Lifting Heavy Loads - Part 6


TOPIC: Safety When Lifting Heavy Loads

OBJECTIVE: Understand necessary safety considerations when lifting heavy loads

TASK: Given various scenarios where lifting of a heavy load is required, list and describe the safety considerations to be dealt with before, during and after the lift is accomplished.

The "Lifting Heavy Loads" University of Extrication series has focused on various aspects of lifting objects with tools and equipment available to rescue personnel. As the techniques presented in the previous lessons are learned and practiced, it becomes apparent to all participants that there is risk involved whenever a heavy object is lifted. Safety considerations during lift training as well as at real-world rescue incidents are the theme of this installment of the series. A model safety checklist is presented as a means of increasing the awareness of the risks and the safety considerations for lifting heavy loads.

There may be members of your organization who have experienced near-miss incidents during lifting of heavy loads. As an instructor during a lifting exercise where a large farm tractor was being lifted and stabilized, I experienced a catastrophic box crib failure. Although a heart-stopping event, no injuries resulted because strict safety processes were in place. In New York State, a student in a vehicle rescue class was struck by cribbing that suddenly flew out from an improperly built box crib supporting two air bags. Without a solid top layer, the cribbing failed; one piece struck a student more than 20 feet away, breaking a lower leg bone.

One lifting heavy load "training" activity that gained national attention and resulted in an investigation by a federal agency occurred in July 2003 in Dell Rapids, SD. An area fire department purchased their first set of rescue airbags. During a demonstration conducted by the equipment salesman, who was also a volunteer firefighter, the three stacked airbags catastrophically moved. As the bags flew out from beneath the 92-ton lifted load, the middle bag violently struck the salesman, who was five to 10 feet away at the time. He suffered massive head injuries resulting in his death.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) investigated and released its report (F2003-34) that included recommendations that pertain to lifting of heavy loads with airbags or any other lifting tools or equipment.

RON MOORE, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a battalion chief and the training officer for the McKinney, TX, Fire Department. He also authors a monthly online article in the "MembersZone" and serves as the Forum Moderator for the extrication section of the website. Moore can be contacted directly at