Your Physical Fitness As A Rescuer: Why It Matters

Wednesday, January 02, 2019
by Pat Furr, Safety Officer & VPP Coordinator 

In January of last year, I wrote a piece called The Fit Rescuer & Why It's Important, and it was one of my most widely-read articles, so I thought I would tackle the topic again this year. The information in this article applies to all rescuers; whether you're a member of an emergency response team at your plant, a paramedic or a firefighter, you can benefit from learning more about fitness.

I’ve taught a lot of students and worked alongside many rescue professionals over the years. Each and every one wants to do the very best for the patients or victims they serve... Clearly, learning rescue skills and practicing them is a critical part of this, but so is maintaining a reasonable level of physical fitness. In fact, a standard for rescuer physical fitness is directly addressed in NFPA 1006, Section 4.2. So not only do we have an obligation due to our role as rescuers, but we also owe it to ourselves to be in good shape.
Your Physical Fitness As A Rescuer: Why It Matters If that’s not motivation enough, its January resolution time! That said, remember that this is a journey… you probably aren’t going to see radical changes right away, so don’t get discouraged. Take pride in every day you work toward your fitness goals, and if you fall off the horse and into a hot fudge sundae one weekend, don’t despair – just get back on track and stay with it!

Why Staying in Shape is Working for Me
I will be the first to admit that I go through periods (some of them extended) where I allow myself to get a tad soft. Well, okay, maybe more than just a tad soft. And when I do, I feel certain limitations that I know hinder my ability to do right by my rescue subjects. If I am winded and drenched in sweat after climbing a few flights of stairs, that is going to ultimately count against my rescue victims. And if I need to go in “on air” and my mask is fogged from perspiration, I will need to run a constant purge just to keep my mask clear – and that may deplete our air supply prematurely.

I remember all too well how heavy my gear and tripod felt during one of my “Jabba the Hutt” periods a few years back. It was discouraging! But after a few months of working out and eating well, I remember how great it felt to grab that same tripod and sling it up onto my shoulder as if it was filled with helium.

Physical Fitness as a Matter of Life and Death
I think we can all agree that physical fitness can enhance our performance as rescuers. But there are so many other benefits to improving our individual physical fitness, for instance:

reduction in soft tissue injuries like pulled muscles and ligament strains
• increased resistance to illnesses
• better mood and higher energy-level
reduced stress levels
• greater stamina and strength
• higher tolerance for heat and cold
• increased situational awareness and ability to formulate and understand rescue plans (this one is key!)

But there is so much more to the job performance and health benefits of working out, eating well, and staying in shape. Frankly, we can’t afford NOT to make our health a priority. A study from the First Responder Health and Safety Lab at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, affirmed: “Firefighters face many dangers, but the greatest risk is from underlying cardiovascular disease in combination with the physiological strain that the work places on the firefighter.” And further, the American Heart Association recently named cardiac arrest the leading cause of firefighter deaths. There are many, many more sources just like these, and it’s time we take them seriously.

It doesn’t help that we are more overweight than ever before. According to the report Addressing the Epidemic of Obesity in the United States Fire Service, the rates of overweight and obese firefighters are higher than those of the public at large. The study claims that 88 percent of firefighters are obese compared to 73 percent of the general population. This is a huge problem since obesity contributes to health issues like diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. While many of the stats pertain to municipal firefighters, there’s no reason to believe that emergency responders in industry are not facing the same issues.

Staying in shape is about more than just being able to effortlessly lift a tripod. It’s a matter of life and death. Hopefully, you are convinced that fitness is a rescuer's duty just as much as knowing what to do in a given emergency situation. So what to do? How about stop reading right here and bang out 20 push-ups? Or stand up and stretch. Worried that your co-workers will think you’ve lost your mind? Focus on what they’ll think about you in a few months when you are crushing your fitness goals. Maybe you’ll see a few more people taking periodic breaks from sitting at their computer to do push-ups or stretch! If you’ve chosen to do something now, you have taken the first baby-step!

There are numerous resources out there, from website articles to official publications, that provide guidance for first responders and firefighters in particular when it comes to getting – and staying – healthy. One example is the U.S. Fire Administration’s Guide to Fitness and Wellness.

In Part II of this article, I will offer specific tips for fitness, diet, and lifestyle. But for now, I encourage you to take a look at these resources and consider how they apply to you. How can you commit to being healthier in the long term? How can you optimize your health and fitness to be the very best first responder you can be? I invite all of you – every single person reading this article – to join me in the quest to continually get healthier, fitter, and happier.

Continue to Part II, Rescuer Physical Fitness: Making It Happen

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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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Confined Space Types - Are All Your Bases Covered?

Friday, November 30, 2018

Confined Space Types - Are All Your Bases Covered?Refineries, plants and manufacturing facilities have a wide range of permit-required confined spaces – some having only a few, while others may have hundreds. Some of these spaces may be relatively open and straightforward while others are congested and complex, or at height. With this in mind, are all your bases covered? Can your rescue team (or service) safely and effectively perform a rescue from these varying types of spaces? Or, are you left exposed? And, how can you be sure?

Rescue Practice & Preplanning

With a large number of permit spaces on site, it would be impossible for a rescue team to practice in each and every one. Plus, in most cases, the spaces are operating, functioning units within the plant. Because of this, section (k) of 1910.146 allows practice from “representative” spaces. This is where the Roco Confined Space Types Chart can make the process easier.

Using OSHA guidelines for determining representative spaces, the Roco Types Chart is designed to assist employers and rescue teams plan for various types of permit spaces.
The chart allows you to categorize permit spaces into six (6) confined space types, which can then be used to prepare rescue plans, determine rescue requirements, conduct practice drills or evaluate a prospective rescue service.
 
First of all, it's important to note that employers are required by 1910.146 and 1926 Subpart AA to allow rescue teams the opportunity to practice and plan for the various types of confined spaces they may be required to respond. This is critical for the success of the rescue, particularly timeliness, as well as for the safety of the rescuers.

Classifying and Typing Your Spaces
So, get out your clipboard, tape measure, some sketch paper, and a flashlight (if safe to do so) in order to view as much of the interior of the space as you can. And, if you absolutely need to enter for typing and/or rescue preplanning purposes, be sure to do so using full permitting procedures. Gaining access to architectural or engineering drawings may also be helpful in determining the internal configuration when actual entry is not feasible. Armed with this information, it is time to “type” the spaces in your response area using the Roco Confined Space Types Chart.

Confined Space Types - Are All Your Bases Covered?Over the decades, we’ve seen just about every type of confined space configuration out there. And, while there may be hundreds of permit spaces on site, most of them will fit into one of these six types and require the same (or similar) rescue plan. Of course, there are always unique situations in addition to physical characteristics, such as space-specific hazards or specialized PPE requirements, but this chart can be a valuable tool in the planning and preparation for confined space rescue operations.

We’ve also learned that it is imperative to understand the physical limitations of space access and internal configuration as well as how this affects equipment and technique choices for the rescue team. Referring to the Roco Types Chart and practicing simulated rescues from the relevant types of spaces will help identify these limitations in a controlled setting instead of during the heat of an emergency.

We can all agree that during an emergency is NOT the time to learn that your backboard or litter will not fit through the portal once the patient is packaged.
Six General Types
On the Roco Types Chart, you will note that there are six (6) general types identified, which are based on portal opening size and position of portal. Types 1 and 2 are “side” entries; Types 3 and 4 are “top” entries; and Types 5 and 6 are “bottom” entries. There are two types of each based on portal size, which is significant for rescue purposes. Openings greater than 24-inches will allow packaged patients on rigid litters or rescuers using SCBA to negotiate the opening; whereas, openings 24-inches or less will not.

Portals less than 24-inches will require a higher level of expertise and different packaging and patient movement techniques.
Once the various types have been determined, pay particular attention to spaces identified as Types 1, 3, or 5. Again, these spaces have the most restrictive portals (24-inches or less) and are considered “worst case” regarding entry and escape in terms of portal size. This is very important because it will greatly influence the patient packaging equipment and rescuer PPE that can be used in the space.

Accessibility and Internal Configuration
In addition to the “type” of the space based on portal size and location, another key consideration is accessibility or “elevation” of the portal. While the rescue service may practice rescues from Top, Side and Bottom portals – being at ground level is very different from a portal that’s at 100-ft. Here’s where high angle or elevated rescue techniques are normally required for getting the patient lowered safely to ground level.

Lastly, the internal configuration of a space must be carefully considered for rescue purposes. This will be discussed more in the following section on Appendix F.

Remember, rescue practice from a representative space needs to be a “true” representation of the kind of rescue that may be required in an emergency.
1910.146 Appendix F – Representative Spaces
In Appendix F, OSHA offers guidelines for determining Representative Spaces for Rescue Practice. OSHA adds that “teams may practice in representative spaces that are ‘worst case’ or most restrictive with respect to internal configuration, elevation, and portal size.” These characteristics, according to OSHA, should be considered when deciding whether a space is truly representative of an actual permit space.

(1) Internal Configuration 
Confined Space Types - Are All Your Bases Covered?What’s inside the space? If the interior is congested with utilities or other structural components that may hinder movement or the ability to efficiently package a patient, it must be addressed in training. For example, will the use of entrant rescuer retrieval lines be feasible? After one or two 90-degree turns around corners or around structural members, the ability to provide external retrieval of the entrant rescuer is probably forfeited. For vertical rescue, if there are offset platforms or passageways, there may be a need for directional pulleys or intermediate haul systems that are operated inside the space.

What about rescues while on emergency breathing air? If the internal configuration is so congested that the time required to complete patient packaging exceeds the duration of a backpack SCBA, then the team should consider using SAR. Will the internal configuration hinder or prevent visual monitoring and communications with the entrant rescuers? If so, it may be advisable to use an additional authorized rescuer as an “internal hole watch” to provide a communication link between the rescuers and personnel outside the space.

What if the internal configuration is such that complete patient packaging is not possible inside the space? This may dictate a “load-and-go” type rescue that provides minimal patient packaging while providing as much stabilization as feasible through the use of extrication-type short spine boards as an example.

(2) Elevation
If the portal is 4 feet or greater above grade, the rescue team must be capable of providing an effective and safe high angle lower of the victim; and, if needed, an attendant rescuer. This may require additional training and equipment. For these situations, it is important to identify high-point anchors that may be suitable for use, or plan for portable high-point anchors, such as a “man lift” or some other device.

(3) Portal Size
Confined Space Types - Are All Your Bases Covered?Here again, the magic number is 24 inches or less for round portals or in the smallest dimension for non-round portals. It is a common mistake for a rescue team to “test drive” their 22-to-23-inch wide litter or backboard on a 24-inch portal without a victim loaded and discover that it barely fits. However, the problem arises when a victim is loaded onto the litter. The only way the litter or backboard will fit is at the “equator” of the round portal. This will most likely not leave enough room between the rigid litter or backboard and the victim’s chest, except for our more petite victims.

For rescuers, it is already difficult to negotiate a portal while wearing a backpack SCBA. For portals of 24 inches or less, it’s nearly impossible. If the backpack SCBA will not fit, it is time to consider an airline respirator and emergency escape harness/bottle instead. Warning: Do NOT under any circumstances remove your backpack SCBA in order gain access to a confined space through a restricted portal or passageway. It is just too easy for a mask to become displaced.

(4) Space Access – Horizontal vs. Vertical
Most rescuers regard horizontal retrievals as easier than vertical. However, this is not always the case. If there are floor projections, pipe work or other utilities, even just a grated floor surface, it may create an incredible amount of friction or an absolute impediment to the horizontal movement of an inert victim. In this case, the entrant rescuers may have to rely on old-fashioned arm and leg strength to maneuver the victim.

Putting the Roco Types Chart into Practice
The Roco CS Types Chart can assist by first providing a way to classify and type your different kinds of spaces. This information can then be used to design training/practice drills as well as annual performance evaluations to make sure your rescue service is capable of rescue from the varying representative spaces onsite. Of course, this applies whether you use an in-house rescue team, a contracted rescue service, or a local off-site response team. Otherwise, how do you know if you truly have your bases covered? Don’t take that chance. If an incident occurs and the rescue personnel you are depending on are not capable of safely performing a rescue, your company could be culpable.

In section (k), OSHA requires employers to evaluate the prospective rescue service to determine proficiency in terms of rescue-related tasks and proper equipment.
If you need assistance with confined space typing or rescue preplan preparation, please contact us at info@rocorescue.com or 800-647-7626.

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Host a Roco Course - Get FREE Training!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Has your Fire Department ever thought about hosting a Roco Confined Space Rescue course?

Host a Roco Course - Get FREE Training!
It just might be easier than you think! If your municipal department needs this kind of training, and you have a training site that would be adequate – it could be that simple.

We will be offering this opportunity for up to four (4) municipal fire departments in 2019. All we ask is help from you in promoting the class to local agencies and industries so that we can get a minimum of eight (8) paying students. Then your department would receive two (2) FREE spots in the 5-day class. The more paying students, the more FREE slots your department would earn. It’s a great way to get the training you need at no cost to your organization.

Details:

One of the first things we need is to determine if you have a site that will work for the training. So, you’ll need to send us a few photos of your training site. Then, we will need a signed letter from your Fire Chief (or other authority) providing permission to conduct a Roco course at your training site and invite participants from other organizations. In turn, your department would promote the class in your local area. Roco would provide the instructors and rescue equipment at no charge to you.

If you are interesting in hosting a course next year, please email your site photos along with a letter from your Fire Chief authorizing the use of your facility for the training and for allowing other personnel to attend. Send all information to us at info@RocoRescue.com.

Note: Limited to municipal agencies within the continental United States. Class to be Level I/I-II program. All course participants must be 18 or older, physically fit, and sign waivers prior to participation.
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Rescue Challenge 2018

Friday, November 02, 2018
Rescue Challenge 2018Seven challenging rescue scenarios awaited participating teams at Roco Rescue Challenge 2018 recently held in Baton Rouge. Multiple training props at and near the Roco Training Center (RTC) were used to create the realistic problem-solving scenarios, which included both props at the RTC as well as the training tower and the “industrial prop” at the Baton Rouge Fire Department. These facilities provided a wide variety of rescue scenarios and rigging environments for the teams during the two-day event.

Challenge teams were required to successfully complete scenarios in all six (6) Confined Space Types based on OSHA-defined criteria in addition to Rescue from Fall Protection and Extrication. The scenarios were designed to meet OSHA1 and NFPA2 requirements for annual practice and evaluation of team capabilities as well as the individual rescuers. Participating teams received third party testing of the scenarios and individual rescuer skills along with documentation to back up the testing. Following Rescue Challenge, each team receives a complete report of the scenarios along with their scores, strengths and weaknesses as well as debriefing notes from the instructor evaluators.Rescue Challenge 2018

Speaking of evaluators, this year featured some of Roco’s top instructors who hailed from Idaho to New York. These individuals are passionate about teaching rescue and improving the performance of their students. No doubt they’re a big part of why the event is so successful and so effective in honing the teams’ skills. In fact, this year’s event was dedicated to the memory of one of our long-time instructors and original Roco Rangers, Mr. Doug Norwood.

Rescue Challenge 2018All Challenge scenarios are designed to have teaching goals that require different rescue and rigging skills. They included simulated IDLH rescue entries with the use of SAR and SCBA equipment. Also included were single-person and multi-casualty scenarios with a mix of manikins and live victims/evaluators as patients.

Challenge consisted of three different testing criteria to include:
1. Seven rescue scenarios;
2. Individual Performance Evaluations (IPE); and,
3. A Team Performance Evaluation (TPE).

Here is a quick break down of the two-day event:

DAY ONE
Station#1 – CS Types #3, #4 & #6
A worker fell approximately 8 ft. while working on a motor in a fan plenum on a cooling tower. The worker fell through the fan to the cooling pipes below and suffered from heat exhaustion and a possible broken/dislocated hip. Access and egress to the patient and ground was through a series of ladder cages at approximately the 50 ft. level.

Station #2 – Rescue from Fall Protection
A worker who was painting on top of a 50 ft. dome column tower fell onto his fall protection system. Access by the technical rescue team was over the top of the dome to the far side of the tower where rescuers needed to transfer the patient from his system to the rescuer’s system before descending to safety.

Rescue Challenge 2018Station #3 – CS Types #3 & #2
Three workers were trapped in a “Stack” elevator that jumped off its track. The scenario simulated rescue from a height of 300 ft. requiring knot-passing techniques.

Station #4 – CS Type #4
A reenactment of an OSHA confined space incident where two entrants were injured in a flash fire in a confined space, which required on-air entry using SCBA.

Station #5 – CS Type #4
The rescue of an unconscious worker from a column vessel with multiple internal trays, requiring that the patient be lowered approximately 40 ft. to the ground.

Rescue Challenge 2018DAY TWO
Station #6 – CS Type #5
A worker was trapped under a piece of machinery (2000lbs+) in a containment vault. Teams used rescue airbags and cribbing to raise and extricate the individual from under the object before completing a low-point confined space rescue from a vertical-entry confined space.

Station #7 – CS Types #1 & #3
Report of a worker down in a low O2 atmosphere in a boiler expansion tank. Teams were forced to ascend a vertical temporary ladder approximately 10 ft. inside a 24-in. tube to access the individual while wearing SAR due to low levels of oxygen.

Station #8 – Individual Performance Evaluation (IPE) 
Individual team members were evaluated on their ability to perform patient packaging, knots, rigging, and mechanical advantage.

Station #9 – Team Performance Evaluation (TPE) 
Teams moved a patient along a multi-stage track referred to as the “Yellow Brick Road.TM” This scenario requires the teams to perform different packaging, raising and lowering techniques in order to move successfully to the next problem-solving station.

Scoring was very tight this year with all teams scoring between 85% to 90% overall. Roco scoring is based on the following: 90% and above “superior rescue team;” 80%-89% “excellent rescue team;” and 70%-79% “capable rescue team.” Scores below 70% require the teams to redo the scenario once it is critiqued and any safety concerns are addressed.

Rescue Challenge 2018We also had numerous observers at this year’s Challenge both from the municipal and industrial sectors. They reported that they were able to see “first hand” the benefits of Rescue Challenge, and that they are planning on sending teams for next year’s event.
  
One observer commented that the format and location allowed teams to get out of their comfort zones and have a good look at how they would respond to an actual incident at their facility.
Some of the exceptional performances this year included:
Shell-Convent, LA: Overall highest average of 90% for all scenarios.
Valero-Wilmington, CA: 1st place IPE station.
CF Industries-Donaldsonville, LA: 1st place TPE station.
Two Louisiana teams (International Paper-Bogalusa and Shell-Norco) tied for “Top Score” on a single scenario scoring 490 out of 500 possible points.

If you missed this year’s Rescue Challenge, join us next year on October 23-24, 2019, in Baton Rouge. Every year our instructors devise new surprise obstacles to challenge teams with hurdles they’ve never tackled before.
Is your team “Rescue Challenge ready?”

1OSHA 1910.146 Permit-Required Confined Spaces
1910.146(k)(2)(iv) Ensure that affected employees 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. Representative permit spaces shall, with respect to opening size, configuration, and accessibility, simulate the types of permit spaces from which rescue is to be performed.

2NFPA 1006 Technical Rescue Personnel Professional Qualifications
1.2.6* Technical rescue personnel shall remain current with the general knowledge, skills, and JPRs addressed for each level or position of qualification. Technical rescue personnel shall remain current with technical rescue practices and applicable standards and shall demonstrate competency on an annual basis.
Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018
Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018
Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018
Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018
Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018
Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018
Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018
Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018
Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018
Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018
Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018
Rescue Challenge 2018 Rescue Challenge 2018    
 
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Using a Crane in Rescue Operations

Sunday, September 30, 2018
 
Using a Crane in Rescue Operations
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.

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; for example, a top entry fan plenum. 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.

Using a Crane in Rescue OperationsOf course, 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 the Control of Hazardous Energy [Lockout/Tagout 1910.147]. The equipment 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 outside the approved use of the equipment.

Back to using a crane for moving personnel – because of the dangers involved, OSHA severely 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 29 CFR 1926.1501(g). 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 hoisting 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. OSHA has determined, however, that when the use of a conventional means of access to any 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 complies with the personnel platform provisions set forth in 1926.1501(g)(3), (4), (5), (6), (7), and (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’s also important to consider that OSHA specifically requires rescue capabilities in certain instances, such as when entering permit-required confined spaces [1910.146]; or when an employer authorizes personnel to use personal fall arrest systems [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.

Using a Crane in Rescue OperationsThis is where the employer must complete written rescue plans for permit-required confined 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 is 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.

Here’s the key… 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.

WARNING: Taking it a step further, if some movement of the crane (or fire department aerial ladder, for example) is required, extreme caution must be taken! Advanced rigging techniques may be required to prevent movement of the crane from putting undo 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. Movement of a crane can take place on multiple planes – left-right, boom up-down, boom in-out and cable up-down. If movement must take place, rescuers must evaluate how it might affect the operation of the rescue system.

Using a Crane in Rescue OperationsOf 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 hung up on an obstacle 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, when dealing with human loads, 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 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?

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.

Using a crane as part of a rescue plan must have rock-solid, written justification as 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 9/2018. Originally published 10/2014.

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