1. #1
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    Default Air Bag Failure During Lifting Demo

    The story is still unfolding from the front page of Firehouse.com but there might still be some lessons learned already. (Airbag Demo Critically Injures One,...)

    It seems that rural Iowa firefighters had gathered inside a metal equipment storage building at a huge quarry operation in their district to observe an air bag lifting demonstration.

    The image that is shown in both the local television station's online video and in their news story is of a 90-ton front end loader.

    Seems as if everyone gathered around a salesman for Heiman Fire Equipment as he used the bags to lift the loader. News reporter Jolene Loetscher, KELOLAND TV, states that the lift was completed and that the bags were being deflated. That's when a catastrophic failure occurred. The sales rep (also a volunteer firefighter)suffered a severe head injury after being struck by the flying air bags and others suffered temporary hearing loss.

    In a television interview with the County Sheriff, he stated that there was actually a bag rupture. The Colton Fire & Rescue Chief was interviewed and stated that these were 'new' airbags that had been bought and were being used to show the members how they operate.

    What lessons are to be learned from this unfortunate incident will take time to come out. While we are remembering the injured sales rep in our thoughts and prayers, let's start a list of safety reminders when involved in using rescue air bags for lifting operations! This thread will be a nice review for all of us on lifting safety in general and air bag lifting specifically.

    A major one(which pertains to this Iowa incident as well as any time we lift) is to identify the 'kick out' zone at the air bags. This is the 'line of fire' that the bag or bags will take if there is any kind of load shift. It is typically an area or direction in line with the air bag stack and 90 degrees outward from the lifted load. It can be predicted by monitoring the lift and watching for any lean or tilt in the air bag or the air bag stack.

    Another general safety guide I can think of specific to front end loaders is that if you lift the rear portion or just lift the front portion, there is a great possibility for the articulated knuckle joint to swivel. This can really mess up your stabilization, causing load shift and any stacked air bags to potentially fail.

    Air bags only lift a load... they do not stabilize! Air bags should not be used alone when any load is lifted. Additional equipment like standard cribbing or tensioned buttress stabilization struts should be employed to actually stabilize the lifted load.

    Also, if new air bags actually rupture during a lift, there are several resons for that unexpected event. Possibilities include a defective air bag right from the manufacturer, something sharp punctured the bag, the bag over-pressurized because a relief valve failed, the bag came in contact with a heat source, or load shifting tore the bag at the valve stem (or the interlock ring on the stackable bag designs).

    What's some of your personal favorite safety guidelines for lifting with air bags???
    Last edited by rmoore; 07-12-2003 at 11:22 AM.
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    Here's that "Line - of - Fire" that I was talking about. You can tell which way these bags would fly if the lift continued.

    If rescue safety personnel are monitoring the air bags from two different, opposing directions, a lean or shift such as this can be identified and corrections made before there is blow-out failure.
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    The incident happened in South Dakota. The salesman/firefighter died yesterday (7-11-03) from head injuries.

    My condolences to his family and the Renner VFD of which he was a member.

    Stay Safe
    IACOJ

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    Mr. Moore,
    My experience with airbags is limited, but I have a comment about that picture: why is the airbag on the bumper? if it blows, it will come shooting out like a rocket. i was taught that you should put the airbag under the car, on the frame itself, which would also help the airbags inflate straight up, instead of over the bumper as it shown in the picture.
    If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!

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    That looks like a roll off dumpster to me.

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    The Argus Leader newspaper published an article on 7/12 written by John Reynolds. He reported the death of Mr. Hamro and also revealed several possible clues about the incident.

    Quotes include;

    "They were having a joint training session after buying a rescue tech machine made of air bags that are placed underneath large objects to free people from rollover accidents."

    Rescue Tech machine. Do you think the bags were the multi-stackable Res-Q Tek air bags?

    "Hamro was in the process of deflating the bags with a 30-ton payloader on top, when the explosion occurred."

    The payloader they show in the video is a big one; 30 ton total weight would be about right. But with air bags, you're only lifting a portion of the weight. It's called a tilting lift on purpose.

    "The weight of the payloader somehow shifted, causing the bags to explode..."

    Do you think the metal screw-together rings between the air bags separated under the off-center loading?

    "One of the bags struck Hamro in the head, Milstead said. The other two bags removed a portion of the ceiling."

    That's the awesome power of unrestrained rescue air bags that are being used at or near capacity.

    A tragic loss of life of a firefighter that saddens all of us. Be safe out there with air bags. They must be respected.
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    Oh by the way... the blue object shown in the stacked air bag lift image is a construction site roll-off dumpster. They make great training props for any lifting class.

    The air bags are placed along the short end of the container; you can actually see one of the rollers just behind the air bags. The truck would pull the dumpster from the opposite end.
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    Default Safety issues

    Ron,I think you've got most of them right in line.Another idea or two.Check your equipment before and after any job.Replace ageing bags per mfgs recommendations.NEVER exceed the capacity of the system, use the weakest unit as the maximum allowable lift.Remember that most bags are rated at the FIRST TWO inches of lift and gradually lose lifting capacity after that.NEVER put yourself in harm's way,ie under a unsecured load(not cribbed).Use cribbing or supports capable of withstanding the total load imposed on them.T.C.

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    Did anyone catch that the article said there were THREE air bags in use? Unless there's a new model out there that I'm unaware of airbags should never be used more than two at a time. Stacking three on top of each other only increases the inherent instability and, therefore, increases the chances of inadvertantly launching the airbags out from under the load. I hope that the firefighters involved can learn from this incident and not have such an overwhelming fear of the bags that they will be unable to place them in service should the need arise.

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    Default 3 deckers

    Pyro,Resqtek has bags that can be interconnected to make a three bag system.We've used them in the Big Rig Rescue series.Do not know how high the ratings go as we've only used the smaller ones but it's a nice system.T.C.

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    Three HIGH or three at a time?

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    It's not clear to me that the resqtek bags where involved with this incident, or whether the reports refer to bags three high or three wide.

    However, for benefit of those wondering, here's a pic of the Resqtek bags. Unlike most air bags, they have an interlocking system to allow them to stack three high


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    Thumbs up That be three high but only Resqtek

    Thanks Dal,I haven't got the picture pull and transfer mastered yet.I haven't seen any indication at present of who's bags they were using.I'm sure we will know more shortly.T.C.

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    OK Guys, Did I miss something here? is that an actual picture of a preincident failure? being a student of the FarMedic http://www.farmedic.com/ In that program you are taught if you lift an inch, crib an inch!! OK I am no scientist here, but would have to think once again propper cribing could have made some difference here. If the compression was only an inch, that somehow I feel the explosion may have been lessoned and resulting injuries lessoned, Again I am no scientist, but as a shade tree engineer, I feel that could have lessoned the risks and after all isnt that what we are all about
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    In that program you are taught if you lift an inch, crib an inch!!

    According to Ron's first post, they where in the process of deflating.

    While I've been taught to crib an inch, I haven't and I'm not sure many are taught that that rule is good in reverse. Usually we just pull the whole crib stack out and drop the load in one shot.

    New lesson to tuck away.

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    Originally posted by Dalmatian90
    In that program you are taught if you lift an inch, crib an inch!!

    According to Ron's first post, they where in the process of deflating.

    While I've been taught to crib an inch, I haven't and I'm not sure many are taught that that rule is good in reverse. Usually we just pull the whole crib stack out and drop the load in one shot.

    New lesson to tuck away.
    Well said! any time a load is not in it normal resting position we need to think Cribing, Both the up and down, Excellent POINT!
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    Have we found out who's lifting bags were involved ?

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    I've received quite a few questions through private email about cribbing and lifting protocols. Several firefighters were concerned that my image of the stacked airbags with a serious lean to them didn't show any cribbing in place.

    This second image is also of air bag lifting training but it is a wider shot of the construction roll-off dumpster that reveals how cribbing (actually two stacks) were in place during all the lifts. They just don't show in the close-up shot of the stacked lift.
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    Single air bag lift demonstration with two stacks of cribbing in place.
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    Hi Ron, I am still not clear on this, are these photos from the incident or another situation? If they are not pics of the actual demo where the incident occured, do you know if they cribbed up and down durring their exercise? Do you feel Lift/lower an inch crib an inch may have altered the out comes of this unfortunate incident? I know it is not always easy to be an arm chair quarter back, but this is how we all learn.
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    Default Re: Safety issues

    Originally posted by Rescue101
    .Replace ageing bags per mfgs recommendations.

    "NEVER exceed the capacity of the system, use the weakest unit
    as the maximum allowable lift". <-----DANGER, DANGER (excellent point T.C.)

    Remember that most bags are rated at the FIRST TWO inches of lift and gradually lose lifting capacity after that.

    NEVER put yourself in harm's way,ie under a unsecured load(not cribbed).Use cribbing or supports capable of withstanding the total load imposed on them.T.C.
    Very Good advice T.C.

    Did you all know they were lifting a 90 ton loader with those 3 bags?
    Did any one else read that there was an "Explosion" that "caused hearing loss in several firefighters" this, according to the Fire Chief ( who said to have been about 8 feet away from the victim) Another good point I might add is that the victim was not the one "scheduled" to do the demonstration. It should've been a representative from the factory, but when he didn't show. The vicitm filled in. According to investigators they so far were not sure what kind of training he had received to work with those airbags.

    This just helps to remind us that experience and familarity with specific equipment is essential for safe rescue operations. This along with proper training and supervision.

    I hope we can all learn from this tragedy and from the "Sages" who have placed noteworthy input in to this particular thread topic.

    Be safe.

    Fraternally, JT

    Also, here is a 3 minute MPEG link of the incident from a news crew local to that area.
    \mms://media.l-s.com/KELO/071103dell.wmv
    Last edited by NB87JW; 07-22-2003 at 03:23 AM.
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    Default Clarifications

    The part of this tragedy I'm wrestling with is of the explosion.90 thou' while a lot of weight is not a particularly hard lift if you have the right equipment.Plus,if I read the thread right,the failure occured while LOWERING the load meaning the lift(maximum load) had already happened.There aren't a lot of things that will cause a "explosion" with airbag operations.Overloading,internal defects,and pressure points (sharp edges)come to mind.An explosion of a magnitude to cause hearing loss would lean me toward an overworked system as most work in the 125-150# range,similar to a big rig tire blowout.Whenever you are in any lifting scenerio ALWAYS calculate the worst case theory otherwise known as what if.This tragic event has caused me to re-examine our equipment and procedures to see if policy adjustments need to be made.T.C.

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    One local SOG we have is to always place a piece of ply or rubber sheeting between the top pad and the vehicle to protect the bag from hots/sharps which might damage the bag.

    Having had a tire blow out on my oil truck this past winter I can testify that 110psi will definitely deafen anyone standing near it when it blows (I was 20' from it in the cab and had to change my underwear afterwords). I also know a guy that got killed when the lock ring of his tire failed while airing up his front end loader, it has the potential.

    This is pure conjecture, but what is they were deflating the lower bag and the shift punctured the top cell? I hope we hear more details soon.

    Important thing to be aware of, with articulating body equipment there is supposed (OSHA) to be a locking arm to prevent the body from swinging on you while working near the rig. Unfortunately it is only just the right length to lock in one position and usually I've found it takes two to pin it right, one to wiggle the steering wheel, the other to drop the pin. There should also be a locking device on any loader arms, but again it only works at full extention. If it is at all possible, while working on this sort of equipment you should always pin before you begin.
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    I'd just like to put my own two cents into all this. Everything that everybody said was all 100% correct in my eyes. ALWAYS crib when lifting AND lowering. We always put a piece of 5 inch hose between the bag and whatever we are lifting. I have never used the resqtek bags though, I have used holmatro. What happened was most certainly a tragedy, though I think it could have been avoided. If the gentleman didn't have the proper training to conduct the class, then he shouldn't have been doing it. That may or may not have been the problem, I think until all the details come out, there will be alot of speculation as to what it was that caused this, but we're kinda taking shots in the dark right now. That's just my opinion, I could be wrong.

    Stay safe brothers,

    Matt

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    Does anyone know who the manufacturer is?

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