Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Colorado – Engine Rollover LODD NIOSH Final Report

The website article can be read here:

I just finished reading the NIOSH report on the February 23, 2008 apparatus rollover that took the life of 33 year-old Shane Stewart of the Ault-Pierce, Colorado Fire Protection District. The NIOSH report can be read here:

The report states that Captain Shane Stewart died after being ejected from the cab and was then rolled over by the apparatus. He was declared dead from multiple traumatic injuries at the scene.

Though it is true that the failure to wear the seat belt was front and center stage in this report, it also raised an issue that I had not seen or even considered before I read this report. There was an issue with the cab compartment “layout”.

It appears that the driver of this unit could NOT reach the mobile radio unit from the drivers’ seat with the seatbelt on! If this were common knowledge, then the experienced driver might not bother to put the seatbelt on at all and the less experienced might attempt to unbelt while enroot to the scene, if he wanted to talk on the unit’s mobile radio. (It should be noted that investigators conducted several tests, using several different drivers to reach these conclusions.)

When going to an incident scene, an apparatus driver should just drive; right?

The second person in the cab should be operating the radio; right?

How many departments have ever called back to the station to request another rig, knowing that it would come with just a driver, even though your SOP may state “a minimum of two per unit” or whatever that minimum is?

A straight stretch of road in good weather conditions and travelling at approximately 45 mph in a tanker is NOT a recipe for an accident.

In this incident, it appears that things went terribly wrong when the driver attempted to reach towards the radio to change to the fire ground frequency. Even with a hands-free system, changing channels would require the radio operator to reach.

So, the location of the mobile radio in the cab becomes very important.

Anything that distracts the driver from his primary duty of driving is cause for concern, but, as the sole occupant as in this case, you still need to communicate.

Could the driver have used Dispatch as a relay to the fire ground, which, in this case, was a medical call requesting a landing zone set up for a med-evac helicopter, instead of attempting to change channels while enroot?

I don’t have the answer for that.

Could the driver have used a portable radio with lapel mike instead of the mobile radio? I don’t know what type of radio system they have, so I can’t answer it.

Does driving and shifting gears with a floor-mounted shifter create a distraction that is different than driving and changing channels or even talking on a radio? The report would lead us to believe that a second person in the cab should handle all non-driving tasks.

So, if some believe that a driver should keep both hands on the steering wheels at all times, then all trucks will have to be built with automatic transmissions.

Would a hard-fast SOP that requires two persons minimum per rig be a solution? I would have to say “yes”, because, if you have a driver who is driving AND shifting gears; then add to that, the radio tasks, then I believe that the drivers’ focus would be diminished.

Would you locate the radio in closer proximity to the driver? Would you have it done professionally or would you do it yourselves to save money? Are you aware that even though you do the work that you must still be in compliance with NFPA 1901?

Would you consider hands-free, voice activated headsets with a radio frequency protocol that allows for apparatus drivers to communicate without switching channels while driving?

My final point is that we have to make sure that apparatus drivers are trained and tested at least twice a year in the apparatus that they will be expected to operate and done in accordance with NFPA 1002, 1451, 1500 and 1901.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration exempts the occupants of fire trucks and rescue vehicles from wearing seatbelts when moving and I believe that this goes back to the days when we could ride on the tailboards and in open cabs, so that law needs changed so that it parallels the many initiatives by our national organizations to get everyone to buckle up.

Everyone who spoke of Captain Shane Stewart said that he wore his seatbelt religiously. See news article here:

He left behind a wife and two small children.

Let’s honor him and his family by learning from him.


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