The Risk Management Tool Box Blog

Emergency Vehicle Safety Initiative

Graham Marshall - Monday, March 10, 2014

The US FA report, Emergency Vehicle Safety Initiative (2014), provides best practices and recommendations for safer emergency vehicle and roadway incident response. Topics covered include common crash causes and crash prevention, internal and external factors for improving response and roadway safety, vehicle design and maintenance, and regulating emergency vehicle response and roadway scene safety.

Summary and Recommendations;

In analyzing all the information that is contained in the report, please note the following list of recommendations relative to improving emergency vehicle and roadway incident safety:

·       There must be continued effort at the local, state and federal levels to support research and provide new information on this topic to emergency responders.

·       Agencies that operate emergency vehicles and/or operate at roadway incident scenes shall use the information contained in these various research reports to strengthen their SOPs, training programs and incident operations.

·       Design all new emergency vehicles to meet, as a minimum, the appropriate national consensus standards for that type of vehicle. Use the information contained in the various research reports regarding enhanced emergency vehicle visibility, conspicuity and lighting as a guide to exceed minimum standards and improve vehicle and scene safety, where applicable.

·       Fully train all emergency vehicle drivers for each type of vehicle that they are expected or assigned to drive.

·       All agencies within a given jurisdiction must work together to ensure that roadway incident response roles, policies and procedures among the agencies are defined, consistent, applied and enforced. Interagency training sessions are useful for ensuring appropriate handling of emergency incidents.

·       Train all personnel who operate at roadway incident scenes to perform their roles according to local SOPs; mutual-aid agreements; and applicable local, state and federal laws and national standards.

·       Ensure that all personnel wear appropriate personal protective clothing and retroreflective vests or garments when operating at incidents on or adjacent to a roadway. The only exceptions to wearing retroreflective vests or garments are when personnel are required to wear chemical protective suits or SCBA during the course of their duties.

·       Thoroughly investigate all emergency vehicle response and roadway scene incidents to determine the circumstances and causal factors that played a role in the incident. This should include all near-miss, injury, fatal or otherwise unusual incidents. Use this information to amend policies and procedures, if necessary.

·       Use the NIMS-ICS at all roadway incident scenes, and ensure that all agencies and personnel operate within the command structure.

·       Develop departmental regulations that require that all emergency vehicles operate at a safe and controllable speed and that all members be seated and belted when the vehicle is in motion.

·       Ensure that all vehicles that respond to roadway incidents are equipped with the appropriate types and amounts of traffic control equipment and at least one retroreflective vest for each person riding on the vehicle.


Environment Agency Incident Hotline

Graham Marshall - Friday, February 07, 2014
The UKs Environment Agency has a new Incident Hotline for members of the public to report pollution incidents that they may see.  The new number is 0800 807060.

Pyrolosis in Truck Tyres

Graham Marshall - Friday, July 19, 2013

Coming into contact with overhead power lines when driving can cause the tyres on trucks, cranes and other heavy vehicles to catch fire and explode.

Five workers have been killed by exploding tyres in Australia in recent years and many more injured as excessive heat developing in tyres has led to the unpredictable phenomenon known as pyrolysis.

Pyrolysis can occur when excess heat is applied to a tyre.

Often it is a result of electrical arcing and current flow when rubber tyred vehicles have been involved in high voltage electrical incidents.

The heat decomposes the rubber and other compounds used to manufacture the tyre, creating a ready fuel source.

The ratio of this fuel to the air used to inflate the tyres can then reach flammable or LEL (explosive) levels.

The explosive energy released during a tyre explosion can lead to serious injuries or fatalities and significant equipment damage.

Because of the amount of kinetic energy released, a danger area up to 300 metres away is typically required to be established.

Pyrolysis related explosions are unpredictable, sometimes happening immediately, sometimes up to 24 hours after the heat was applied to the tyres.

And the explosion can happen with no visible signs of a fire on the outside of the tyre before it explodes.

Besides electrical heat sources, other sources of heat that lead to pyrolysis in tyres include welding (e.g., on wheel rims), oxy/acetylene heating wheel nuts, overheating brakes and wheel motor fires.

Tyre explosions predominantly occur with split rim configurations, but can happen with all types of tyres.

Any pneumatic rubber tyred vehicle involved in an incident where an electrical fault results in discharges or arcing around or through the tyres should be considered a potential hazard.

Procedures to follow when there is a danger of a tyre explosion, such as when a rubber tyred vehicle has contacted overhead power lines include:

+ Parking the vehicle in an isolation zone, with a minimum 300 metre radius;

+ Removing everyone from the area, and not allowing anyone to re-enter the isolation zone for 24 hours; and

+ Alerting fire fighting services to the potential hazard.

It should be noted that if pneumatic tyres are filled with nitrogen instead of air, it reduces, if not eliminates the risk of pyrolyic tyre explosion.

Emergency Response Preparation

Graham Marshall - Saturday, May 04, 2013
Any organization's emergency response capability is highly dependent on the availability of personnel who are competent to perform key roles. 

In the event of an emergency, it is critical that each person in a workplace understands what to do. 

And all positions identified as necessary during any emergency should be present at the workplace at all times. 

The requirement for emergency personnel resourcing should be identified; with control measures implemented to ensure that required emergency roles can always be fulfilled.

Emergency response role requirements should be built into planning and resourcing processes. 

Systems should be capable of identifying gaps in emergency capability within forward plans, including the identification of competency expiry dates where relevant. 

Strategies should be developed for unplanned situations where gaps in emergency capability occur, for example, where a person with a designated emergency role is off work due to illness.

The following strategies may assist in maintaining appropriate personnel resources for emergency response:

   Incorporate emergency capability requirements into planning processes. 

   Ensure that systems flag gaps in emergency capability rather than relying on individuals to ‘eyeball’ lists or spread sheets.

   Ensure a level of redundancy for all emergency roles. That is, more than one person per swing should be competent to perform each function.

   To avoid confusion in the event of an emergency, allocate each role to a specific individual. 

   Emergency role allocations should be clearly displayed at each work location.

   Conduct regular drills and exercises followed by debriefing to identify gaps in the system, with corresponding improvement actions developed where necessary.

   Develop clear protocols in the event that an emergency role becomes unexpectedly vacant and cannot be filled by current personnel.

Emergency Response Drills Debriefing

Graham Marshall - Thursday, April 18, 2013
Organizations should ensure that they implement emergency-response drills appropriate to the potential risk within the individual workplace.

And after each emergency response drill, a suitable debriefing session with personnel allocated to emergency-response roles should be held.

Seek to identify gaps or potential weaknesses in the emergency planning process, and develop solutions to any identified problem areas.

Potential questions relevant to emergency response de-breifing include:

   Were all emergency response roles filled with competent personnel?

   Were surplus personnel available for each role?

   Did everyone know which role they were responsible for?

   Did anything unexpected happen?

   Was anyone required to perform a function outside of their designated role?

   What factors impeded time-efficiency?

Confined Space Entry Standard

Graham Marshall - Thursday, December 27, 2012

The importance of organizations having a good Confined Space Entry Standard for employee use within confined spaces cannot be understated.

Confined spaces are either partially or completely enclosed working environments.

They are only meant for short-term worker occupancy.

And entering confined spaces is always "high-risk" because of many factors like space-design, previous storage history, and atmosphere.

When implementing an appropriate Confined Space Standard of control, the risk to workers who perform in confined spaces and the hazards and dangers they face can be substantially reduced to the ALARP level.

Employers can keep workers safe by reducing accidents and also save money when they present their workers with a planned and safe working environment.

The picture below gives four key characteristics of confined spaces and then goes on to provide clear explanation and illustration for safety.

• Lack of oxygen results in 50% of confined space worker fatalities.

• Four important steps when working in a confined space.

• One quarter of confined spaces have toxic air environments.

• A loss in just 5% oxygen in the air causes impaired judgement as well as problems breathing.

Employers who develop proper Confined Space Entry Standards and provide training and education to workers can reduce fatalities and accidents.

Identifying and controlling the hazards, and understanding what to do in an emergency are critical.

There is no reason why anyone needs to lose their life working in a confined space.


Monitoring Social Media to Speed Emergency Resposne Capability

Graham Marshall - Sunday, December 09, 2012

The Research Boffins at Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) have created an ingenesous piece of software called Emergency Situation Awareness (ESA) which detects unusual behaviour in the social media stream (e.g., "twitter") and alert professionals in the emergency services when an emergency situation is being broadcast online.

Doing this allows the CSIOR ESA softwarre to monitor socical media streams and show emerging topics and flag them for investigation.

Searches are being repeated every minute to look for emergency-related words that are used more often than usual.  Such words might include "fire", "earthquake", "flood", "tsunami" and such like other words used to described catastrophic disasters.

These detected ‘word bursts’ are extracted, stored and are made available for access by incident response agencies via the ESA web application.

ESA provides situation awareness with the use of data mining techniques including burst detection, text classification, online clustering and geo-tagging.

These techniques are adapted and optimised for dealing with real-time high volume text streams, which identify early indicators of unexpected situations, explore impact of identified situations and monitor development of events.

CSIRO’s ESA software can acheive the following objectives:

 Detect unexpected or unusual incidents, possible ahead of other communications;

 Condense and summarise messages about an incident maintaining awareness of aggregated content without having to read individual messages;

 Classify and review high-value messages during an incident (e.g. messages describing infrastructure damage or cries for help); understand the impact of an incident on people and infrastructure;

 Identify, track, and manage issues within an incident as they arise, develop and conclude; pro-actively identify and manage issues that may last for hours, days or weeks; and

 Perform analysis of incidents by exploring social media content from before, during and after an incident.

As one example of the benefits, a hospital was recently threatened by a grass fire in Cloncurry in outback Queensland.

With the help of the ESA software, the Queensland Department of Community Safety was alerted of the incident.

ESA gave early notification to crisis coordinators so that they will be able to prepare their response to the fire while waiting for confirmation from official channels.

Evacuation plan was prepared on time and emergency management workers on the ground were given extra time to prepare for action.

ESA made efficient, safe and timely evacuation of hospital staff and patients possible before the fire got out of control.

Aside from early detection of emergencies, ESA is now also being used to explore topics and issues important to the community as well as reputation management.

The CSIRO software sounds like it will be a boon to emergency responders around the World.


Mining Emergency Response Competition

Graham Marshall - Saturday, September 22, 2012

Teams of emergency and rescue personnel from across Western Australia will be testing their skills next month at the Mining Emergency Response Competition (MERC) to take place on the weekend of 6th to 7th October at the Burswood Casino park grounds in Perth, WA.

The emergency response teams from numerous WA mining operations will compete in a range of simulation real-life emergency situations and rescue demonstrations.

Skills will be tested for first-aid, fire-fighting, SCBA use, vehicle extraction, Hazchem response, confined space and rope rescue.

At last year's MERC event, a total of 96 mining rescue teams took part and raised almost $50,000 for the "Miners Promise" charity.

The event is open to the public for viewing and promises to be an exciting day out.

Emergency Response Guidebook 2012

Graham Marshall - Monday, August 27, 2012

The 2012 Emergency Response Guidebook has been recently released for use by fire fighters, police, and other emergency services personnel who may be the first to arrive at the scene of a transportation incident involving dangerous goods.

Developed jointly by Transport Canada, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Secretariat of Transport and Communications of Mexico and with the collaboration of the Centro de Informaciòn Quìmica para Emergencias of Argentina, the guide assists first responders in quickly identifying the specific or generic hazards of the material(s) involved in the incident, and protecting themselves and the general public during the initial response phase of the incident.

This guidebook will assist responders in making initial decisions upon arriving at the scene of a dangerous goods incident.

The Guidebook is not a substitute for emergency response training, knowledge or sound judgment and it does not address all possible circumstances that may be associated with a dangerous goods incident.

It is primarily designed for use at a dangerous goods incident occurring on a highway or railroad.

It may also have some limited value in its application at fixed facility locations.

A copy of the 2012 Emergency Response Guidebook is available here (free).


Detergent Suicide Risk to Passers-by

Graham Marshall - Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Cases of "detergent suicide," "chemical suicide," or "hydrogen sulfide suicide" - in which a deadly mix of common household chemicals are deliberately mixed to produce a toxic gas are on the increase.

While such deaths are relatively rare in Western Nations, these methods of suicide are well known in Japan, where more than 500 cases were reported between January and July 2008.

According to the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine (2011), there were only two such suicide cases recorded in the USA during 2008.

That number rose to ten cases in 2009; and a further 18 suicides in 2010.

At the same time, however, researchers found there were 45 unintentional deaths from such chemical mixing in the USA from 1999 to 2007.

A significant problem with suicides or accidental deaths resulting from inadvertent mixing of chemicals is that they put rescue workers and others at risk when they are exposed to the toxic gases given off.

One recent example is that of Daniel Hoertling, 28, of Thornbury who was found in a tent in a wooded area  south of Cheyney University in Pennsylvania.

Hoertling left a suicide note that was automatically posted on a website. "If you are reading this, I am dead. I have taken my own life," it read.

He also described the mix of chemicals he used to create carbon monoxide gas to kill himself.

Thankfully, signs posted near his tent warned others to keep well away.

In many cases, common household chemicals are used to create hydrogen sulfide gas, which workers in the oil fields where the Risk Tool Box are engaged take great steps to control.

Hydrogen sulfide is a very toxic gas which prevents a person getting enough oxygen throughout their system.

Sense of smell is the first line of defense for those coming onto the scene, who may encounter a rotten egg odour.

The best advice is to leave the scene alone and call the emergency services.

Do not attempt to open any car door or enter into a built structure if you suspect that a person has killed themself using toxic gas.

Hazardous material crews dressed in protective clothing and using special breathing apparatus will then decontaminate the area and remove the body.

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