Machine rescue calls, sometimes referred to as “Man-in-a-Machine” calls are somewhat infrequent. The most common machinery rescue calls involve people trapped in dough mixers, conveyor belts, meat grinders and snow blowers, etc… Although this type of call may be rare, when they occur they have potential to be very taxing on manpower and resources. Rescue calls such as this will most likely require specialized training and equipment.
Although infrequent, it is important that all firefighters understand that they may be called to one of these incidents at any time. All firefighters should possess some sort of game plan to mitigate a “man in a machine” incident in the quickest and most efficient manner possible. Equally important to the game plan, those firefighters must also possess the proper tools and skill to successfully disentangle a victim from within the given machine. Some fire companies assemble and carry what is affectionately termed as a “Man-in-a-Machine” kit. Typically, these kits are assembled so that commonly used tools are in one location. This assures that the tools are easy to find, and that nothing will be left on the rig when it is needed.
In most cases, three kits that are commonly brought to the scene of a “Man-in-a-Machine” call. Those three kits are: The “man-in-a-machine”, air tool and lock-out/tag-out kits. These kits function very well together, providing a proper amount of redundancy in the event that several of the same types or various sizes of the same tools are needed.
The “Man-in-a-Machine” Kit
The “Man-in-a-Machine” kit is quite simple to assemble. This kit assembles all of the common tools that may be used to extricate a person from machinery. If you are unsure of the types of tools that may be needed, you have a secondary job to accomplish. Stop by your local butcher, baker and print shops and ask them what tools that they use to disassemble and reassemble common components of their machines. Depending on your response area, you may also add lawn-mower shops, small engine shops and factories to your list. Who better to ask of the tool selection than the experts in their respective fields? You may also find a use for this kit at other emergency calls, auto extrications or implements.
Once you have decided on the assortment of tools, the collection may be stored in a Pelican-type case for rapid access and deployment. This case will also double as a impromptu tool staging area since all tools will be present and centralized. It is important to allow a little extra room in your kit to accommodate any extra tools that you may find useful as time passes. Always remain alert of changing or new industry that moves into your area to stay abreast of changing “man-in-a-machine” needs.
-Various sized hacksaws
-Cordless Sawzall and batteries
-Various sizes and types of screw drivers
-Various sizes and types of adjustable and box wrenches
-Various sizes and types of pliers, vise grips, channel locks and angled, etc…
-Various sizes and types of pipe wrenches
Firefighters must also remain cognizant of other tools that may be needed for more complex machinery extrications. You will have to decide which tools are most appropriate for you after reviewing your response area. Those tools may include:
-Oxy-acetylene torch (or other available type of torch)
-Medical kits and/or trauma bags
-Extra blankets to cover patient
-Water extinguisher (if sparks are being generated while cutting)
-Lighting (time of day, visibility conditions, etc…)
-Hydraulic forcible entry tool
-Hydraulic extrication tools
Air Tool Kit
Air tools may also be needed at a machinery extrication call. This kit, like the aforementioned kit, stores all of the air tools in one location for easy access and deployment. An air supply will also be needed, but will most likely be too large to fit inside the kit. Air supplies may include a portable air compressor, an air cylinder with regulator and/or an air cart with the appropriate attachment for your tools.
Components of an air tool kit may include:
-An air-powered drill, impact gun, Whizzer saw (die grinder), angle grinder, angle grinder and chisel
-Various sections of air hose
-Air fittings for various types of air lines
-Air chisel tips and attachments
-Extra grinding and cutting disks
-Air socket set (Metric and Standard)
-Thin metal shims
Air-powered tools are excellent alternatives to cut away machine parts in an effort to free trapped limbs or appendages. If cutting metal is your plan of attack, the patient must be covered with blankets to avoid further injury due to sparks, etc… If you intend to cover the patient with a standard medical blanket, the blanket must be dampened to avoid catching fire from the sparks. Additionally, the metal surface as the cut is performed will conduct heat to the patient. It is imperative that the surface of the metal be kept cool to avoid further injury. Some air-powered cutting tools may spin at 10,000-20,000 rpm’s, and will heat up metal surfaces very quickly. A pressurized water extinguisher is one way to keep metal surfaces surface cool and it is readily available.
A proper “Lock-out/Tag-out” kit should be present at any machinery extrication. While some departments combined their lock-out/tag-out kit with their man-in-the-machine kit, this is sometimes counter-productive. One reason that you may want to keep this kit separate from other kits is because it is useful at other emergencies. The “Lock-out/Tag-out” kit is useful at elevator rescues and emergencies, electrical emergencies and confined space rescues. It is important to note that before ANY operation begins at a machinery extrication incident, the power must be shut off and all moving parts in a machine or product line must be lock and tagged out of service. If manpower permits, a member of the company that is operating in/on the machine should standby at the location of the shut-off. This will prevent power restoration by an unknowing civilian or firefighter.
A typical “Lock-out/Tag-out” kit may include:
-Tags (should have FD markings and instructions)
-Ball-valve lock-out covers
-Light switch lock-outs
-Electrical plug lock-outs
-Circuit breaker lock-outs
In this article we have reviewed many different tools and a few options for carrying, transporting and deploying those tools. The use of the “kit-concept” mentioned above will allow you to deploy most of the commonly needed tools for a typical machinery rescue call. Since these machinery extrication calls do not happen frequently, it is important to keep the needed tools together to avoid unprofessional and time-consuming trips to the rig to gather tools.
Machinery extrication may be one of the most challenging types of extrication. The tools and equipment must be reviewed often, and realistic training must be completed on a regular basis. This is the only way to insure and efficient and smooth operation on the rescue ground. Stay tuned for upcoming course announcements which will include “Man-in-the-Machine” training.