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NIOSH issues aerial ladder warning
Volume 24 Number3

NIOSH recommends that all fire departments utilizing aerial ladder trucks with locking (pin-anchored, lever actuated, clamped) waterways immediately take the following actions to reduce the risk of fire fighters being struck by unsecured waterways or parts of the waterway:

  • Ensure that Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and/or Guidelines (SOGs) on setting up multi-position waterways include steps to properly position the waterway and to inspect and verify that the locking mechanism (anchoring pin(s), lever, clamps, etc.) are properly installed and functioning as designed before pressurizing the waterway.
  • Properly train and practice the correct method of securing waterways and verifying they are secured (per manufacturer's recommendations).

NIOSH is currently investigating an April 8, 2008, firefighter line-of-duty-death that illustrates that adhering to manufacturer recommended set-up procedures for aerial ladder operations is paramount to ensuring fire fighter safety.?

Preliminary findings in this investigation suggest that some equipment designs do not provide secondary stops for the waterway on aerial ladders. Thus, failure to properly secure the waterway in the proper position can lead to catastrophic waterway failure and possible serious or fatal injury to firefighters working in the area. ?The pin-anchored waterway design involved in this particular investigation is not limited to a single model or apparatus manufacturer. NIOSH is aware of at least seven similar incidents that occurred in Delaware, Michigan, New Jersey, Texas, Virginia and Ontario without serious injury.? Newer aerial ladder trucks may incorporate different types of anchoring mechanisms and/or a more fail-safe design but proper set up still needs to be verified before operation.

On April 8, 2008, a volunteer deputy fire chief (the incident commander), was killed when struck by a motorized water monitor and 30 feet of aluminum pipe that was launched off an elevated aerial ladder at a fire at an industrial manufacturing plant in Pennsylvania.? The truck was normally transported in the "rescue mode" with the monitor pinned to the second section of ladder so that the waterway would not be in the way if the ladder was set up for rescue operations.? At the incident scene, when the waterway was pressurized, the monitor and its support bracket, along with the last 30-foot section of pipe were "launched" off the aerial ladder by the force of the water pressure in the pipe.? The monitor flew approximately 75 feet and fell, striking the incident commander on the head, killing him instantly.? After the incident, the anchor pin was found on the ground, in front of the truck's cab.? The waterway did not include any secondary mechanical stops to prevent the separation of the water monitor in the event the anchoring pin was not properly seated. The NIOSH Fire Fighter Fatality Investigation and Prevention Program is investigating this incident and a full report will be available at a later date.

NIOSH would like to bring this information to the attention of all U.S. fire departments and firefighters who operate or work around aerial ladder trucks with locking (pin-anchored, lever actuated, clamped) waterways so that future occurrences of waterway monitor? launches or the unexpected movement of the waterway monitor can be prevented.? If secondary mechanical stops are present, the unexpected impact of the waterway monitor against the mechanical stop could cause structural damage to the aerial ladder and jeopardize the safety of any firefighter standing on the aerial ladder.? While not a contributing factor in the fatal incident, NIOSH reminds fire departments to comply with relevant federal regulations and NFPA standards for fire apparatus inspections and certification.

 
 

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