Friday, May 21, 1999

Rescuers build training ground

Procedure for confined areas being taught

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        FAIRFIELD TOWNSHIP — When children fall into wells — as 17-month-old Jessy Kraus did last week in Kansas or 18-month-old Jessica McClure did in Texas 12 years ago — the whole nation seems to hold its breath while rescuers try to reach them.

        But these situations happen more often than most people probably realize, said Charles DuVal, the Butler County safe ty director.

        That's why ground is being broken today for a training center for police, fire and rescue personnel on the grounds of the D. Russel Lee Career Center.

        Mr. DuVal estimates that about 400 people die each year in “confined spaces,” such as wells, tanks and sewers. And working in confined spaces is especially perilous for rescuers, Mr. DuVal said.

        “One of the odd statistics is that two out of three people who die in confined spaces would be rescuers,” he said. “You often end up with multiple fatalities stacked on top of one another, all because they didn't have training, equip ment and a plan.”

        Having a training center means that “rather than trying to climb around in storm sewers to do our training, (we'll have) a relatively clean space to train in,” said Mr. DuVal, who is active with the National Safety Council. “I don't know of any other like it in the country.”

        An organization called SHIELD — Safety Health Industrial Education and Labor Development — in Middletown has helped raise about $3,000 for the project so far, Mr. DuVal said. Pipes and materials for the project are being donated with the help of area labor unions, he said. Construction is to be complete within a few months.

        “Having a facility where police, fire and rescue personnel can train their people would ultimately save lives,” he said.

        Under federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations, each employer that has confined spaces where someone could be trapped must have written rescue plans in place.

        One of the Tristate's worst confined-space tragedies occurred in 1994 at AK Steel Corp. in Middletown, where four people were killed after being trapped inside a tank that exploded, said Dennis Collins, OSHA area director. He said it might be impossible to tell how many people have been rescued from such situations.

        “One of the big problems is that people don't recognize what a confined space is and all the potential problems,” Mr. Collins said. “The only way we hear about a rescue is if someone is seriously hurt or killed, or if an employee files a complaint about it. There are probably a lot of near-misses that we'll never know about.”


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