellent performance. It isn’t just about the quantity of training; it must be the quality of training as well. One of the best ways to supplement in-house training is to attend third party refresher training. Or, if it has been a while since a full-on training class, by all means a more extensive and complete training package may be a great option. Roco's annual Rescue Challenge provides an excellent learning experience as well as a way to confirm the true rescue capabilities of your team. 

Technical rescue skills are one of the most perishable skills I have known. Without regular practice and quality training, it is not long before the individual and team skills erode to the point of becoming a liability to the victim and to other team members.

Again, none of us wants to fail - especially on a rescue mission. A good way to avoid this is to dedicate adequate resources to training along with regular refreshers and practice drills. Prepare and practice for your "worst case" scenarios because you just never know when your team may be put to the test. Be ready!

Written by Pat Furr, VPP Coordinator for Roco Rescue, Inc.

Pat FurrAbout the Author:
Pat Furr has been employed with Roco since 2000 and has been actively involved with technical rescue since 1981. Pat is a Chief Instructor for Roco as well as its VPP Coordinator and Safety Officer. He is also a presenter at national conferences such as ASSE and VPPPA. Prior to Roco, Pat served 20 years in the USAF as a Pararescueman (PJ). His background includes eight years as a member of the 71st Pararescue team in Anchorage, Alaska, where he specialized in mountain and glacier rescue. Pat was a team leader of the 1986 and 1988 PJ teams that summited Mt. McKinley and augmented the National Park Service mountain rescue team. He also spent two tours of duty in Iceland where he put in multiple “first ascent” ice routes.


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Confined Space Dangers in Pesticide Tanks

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Confined Space Dangers in Pesticide TanksFederal OSHA and other OSHA State Plans do a good job of providing updates on newly recognized hazards in the workplace, as well as reminding us of existing hazards. We need to heed this information as it takes lessons learned the hardest way, and shares it for others that work in the same or similar environments.  No matter what industry our employees are performing their jobs, the fact remains, we are all humans and will suffer the same consequences of exposure to hazards no matter if we are in construction, general, agricultural, or any other industry. 


Often times there are significant differences in the OSHA regulations for identical hazards from one industry to another.  For instance, the height threshold for requiring fall protection in general industry is four feet, whereas the threshold in construction industry is six feet.  Are construction employees able to withstand the impact of a fall better than a general industry worker?  No, the main reason for the difference was due to the rules making process and dialog between OSHA and the industry stakeholders.

If you were to spend some time reading OSHA’s agricultural regulations, you will find that you won’t need much time.  They are pretty lean.  But there is one very important OSHA regulation that must be considered, and that is Section 5 (a)(1), General Duty Clause. 

If a recognized hazard is not addressed in an industry specific regulation, the General Duty Clause is there to protect the employees and the employer MUST comply with it.

For now, there are many instances in the agricultural industry that have no specific regulation addressing the various hazards and thus the General Duty Clause is very important to remember.

Confined spaces are areas large enough for a worker to enter and perform work, have a limited or restricted means of entry or exit; and are not designed for continuous employee occupancy. The following quote is from OSHA Fatal Facts publication No. 16-2018 and provides clear expectations for protecting employees where no specific industry regulation exists. The purpose of this Fatal Facts is to highlight the importance of identifying confined spaces in agricultural workplaces to prevent another fatality.

"The General Duty Clause requires employers to provide employees with workplaces, including confined spaces, which are free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Agricultural opera­tions are covered by several Occupational Safety and Health standards including Agriculture (29 CFR 1928) and parts of General Industry (29 CFR 1910), as well as the General Duty Clause of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (section 5(a)(1)). OSHA’s confined spaces standard at 29 C.F.R. 1910.146 does not apply to agricultural operations, but serves as a guide for how to prevent these accidents.”

Comments on this story were made by Pat Furr, Safety Officer & VPP Coordinator for Roco Rescue, Inc.

Resources:
Washington State DOL and OSH
Safety+Health Magazine

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Is Your Competent Person a “Trench” Competent Person?

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Is Your Competent Person a “Trench” Competent Person? OSHA’s Agency Priority Goal for 2018 aims to reduce trenching and excavation hazards. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, excavation and trench-related fatalities in 2016 were nearly double the average of the previous five years. OSHA’s goal is to increase awareness of trenching hazards in construction, educate employers and workers on safe cave-in prevention solutions, and decrease the number of trench collapses.

OSHA plans to issue public service announcements, support the National Utility Contractors Association’s 2018 Trench Safety Stand Down, update online resources on trench safety, and work with other industry associations and public utility companies to create an effective public-private effort to save lives. OSHA’s trenching and excavation national emphasis program is also currently under revision. For more information on trench safety, visit OSHA’s safety health topics page.

Comments by Dennis O'Connell, Roco Director of Training & Chief Instructor

Over the past few years, Roco has made trench safety a priority goal by dedicating more than 15 articles on this website as well as a podcast to trench-related subjects in an attempt to increase awareness for trench safety and rescue just as OSHA is for 2018.

One area we have identified where facilities may be in violation is having personnel who are not “trench” competent persons sign off on trenches. Many times, the company representative is a “Confined Space Competent Person” or “Entry Supervisor,” and we are asking them to sign off that a trench shoring system is adequate when they have little or no training.

Just because you are competent person in one area does not mean you are a competent person in all of them. A confined space knowledge base is not the same as a trench knowledge base.

The OSHA Construction Standard Defines a Competent Person “as someone who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings, or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.”
 
Key Points:
Can your competent person...
 
  • ·  Classify the soil type?
  • ·  Determine the appropriate protective system based on depth, width, and soil conditions?
  • ·  Assure that proper protective measures are in place?
  • ·  Perform atmospheric monitoring?
  • ·  Ensure the work site is safe for surcharge loads?
  • ·  Identify who is going to respond with trench rescue capabilities in an emergency?
    If you are unsure regarding any of these basic questions, you may need to look at the training your competent person and rescue team are getting. 

For more information, visit our Roco Trench Rescue page to view the course description and 2018 training dates. Register today to learn more about trench safety and rescue operations.

Resource: OSHA Quick Takes
Photo credit: Underground Safety Equipment/NAXSA

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Changes to NFPA 1006 That May Affect Your Operations and Training

Friday, April 20, 2018

Changes to NFPA 1006 That May Affect Your Operations and TrainingNow that NFPA 1006 Standard for Technical Rescue Personnel Professional Qualifications (2017 edition) has been in place for a while, it’s a good time to revisit the changes that have been made. While we won’t go into every single change from the previous 2013 edition, we will cover some of the more significant ones – particularly for the specialty areas that we deal with most.

So, let’s get to the big changes right off the bat. As you are probably aware, there was a big disconnect between NFPA 1006 and NFPA 1670 Standards on Operations and Training for Technical Search and Rescue Incidents. While there are technical committees for the development of both 1006 and 1670, very few committee members sit on both committees. The need for a correlating committee became apparent, and it is that correlating committee that coordinated and at times arbitrated changes to both standards in an effort to marry them up.

For example, NFPA 1006 Levels I & II have been replaced with Awareness, Operations and Technician levels to correlate with 1670 performance levels. This change may seem minor, but it allows for (and provides guidance in) training auxiliary personnel to a level of competency to support the Technical Rescue Team. This is reflected in the title change of 1006 from “Standard for Technical Rescuer Professional Qualifications” to “Standard for Technical Rescue Personnel Professional Qualifications.”

This change provides the option to train a team to a level for handling less technical incidents and still meet the standard for that level of proficiency. It also allows for a level of competency to begin a rescue effort while awaiting a more technically trained and equipped team to respond. This aids teams that do not have the manpower, equipment or funding to train to the Technician level by providing performance goals for Operations and Awareness levels.

NFPA 1006-2017 has also added several new specialty areas to include: Floodwater Rescue, Animal Rescue, Tower Rescue, Helicopter Rescue, and Watercraft Rescue. Several new definitions have been added to correlate with NFPA 1670. Clarification is provided by further defining dive operations, search, watercraft, wilderness, and other terms. You will also find that the word “search” (as used in the title of 1670) has been incorporated into many of the specialty areas of 1006 – another attempt to better correlate the two standards.

Again, we have attempted to highlight some of the key changes in NFPA 1006-2017. We think the modifications will make it easier to understand what is required of technical rescuers as well as auxiliary support personnel. As always, we encourage you to read the standard in its entirety. If you have any questions, please call us at 800-647-7626.

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Do’s & Don’ts for CS Attendants (Hole Watch)

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Do’s & Don’ts for CS Attendants (Hole Watch)There continues to be a misconception that a confined space attendant (or “hole watch”) is a menial task to be assigned to the greenest, most inexperienced personnel on the job. That’s a dangerous assumption, and it has been a contributing factor in many confined space fatalities.

In fact, the attendant or hole watch should have a solid understanding of the permit space to be entered. This includes knowing the particulars of any known or potential hazards as well as other pertinent knowledge and skill sets. If you are assigned this crucial role, I hope you understand that the entrant(s) are relying on you. Your performance may have a significant bearing on the outcome, both good and bad.

Do you know everything you need to know in order to perform your duties as a confined space attendant? Don’t assume that you will learn everything you need to know after a two- or three-minute pre-job briefing.

Being an attendant or "hole watch" is a critically important role and failure to properly perform these duties has led to multiple fatalities – both for the entrants and the attendants themselves.

Do understand the known and potential hazards of the confined space. Do take the time to review the SDS (MSDS) for any and all materials or gasses that may be encountered. Do learn what the signs and symptoms of exposure may be. Then, if you detect any of them in the entrant’s behavior or appearance, you can order immediate evacuation.

Don’t gloss over this valuable and readily accessible information only to wonder what caused the entrant(s) to lose consciousness. The SDS (MSDS) provides information on route of exposure; and very importantly, the signs and symptoms of exposure. Don’t miss the opportunity to save the day, and perhaps a life, by learning these early warning signs. This allows evacuation of the space before entrants are no longer able to do so on their own.

Do learn the proper operation of any testing equipment, such as atmospheric monitors. It is also important to understand the limitations of this equipment as well.

Do keep track of all authorized entrants in the space. For entries with multiple entrants, don’t rely on your memory alone. Do use some sort of log or entry roster as a reliable means to accurately identify who is in the space.

Do make sure that you have a reliable means to communicate with the entrants. Do test that means of communication at the very limits of the space to ensure it works. Don’t wait until there is an incident to learn that you cannot alert the entrants, or you cannot hear that their status has changed. If you haven’t heard from the entrants in a while, it can be tempting to go into the space to check on them. This very situation has led to many fatalities in which the attendant was overcome by the same hazard as the authorized entrant(s). At that point, there is no longer anyone available to call for help.

Don’t accept the job assignment until you have been briefed by the entry supervisor on all the planned activities both inside and outside the space. Do remember that oftentimes activities outside the space can create a hazard for the entrants inside the space. Carbon monoxide and spills of hazardous materials are just a couple of examples.

Don’t allow any activities to take place inside or outside the space that are prohibited and are not consistent with the conditions stated on the entry permit, especially if they may create a hazard to the entrants. If those activities were not coordinated and told to you by the entry supervisor, do evacuate the space and call the entry supervisor for guidance.

Don’t leave the space or perform other duties that may interfere with your primary duty of monitoring and protecting the entrants.

Do remain diligent, remember that you are the critical link between the entrants and the rescue service.

Do know how to contact rescue services should they be needed. Don’t wait until it is too late to call for help. Do summons rescue as soon as you determine that the entrants may need assistance escaping from the space. Just remember, you can’t turn back the clock and buy back the time that entrants may have needed to survive. It’s a whole lot easier to turn around the rescue service if it is not needed.

Do’s & Don’ts for CS Attendants (Hole Watch)Don’t allow unauthorized persons to approach or enter the permit space. If you are unable to warn them away, do order the evacuation of the authorized entrants. Do immediately inform the entry supervisor of the situation.

Do perform non-entry rescue (retrieval) when needed and if authorized by your employer. Do perform a thorough pre-entry inspection on the retrieval rescue equipment. Do make sure it is appropriate for the type of rescue that may be needed. Do learn and practice the proper operation of the retrieval equipment. Don’t wait until there is an emergency to try and figure it out. Don’t attempt entry rescue unless you are authorized, trained and equipped to do so. Don’t attempt entry rescue until you are relieved by another authorized attendant. Remember, you cannot leave the space unattended!

Don’t take your responsibilities lightly. Do ask the right questions of the entry supervisor and your authorized entrants. Do realize that they are all counting on you. Do ask to be briefed by the entry supervisor regarding any coordination that has been made with other work groups in the area. Do remember that many attendants have perished attempting heroic but ill-advised and unauthorized rescue attempts.

Do remember that your authorized entrants are relying on you. Do take the initiative to learn everything you need to know and how to operate any equipment in support of your entrants. As the hole watch, you are the critical link that can make or break a successful entry operation.

Click picture to download Safety Requirements for Confined Space Attendants.

Do’s & Don’ts for CS Attendants (Hole Watch) Written by Pat Furr, Safety Officer & VPP Coordinator for Roco Rescue, Inc.

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