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Roco QUICK DRILL #15 - Personal Skills Challenge (Advanced)

Thursday, September 15, 2022

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 Each participant would be given all necessary equipment to complete the required tasks. Depending on the number of participants, and equipment on hand, evaluators would build the desired number of lanes to operate. Once participants have had a chance to look over the equipment, and ask any questions, evaluators would give each a set time to complete all tasks (e.g., 15 minutes). 

Once time is started, each participant would complete the following:

  1. Build a fixed line system (evaluators would run a safety line and have the participant focus on main line systems only) and rappel down a single floor.
  2. Once on the deck, participants would hook up a patient/package to the main line.
    1. Patient can be a manikin in a Sked/stokes or a live victim in a harness.
    2. It could be an option to have the participant actually package the patient (would add more time to scenario, but would be good practice).
    3. Any other package could be used in place of a patient, this is up to the organizers.
  3. Once the patient/package is secured to the main line (again, the participant is not responsible for a secondary line), the participant would ascend back up to the starting point using their preferred method. 
  4. Upon completion of the ascending portion, the participant would disconnect the fixed line system and create a hauling system to bring the patient/package up the single floor. 
    1. Evaluators/other participants would assist with transitioning the patient/package over the edge for safety.
    2. Participants could either be allowed to choose a high or low-point anchor, or be given directions to use a specific anchor. This is up to the evaluator.
    3. Tag line personnel could be provided if necessary.
  5. Once the patient/package has been placed securely on the deck, the participant would transition the hauling system to a lowering system and lower the patient/package back to the starting point.
    1. As with the hauling system, evaluators/other participants would assist with transitioning the patient/package over the edge until system is loaded. 
    2. Participants could either be allowed to choose a high or low-point anchor, or be given directions to use a specific anchor. This is up to the evaluator.
    3. Tag line personnel could be provided if needed.
  6. When the patient/package is securely back to the starting point, the exercise is complete. Evaluators will then critique/discuss the participant’s performance.

NOTICE: Based on the physical condition of participants, the heights and time limits may need to be adjusted. The basis of the exercise is to have an individual build a system to rappel, reach a patient, attach the patient to the system, ascend, and convert to a lowering system. 

 

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K9 Partners in Rope Access

Friday, August 26, 2022

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Throughout history, dogs have played a vital role in humans’ lives. Evidence of dogs coexisting and serving as companions to humans begins as early as 12,000 B.C. Today dogs continue to serve crucial roles in the military, law enforcement, and search and rescue (SAR), in addition to other more domestic duties.

With current technology, humans have become more mobile in modern times, so have their trusty companions. Dogs can now be found with their partners fast-roping out of helicopters, climbing up and rappelling down cliffs, or at the extreme end of the spectrum, parachuting out of planes.

All of these skills require a high level of training and experience for both dogs and humans alike. Military, police, and SAR working dogs, or K9s, must first go through rigorous obedience and job-specific training before moving on to advanced mobility skills such as rappelling and fast-roping.

Working dog teams provide unique capabilities that require an investment of time, effort, and money to develop. Like any important investment, K9s and the capabilities they provide should be protected. Any high angle rope work is high-risk. To mitigate this risk, using proper equipment and receiving professional training is paramount. 

All of these skills require a high level of training and experience for both dogs and humans alike.

The first step to ensure the safety of K9s (and their handlers) during high-risk evolutions like rappelling is to utilize appropriate, properly fit, climbing or CE/UIAA certified equipment. Some organizations will dictate the specific gear K9 teams use while others allow their K9 teams to pick the gear that works best for their mission. For high angle rope access (climbing and rappelling), each K9 handler should have at a minimum: climbing or tactical helmet, correctly sized and rated harness, a means to descend rope (belay/rappel device), a means to ascend rope (mechanical ascender or prusik cords), safety lanyard, and several locking and non-locking carabiners.

K9 Rope3Finding a CE/UIAA certified harness for your K9 partner will be challenging or nearly impossible. However, dogs do need a properly fitting harness that is rated to a minimum breaking strength of at least 10 times the dog’s weight. Many working dogs wear vests that have a harness built in which can be acceptable, but plastic buckles that are prevalent on many K9 vests don’t cut it for rope access work.

Additionally, there are many ways to attach the dog to the handler (or the rope itself), but again, any straps, cords, or carabiners need to be rated for climbing. For fast roping, the K9 team will need a fast rope descent device and the handler will need a helmet, harness, and gloves. One last piece of gear that some dogs may need for their safety, as well as the safety of their handlers, is a muzzle.

Any high angle rope work is high-risk. To mitigate the risk, using proper equipment and receiving professional training is paramount. 

The second step to buy down risk and protect the investment that a K9 team provides during high angle rope access is to get professional training. It is also crucial that the dog has a high level of obedience before starting high angle rope work. Typically, the first order of business is to get the dog used to the harness and being suspended by hanging or hoisting the dog, gradually increasing the time the dog is suspended. Using treats or some other type of reward will help put the dog at ease. Done right, most working dogs will look forward to donning their harness.

This is also when you may want to introduce a muzzle in the same way (if the dog is not already muzzle trained). The use of a muzzle is not necessary for all dogs but is a good idea for high drive/high energy dogs or dogs that get nervous or agitated being suspended in a harness. The last thing handlers want while they are suspended by a rope is an agitated dog biting them, the rope, or any other equipment thus putting the K9 team at greater risk. Repetition is key; being deliberate and consistent with techniques in multiple environments and using rewards will ensure the dog is properly trained and socialized for the task.

K9 Rope2Once the dog is accustomed to the harness and being suspended, most of the dog’s training is done. For climbing and/or rappelling, the training curriculum a handler should undergo includes knot tying, anchor building, ascending and descending rope, belaying, and building and using mechanical advantage systems for hauling. Once a handler is confident and competent on the rope, the dog can be introduced.

Military, law enforcement, and SAR K9 teams possess incredible capabilities that save lives.

Dogs are very attuned to their handlers, so if the handler is overly nervous the dog will sense that and feed off it. Additionally, there are several ways to position a dog while rappelling. The dog’s position is dictated by the situation and terrain. Some positioning such as to the side or between the legs will reassure the dog and enable the handler to negotiate obstacles more effectively.

Dogs will continue to accompany their human partners to places and in ways that weren’t previously thought possible. Military, law enforcement, and SAR K9 teams possess incredible capabilities that save lives. With the proper training and equipment, they can provide these capabilities in terrain and environments that can only be accessed with rope. Roco Rescue can provide both the professional training and the equipment necessary for K9 rope access be it by fast rope or climbing and rappelling.

 

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Want a Safer Workplace? Get Employees Involved!

Monday, August 15, 2022

Safe + Sound Week is a nationwide event held each year in August that aims to recognize the successes of workplace health and safety programs and offers information and ideas on how to keep America’s workers safe. Last year, more than 5,300 businesses helped to raise awareness about workers’ health and safety!

Safe+Sound 2022 BadgeAs an OSHA VPP Star Worksite, Roco prides itself on our continual quest to achieve excellence in safety. VPP worksites must operate a comprehensive safety and health management system that includes four key elements: worksite analysis, hazard prevention and control, safety and health training, and our focus for this week, management leadership and employee involvement. To be effective, a safety and health program needs meaningful participation from employees in the workplace.

Here are five examples of a way to generate meaningful employee involvement in your organization.

1. Ask workers for their ideas for improvement.

Who knows the job better than those performing the work? Give employees an opportunity and encourage them to suggest improvements to their work practices. In our experience, many of the most innovative ideas come from employees who are actively involved in the workplace. When employees have the ability to create meaningful change in their work environment, they will be more likely to participate in safe work practices. Additionally, workers will enjoy a morale booster when these innovative ideas are implemented in the workplace. This is also an excellent way for an employer to demonstrate that they care about their employees and are committed to providing a safe and healthy workplace. Consider creating a centrally located drop box to deposit safety suggestion cards; alternatively, create a digital means of submissions or email such as safetysuggestions@company.com to allow for ease of submitting ideas. You might be surprised what your employees come up with!

employee involvement12. Involve employees in workplace inspections.

No matter your industry, a safe workplace will always incorporate frequent workplace inspections into its planning and maintenance schedules. Typically, someone from the safety department or the maintenance department will conduct workplace inspections; however, having the same person perform these inspections each month can create a situation where this individual becomes “blind” to obvious hazards. Involving employees in workplace inspections allows for a “fresh” set of eyes and a new perspective as each individual will notice hazards in a different light.  Consider rotating different employees into workplace inspections whenever possible. You can also make this a positive experience for the employee selected by treating them to lunch afterward.

3. Train workers on hazard identification and reporting.

If you are waiting on “the safety guy” to identify the hazards and correct them, then it could be a while. While safety professionals are a great resource to have on staff, they can’t be everywhere at once! The truth is the safest companies train and involve all employees in hazard identification and reporting. When everyone in the company knows how to identify hazards and take steps to mitigate them, you now have an army of safety professionals! One VPP worksite implemented “hazard hunts” into their monthly plan for the facility. This was similar to an easter egg hunt, but for an industrial worksite. Employees spread out throughout the facility to identify hazards in the workplace. At the end of the hunt, the employee with the most legitimate hazards identified as well as the employee with the most serious hazard identified was rewarded with a gift. This is an outstanding idea for bringing fun to the workplace while also taking steps to involve employees and make a safer working environment!

employee involvement24. Allow workers to lead trainings.

Most companies have periodic safety meetings implemented into their routine. These are typically led by someone from the safety department and can be a great way to highlight and emphasize current safety concerns or best practices in the workplace.  As a way to get employees involved, consider selecting someone different in the workplace to develop and lead a safety training. This doesn’t have to be an hour-long production! Something as simple as a 5-minute talk about heat illness prevention can work. Each person will have their own unique style which will help to keep these safety meetings “fresh”. Be sure to have fun with this one; these presentations don’t have to be intense or serious. The key here is to get employees involved in creating and delivering safety presentations. 

5. Reward workers who take the extra effort for safety.

There is a lot of debate and controversy over incentives for safety; in recent years, there have been several flip-flops on the support for these types of programs.  It really comes down to what you are promoting and how you are doing it when you incentive safety. Creating an environment that discourages reporting of accidents in exchange for a company-wide steak dinner is probably not the most ideal way to go about it. Instead, find ways to praise employees who go above and beyond in safety. When an employee submits a great safety suggestion for improvement and it gets implemented, reward the individual who submitted the idea! Perhaps an employee volunteered to perform the monthly facility inspection and take them out to lunch! If an employee identifies a serious hazard and takes action to mitigate it on the spot, reward them with something nice. Another great idea is having a near miss reporting process; consider doing a quarterly drawing for a gift for everyone who submitted a near miss for that quarter. The big takeaway from rewarding workers is to praise them heavily when they take the initiative to work safely, and coach and support them when they fail to meet those expectations.

 

ChrisMcGlynn headshot McGlynn is the Director of Safety/VPP Coordinator for Roco Rescue. He is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP) through the Board of Certified Safety Professionals as well as a Certified Confined Space and Rope Rescue Technician, and a Nationally Registered Paramedic. As Director of Safety, Chris oversees all corporate safety initiatives, ensuring that employees at Roco have the tools and training that they need to do their work safely and effectively. He is also responsible for managing Roco's Safety Services Division, which provides trained safety professionals for turnarounds and other special projects. Finally, Chris serves as the VPP Coordinator for Roco, continuing Roco’s long-standing commitment to excellence in safety and health. Roco has been an OSHA VPP Star Worksite since 2013.

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Roco QUICK DRILL #14 - Knots Challenge (Advanced)

Friday, July 15, 2022

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Blindfolded personnel would be required to identify a knot by feel and touch only and then tie the knot in a separate piece of rope. The concept would be to have 5 knots pre-tied on rope shorts, and 5 additional rope shorts for personnel to tie. Each member would have to feel the knots that are pre-tied, and then replicate all 5 knots, no asking questions or guidance provided. 

Each participant would be given their own area to work, a classroom setting with table and chair is recommended. Five ropes with pre-tied knots (figure-8 on-a-bight, butterfly, double fisherman, square knot, bowline for example) and 5 different color rope shorts untied, would be covered to prevent students from learning what specific knots were there.

Then, when each person is in position, they would be blindfolded and given a specified time (e.g., 5 minutes) to identify each knot by feel and tie the knot identified using the ropes given. Evaluators would not provide any guidance on identifying the knots. Once time is up, or all participants have completed tying the knots, the blindfolds would be removed and the knots evaluated.

 

Next in this series: Quick Drill #15 - 
Personal Skills Challenge (Advanced)

QuickDrill15

 

Using a Crane in Rescue Operations

Tuesday, May 31, 2022

We’re often asked, “Can I use a crane as part of my rescue plan?” 

If you’re referring to using a crane as part of moving personnel or victims, the answer is “No, except in very rare and unique circumstances.” The justification for using a crane to move personnel, even for the purposes of rescue, is extremely limited. Therefore, it is very important to understand the “do’s and don’ts” for using a heavy piece of equipment in a rescue operation.

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On the practical side, the use of a crane as a “stationary, temporary high-point anchor” can be a tremendous asset to rescuers. It may also be part of a rescue plan for a confined space –  a top entry fan plenum, for example. The use of a stationary high-point pulley can allow rescue systems to be operated from the ground. It can also provide the headroom to clear rescuers and packaged patients from the space or an elevated edge.

Because of the dangers involved in moving personnel with heavy equipment, OSHA strictly limits its use.

The security of the system's attachment to the crane and the ability to “lock-out” any potential movement are a critical part of the planning process. If powered industrial equipment is to be used as a high-point, it must be treated like any other energized equipment with regard to safety. Personnel would need to follow proper Lock-out/Tag-out procedures [Control of Hazardous Energy 1910.147]. Any equipment used in the rescue operation would need to be properly locked out – (i.e., keys removed, power switch disabled, etc.). You would also need to check the manufacturer’s limitations for use to ensure you are not going beyond the approved use of the equipment.

Because of the dangers involved in moving personnel with heavy equipment, OSHA strictly limits its use. In order to utilize a crane, properly rated “personnel platforms or baskets” must be used. Personnel platforms that are suspended from the load line and used in construction are covered by 1926.1431.
There is no specific provision in the General Industry standards, so the applicable standard is 1910.180(h)(3)(v). This provision specifically prohibits hoisting, lowering, swinging, or traveling while anyone is on the load or hook.

OSHA prohibits the hoisting of personnel by crane or derrick except when no safe alternative is possible. The use of a crane for rescue does not provide an exception to these requirements unless very specific criteria are met.

An OSHA Letter of Interpretation (LOI 1993-02-17) states, “OSHA has determined, however, that when the use ofa conventional means of access to an elevated worksite would be impossible or more hazardous, a violation of 1910.180(h)(3)(v) will be treated as de minimis if the employer has complied with the provisions set forth in 1926.550(g)(3) through (g)(8).”

Note: De minimis violations are violations of standards which have no direct or immediate relationship to safety or health. Whenever de minimis conditions are found during an inspection, they are documented in the same way as any other violation, but are not included on the citation.

Therefore, the hoisting of personnel is not permitted unless conventional means of transporting employees  is not feasible. Or, unless conventional means present even greater hazards (regardless if the operation is for planned work activities or for rescue). Where conventional means would not be considered safe, personnel hoisting operations meeting the terms of this standard would be authorized. OSHA stresses that employee safety, not practicality or convenience, must be the basis for the employer's choice of this method.

However, it is also important to note that OSHA specifically requires rescue capabilities in certain instances, such as when entering permit-required confined spaces [PRCS 1910.146]; or when an employer authorizes personnel to use personal fall arrest systems [PFAS 1910.140(c)(21) and 1926.502(d)(20)]. In other cases, the general duty to protect an employee from workplace hazards would require rescue capabilities. 

Consequently, being “unprepared for rescue” would not be considered a legitimate basis to claim that moving a victim by crane was the only feasible or safe means of rescue.

This is where the employer must complete written rescue plans for permit spaces and for workers-at-height using personal fall arrest systems – or they must ensure that the designated rescue service has done so. When developing rescue plans, it may be determined that there are no other feasible means to provide rescue without increasing the risk to the rescuer(s) and victim(s) other than using a crane to move the human load. These situations would be very rare and would require very thorough documentation. Such documentation may include written descriptions and photos of the area as part of the justification for using a crane in rescue operations.

Bottom line… simply relying on using a crane to move rescuers and victims without completing a rescue plan and very clear justification would not be in compliance with OSHA regulations. It must be demonstrated that the use of a crane was the only feasible means to complete the rescue while not increasing the risk as compared to other means. Even then, there is the potential for an OSHA compliance officer to determine that there were indeed other feasible and safer means.

crane6_5.22WARNING: Taking it a step further, if some movement of the crane  is required, extreme caution must be taken! Advanced rigging techniques may be required to prevent movement of the crane from putting undue stress on the rescue system and its components. Rescuers must also evaluate if the movement would unintentionally “take-in” or “add” slack to the rescue system, which could place the patient in harm’s way. The movement of a crane can take place on multiple planes – left-right, boom up-down, boom in-out and cable up-down. If movement of the equipment must take place, rescuers must evaluate how it might affect the operation of the rescue system.

Of course, one of the most important considerations in using any type of mechanical device is its strength and ability (or inability) to “feel the load.” If the load becomes  entangled while movement is underway, serious injury to the victim or an overpowering of system components can happen almost instantly. No matter how much experience a crane operator has, there is no way he can “feel” if the load becomes entangled. And, most likely, he will not be able to stop before injury or damage occurs. Think of it this way, just as rescuers limit the number of haul team members so they can feel the load, that ability is completely lost when energized devices are used to do the work.

For rescuers, a crane is just another tool in the toolbox – one that can serve as a temporary, stationary high-point making the rescue operation an easier task. However, using a crane that will require some movement while the rescue load is suspended should be a last resort! There are simply too many potential downfalls in using cranes. This also applies to fire department aerial ladders. Rescuers must consider the manufacturer’s recommendations for use. What does the manufacturer say about hoisting human loads? And, what about the attachment of human loads to different parts of the crane or aerial?

However, there may be cases in which a crane is the only option. For example, if outside municipal responders have not had the opportunity to complete a rescue plan ahead of time, they will have to do a “real-time” size-up once on scene. Due to difficult access, victim condition, and/or available equipment and personnel resources, it may be determined that using a crane to move rescuers and victims is the best course of action. 

Think of it this way, just as rescuers limit the number of haul team members so they can feel the load, that ability is completely lost when energized devices are used to do the work.

Using a crane as part of a rescue plan must have rock-solid, written justification as a demonstration that it is the safest and most feasible means to provide rescue capability. Planning before the emergency will go a long way in providing options that may provide fewer risks to all involved.

So, to answer the question“Can I include the use of a crane as part of my written rescue plan?” 

Well, yes and no. Yes, as a high-point anchor. And, no, the use of any powered load movement will most likely be an OSHA violation without rock-solid justification. The question is, will it be considered a de minimis violation if used during a rescue? Most likely it will depend on the specifics of the incident. However, you can be sure that OSHA will be looking for justification as to why using a crane in motion was considered to be the least hazardous choice.

NOTE: Revised 5/2022. Originally published 10/2014.

 

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