Machinery Extrication Tool Kits by Andrew Brassard and Kevin LeGacy

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.

Basic components of a typical “Man-in-a-Machine” kit include the following:

-Various sized hacksaws

-Wooden wedges

-Steel wedges

-Cordless Sawzall and batteries

-Tin snips

-Saline solution

-Liquid soap

-Ball-peen hammer

-Various sizes and types of screw drivers

-Various sizes and types of adjustable and box wrenches

-Ring cutter

-Various sizes and types of pliers, vise grips, channel locks and angled, etc…

-Metal shims

-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:

-The irons

-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)

-Pry bars

-Lighting (time of day, visibility conditions, etc…)

-Portable generators

-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

-Drill bits

-Screw drivers & bits


-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.

Lock-out/Tag-out Kit

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)


-Valve covers

-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.


  • Scott Mclaughlin says:


  • @Smokeybehr says:

    A Lockout/Tagout kit is a mandatory part of working on any kind of machinery in an industrial/commercial environment. OSHA and NFPA 70E both require it for regular maintenance. If a machine is properly locked/tagged, there's no need to have someone stationed there. Each rescuer in direct contact with the patient, as well as the plant mechanics should all have individual locks on a lockout hasp (or multiple hasps) that only come off when the operation is complete and the patient is fully extricated. Kits can be purchased online from multiple sources, such as Grainger or Graybar, or from a local electrical distributor.

    I'd stay away from any kind of torch (Oxy-Acetylene or Oxy-MAPP). You don't want to be trying to put that much heat into anything that could potentially conduct that heat to the patient. Stick with the air-powered grinder or circular ventilation saw with a metal cutting blade and a pressurized water extinguisher for cooling.

    Another big thing in machinery extrication is to reverse the operation that entangled the patient in the first place. Physically disconnect the power source from the drive mechanism, and reverse the operation by hand, using tools if necessary.

  • I would agree and disagree with what you are saying about lock out/tag out. Safety agencies such as OHSA and NFPA have made great strides to reduce injuries by instituting lock out/tag out procedures and other progressive safety functions in both industry and in the fire service, machinery is suppose to be locked and tagged out before any maintenance is done so in theory if we show up the machine should be locked out and tagged out already or the company that we are responding to should have the appropriate LOTO equipment on site. This is maybe the way it should be or the way it is written in a book but the harsh reality is that this is not always how it happens in real life.

    Before and after joining the fire service for several years I worked for a technical rescue training company that also did stand by rescue, we worked in some of Ontario’s biggest industries including one of the worlds largest coal power plants and one of Canada’s largest pulp and paper plants. We preformed lock out on machinery all the time, some of these pieces of machinery took hours to lock out properly. Also in some cases none of the plant staff ever worked on the equipment that was in the plant, the work was all done by contractors and the contractors would supply the lock out equipment. I know of several times where people have become entrapped in a piece of machinery just by slipping and falling into it…. not while performing any maintenance.

    So we (the fire department) respond to a worker who has fallen into a paper pulper and become trapped, the millwrights that are usually responsible for LOTO and maintenance of the equipment are not on scene…… this piece of machinery requires 30 locks to lock it out properly…… what do you do? Most fire trucks don’t carry enough locks or specialized LOTO equipment to handle such an emergency, in these such emergencies if a lock cannot be placed on something or we do not have a proper lock out device for the piece of equipment at hand then it can be shut down and a person can be placed to ensure it stays “locked out”.

    In most cases the company will have on site maintenance personnel or at least the proper LOTO equipment should we not have the appropriate equipment available on our apparatus. One thing to remember, if the company puts a huge emphasis on safety and has all the proper safety equipment in place…. what are the chances that they have a worker with their arm stuck in a piece of machinery? I have worked in government buildings and Billion dollar factories that try to cut corners all the time and do not have the appropriate safety protocols in places, we are going to be the ones that have to mitigate these entrapments when they happen and we will have to do it with what we are bringing with us.

    Torches are a great addition to your machinery extrication “kit”, like anything they have their place. Sure they may cause more heat transfer, but they can also be very quick to cut metal should you need to cut a large amount of steel in a little amount of time. An example of this would be a close friend of mine used an Oxy-Acetylene torch to cut about 2ft of 1/2 inch steel loading dock gate that crushed a mans leg, the torch was used after several other methods failed. Anyone who has ever used any cutting tools to cut steel knows that it would take a month of Sundays to cut a section of steel this size with a cut off wheel or an air hack saw.

    Impalement is another great place for the use of a torch, air tools can tend to vibrate or shake the impalement too much which can cause excruciating pain and further injury to the patient. Cooling can be done by cutting small pieces at a time and wrapping the metal between the cut site and the patient in gauze and keeping it wet with a water can. When it comes to torch use it is simple: If you wouldn’t use it….. you shouldn’t use it! it is a tool in the tool box much like any other tool and if you are not comfortable or trained in its use then you should stay away from it.

    As for running the machine in reverse. It is a great option and is one of the the first and easiest options to free a trapped patient. Although not always possible depending on what the patient is trapped in and the condition of the patient (reversing the machine may cause more injury) it is a great option for freeing trapped limbs.

    Thanks for the reply,

    Andrew Brassard
    Co-Owner Brotherhood Instructors LLC
    Milton Fire Department

    P.S. please in the future could you sign your posts with your name this will help us control the anonymous bashing that takes place on some blogs, in the future unsigned posts will not be published.

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