NIOSH Warns Fire Departments of Aerial Ladder/Waterway Risk

NIOSH posted a Safety Advisory on May 8 that warns all fire departments that use aerial ladder trucks with locking (pin-anchored, lever actuated, clamped) waterways to take immediate action to reduce the risk of firefighters being struck by unsecured waterways or parts of the waterway. The agency's document, available at www.cdc.gov/niosh/fire/SafetyAdvisory05052008.html, says the agency is investigating an April 8, 2008, 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."

The recommended actions are: ensure 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; and properly train and practice the correct method of securing waterways and verifying they are secured (per manufacturer's recommendations).

A properly seated pin at the fly section for defensive water stream operations is highlighted in an illustration in the advisory, which says various methods are used throughout the fire apparatus industry to secure the waterway.

"Preliminary findings in this investigation suggest that some equipment designs do not provide secondary stops for the waterway on aerial ladders," it says. "Thus, failure to properly secure the waterway in the proper position can lead to catastrophic waterway failure and possible serious or fatal injury to fire fighters 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 7 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."

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