The following is a description of a machinery rescue call from Andrew Brassard and the Milton (Ontario) Fire Department. They received the call around 11:30 pm a few days back for a man caught in a machine at the Leaver Mushroom Plant. At the end are some leasons learned and other things to think about. Also, be sure to check out the linked man-lift rescue post with more variables.
On arrival myself and my Captain went directly to the area where the man was trapped with some basic tools while the rest of the crew gathered the rest of our tools and equipment. We walked into the back of the building where a large conveyor was located and could hear the patient screaming in obvious pain. The conveyor was about 4 feet wide and went up to a second conveyor that fed into a large blender (it mixed the soil with wood chips, manure, and fertilizer). At full height the conveyor is roughly 20' off the ground. Police and EMS were already on scene because the call orginially came into dispatch as a male with back pain.
We found the man in his 50's face up inside the conveyor system about 15' up the conveyor. His clothing and hand were between the belt and metal sides of the conveyor. He was not significantly trapped, but he had been dragged through an extreamly small opening in the wall from outside the building where he had been originally trapped. A co-worker and a paramedic were already on top of the conveyor system.
The first thing I asked when I got inside the building was if the machine was locked and tagged-out… a gentleman there said he was the head of maintenance and he was not sure. One of our members and the head of maintenance went to ensure the machine was locked out. Once we had confirmation that the machine was locked out myself and another firefighter got up on top of the conveyor and helped free and package the patient. Other firefighters went down to the bottom of the conveyor and used a chainsaw to cut a hole through the plywood wall to allow us to bring the patient down and remove him closer to the ground.
- The biggest issue I found was even though the conveyor was locked out, we did nothing to stop the conveyor from running backwards due to our weight on the system and gravity.
- Securing the load and then securing the conveyor belt is paramount before killing the power. On this particular run, the belt only moved on several occasion, but never more then a couple inches (lucky!).
- Securing the belt and load can be as easy as using a choker and a come-along or griphoist to hold it up.
Other Variable To Think About:
- If we had to cut the belt how would we do it?
- How would we secure the belt before cutting it?
- How much does the belt weigh?
- How could we secure loose rocks or large piles of dirt on the belts?
Pass it on!