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Air Bag Failure During Lifting Demo

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  • Air Bag Failure During Lifting Demo

    The story is still unfolding from the front page of Firehouse.com but there might still be some lessons learned already. (Airbag Demo Critically Injures One,...)

    It seems that rural Iowa firefighters had gathered inside a metal equipment storage building at a huge quarry operation in their district to observe an air bag lifting demonstration.

    The image that is shown in both the local television station's online video and in their news story is of a 90-ton front end loader.

    Seems as if everyone gathered around a salesman for Heiman Fire Equipment as he used the bags to lift the loader. News reporter Jolene Loetscher, KELOLAND TV, states that the lift was completed and that the bags were being deflated. That's when a catastrophic failure occurred. The sales rep (also a volunteer firefighter)suffered a severe head injury after being struck by the flying air bags and others suffered temporary hearing loss.

    In a television interview with the County Sheriff, he stated that there was actually a bag rupture. The Colton Fire & Rescue Chief was interviewed and stated that these were 'new' airbags that had been bought and were being used to show the members how they operate.

    What lessons are to be learned from this unfortunate incident will take time to come out. While we are remembering the injured sales rep in our thoughts and prayers, let's start a list of safety reminders when involved in using rescue air bags for lifting operations! This thread will be a nice review for all of us on lifting safety in general and air bag lifting specifically.

    A major one(which pertains to this Iowa incident as well as any time we lift) is to identify the 'kick out' zone at the air bags. This is the 'line of fire' that the bag or bags will take if there is any kind of load shift. It is typically an area or direction in line with the air bag stack and 90 degrees outward from the lifted load. It can be predicted by monitoring the lift and watching for any lean or tilt in the air bag or the air bag stack.

    Another general safety guide I can think of specific to front end loaders is that if you lift the rear portion or just lift the front portion, there is a great possibility for the articulated knuckle joint to swivel. This can really mess up your stabilization, causing load shift and any stacked air bags to potentially fail.

    Air bags only lift a load... they do not stabilize! Air bags should not be used alone when any load is lifted. Additional equipment like standard cribbing or tensioned buttress stabilization struts should be employed to actually stabilize the lifted load.

    Also, if new air bags actually rupture during a lift, there are several resons for that unexpected event. Possibilities include a defective air bag right from the manufacturer, something sharp punctured the bag, the bag over-pressurized because a relief valve failed, the bag came in contact with a heat source, or load shifting tore the bag at the valve stem (or the interlock ring on the stackable bag designs).

    What's some of your personal favorite safety guidelines for lifting with air bags???
    Last edited by rmoore; 07-12-2003, 11:22 AM.
    Ron Moore, Forum Moderator

  • #2
    Here's that "Line - of - Fire" that I was talking about. You can tell which way these bags would fly if the lift continued.

    If rescue safety personnel are monitoring the air bags from two different, opposing directions, a lean or shift such as this can be identified and corrections made before there is blow-out failure.
    Attached Files
    Ron Moore, Forum Moderator


    • #3
      The incident happened in South Dakota. The salesman/firefighter died yesterday (7-11-03) from head injuries.

      My condolences to his family and the Renner VFD of which he was a member.

      Stay Safe


      • #4
        Mr. Moore,
        My experience with airbags is limited, but I have a comment about that picture: why is the airbag on the bumper? if it blows, it will come shooting out like a rocket. i was taught that you should put the airbag under the car, on the frame itself, which would also help the airbags inflate straight up, instead of over the bumper as it shown in the picture.
        If my basic HazMat training has taught me nothing else, it's that if you see a glowing green monkey running away from something, follow that monkey!



        • #5
          That looks like a roll off dumpster to me.


          • #6
            The Argus Leader newspaper published an article on 7/12 written by John Reynolds. He reported the death of Mr. Hamro and also revealed several possible clues about the incident.

            Quotes include;

            "They were having a joint training session after buying a rescue tech machine made of air bags that are placed underneath large objects to free people from rollover accidents."

            Rescue Tech machine. Do you think the bags were the multi-stackable Res-Q Tek air bags?

            "Hamro was in the process of deflating the bags with a 30-ton payloader on top, when the explosion occurred."

            The payloader they show in the video is a big one; 30 ton total weight would be about right. But with air bags, you're only lifting a portion of the weight. It's called a tilting lift on purpose.

            "The weight of the payloader somehow shifted, causing the bags to explode..."

            Do you think the metal screw-together rings between the air bags separated under the off-center loading?

            "One of the bags struck Hamro in the head, Milstead said. The other two bags removed a portion of the ceiling."

            That's the awesome power of unrestrained rescue air bags that are being used at or near capacity.

            A tragic loss of life of a firefighter that saddens all of us. Be safe out there with air bags. They must be respected.
            Ron Moore, Forum Moderator


            • #7
              Oh by the way... the blue object shown in the stacked air bag lift image is a construction site roll-off dumpster. They make great training props for any lifting class.

              The air bags are placed along the short end of the container; you can actually see one of the rollers just behind the air bags. The truck would pull the dumpster from the opposite end.
              Ron Moore, Forum Moderator


              • #8
                Safety issues

                Ron,I think you've got most of them right in line.Another idea or two.Check your equipment before and after any job.Replace ageing bags per mfgs recommendations.NEVER exceed the capacity of the system, use the weakest unit as the maximum allowable lift.Remember that most bags are rated at the FIRST TWO inches of lift and gradually lose lifting capacity after that.NEVER put yourself in harm's way,ie under a unsecured load(not cribbed).Use cribbing or supports capable of withstanding the total load imposed on them.T.C.


                • #9
                  Did anyone catch that the article said there were THREE air bags in use? Unless there's a new model out there that I'm unaware of airbags should never be used more than two at a time. Stacking three on top of each other only increases the inherent instability and, therefore, increases the chances of inadvertantly launching the airbags out from under the load. I hope that the firefighters involved can learn from this incident and not have such an overwhelming fear of the bags that they will be unable to place them in service should the need arise.


                  • #10
                    3 deckers

                    Pyro,Resqtek has bags that can be interconnected to make a three bag system.We've used them in the Big Rig Rescue series.Do not know how high the ratings go as we've only used the smaller ones but it's a nice system.T.C.


                    • #11
                      Three HIGH or three at a time?


                      • #12
                        It's not clear to me that the resqtek bags where involved with this incident, or whether the reports refer to bags three high or three wide.

                        However, for benefit of those wondering, here's a pic of the Resqtek bags. Unlike most air bags, they have an interlocking system to allow them to stack three high

                        IACOJ Canine Officer


                        • #13
                          That be three high but only Resqtek

                          Thanks Dal,I haven't got the picture pull and transfer mastered yet.I haven't seen any indication at present of who's bags they were using.I'm sure we will know more shortly.T.C.


                          • #14
                            OK Guys, Did I miss something here? is that an actual picture of a preincident failure? being a student of the FarMedic http://www.farmedic.com/ In that program you are taught if you lift an inch, crib an inch!! OK I am no scientist here, but would have to think once again propper cribing could have made some difference here. If the compression was only an inch, that somehow I feel the explosion may have been lessoned and resulting injuries lessoned, Again I am no scientist, but as a shade tree engineer, I feel that could have lessoned the risks and after all isnt that what we are all about
                            Rescue is the Art & Science of matching your tools, talents and tricks to needs of our customers!
                            Carl D. Avery


                            • #15
                              In that program you are taught if you lift an inch, crib an inch!!

                              According to Ron's first post, they where in the process of deflating.

                              While I've been taught to crib an inch, I haven't and I'm not sure many are taught that that rule is good in reverse. Usually we just pull the whole crib stack out and drop the load in one shot.

                              New lesson to tuck away.
                              IACOJ Canine Officer


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