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  • Negligent Box Cribbing?

    Most of you know that I’m a strut guy, but this has nothing to do with struts. We will never engineer ourselves out of the need for cribbing, and I teach basic stabilization using wood cribbing all the time.

    I had a very interesting question asked of me at an extrication class. I had just gone through the rules of building box cribbing, and then watched as the students clearly violated the maximum height limit for their box crib by a factor of 2.

    The Chief was concerned because he had watched his crews build many boxes over the years, and had never realized that there were limits on how tall they could be built.

    His question was something like this: “My crews are now trained and know that a 4X4 box crib with two corners under the load has a height limit of 15”, yet they didn’t hesitate to build it 30” tall, because that’s how high it needed to be, and because they’ve always done it that way. But what if it collapses and injures the patient? We knowingly exceeded the height limitation of our equipment causing it to fail. Is that negligence and might we be liable?”

    I had never thought about it, and I’ve built them too tall myself! Professional (Career) Firefighters have to meet much tougher legal standards, while Volunteer Firefighters are generally covered by “Good Samaritan” laws. However, for both types of Firefighters any legal protection fails at negligence.

    Here is a sampling of laws:

    California
    Anyone who renders emergency care without the expectation of compensation is not liable for any civil damages resulting from acts or omissions, except in the case of gross negligence.

    Idaho
    Emergency first responders are not liable for civil damages caused by any act or omission committed in good faith, except those committed in reckless or grossly negligent misconduct.

    Maryland
    Fire companies and their personnel are immune from civil liability for any act or omission in the course of performing their duties, except for willful or grossly negligent acts.

    New Hampshire
    Any firefighter who is acting in an official capacity is not liable for any civil damages resulting from acts or omissions, except in cases of gross negligence.

    Illinois
    Firefighters are immune from civil liability for damages caused by any acts or omissions, except in cases of willful or wanton misconduct.


    So here is the question that I’m opening up for discussion: If you knowingly exceed the published limits (i.e. building a box crib twice as high as the maximum height limit) of your equipment even though you have been trained and you know not to do so, and a victim is injured or killed due to failure of the equipment (i.e. the box cribbing collapses), is this negligence?

    I asked a lawer friend of mine (I know, I know, but they need friends, too), and he asked these questions:
    "Did the Firefighters know the height limit of the equipment?" Yes
    "Did they knowingly and intentionally exceed the limit?" Yes
    "Did the equipment fail because they knowingly violated the limit?" Yes
    "Was the victim injured because of this failure?" Yes
    Negligence. Case closed.

    Your thoughts?

    Regards, Tim

    www.rescue42.com
    www.rescue42.com

  • #2
    Guilty or Not

    Hey Tim, hows it going? Coming to Fairbanks next month? I like the new struts so much easier to work with the composites.
    Dont have time to comment.
    Later
    Burn
    Burn<br />LT/EMT/Inst />Central Mat-Su FD<br />Wasilla Alaska

    Comment


    • #3
      interesting point, if you can't build a box crib over 15 inches then how would you stabilze lets say a semi-trailer in an under ride situation? This brings up some new info for me, I don't remember what the max height such crib can be built? I guess I'll have to review that one.

      Comment


      • #4
        I've heard so many formula's for crib heights- it's getting confusing!!!!

        In relation to the legalities- there's risks in everything we do. I don't know that there is an answer....
        Luke

        Comment


        • #5
          firefighterbeau, the height you can build is in relation to the length of the cribbing. 4x4 cribbing can be built 6' high, if you have 4x4 cribbing that is long enough. Take a bunch of 18" lengths and build a box. As it gets higher and higher, the "stability" gets less and less. Make the same box with 36" lengths and notice the "stability" is better. For the TT, you just need bigger cribbing.

          Extrication in NJ is the red-headed [email protected] step-child. It's not regulated in anyway as far as who teaches it and/or what they teach. In some areas of NJ it's done by EMS, in others by FD, that leaves no governing body in charge (or willing to take charge) of the regulations. The best advice I got from any lawyer was to teach according to a nationally published manual and use that as the baseline. As long as you teach according to that manual and the students perform skills to that manual, you were Ok as far as any liability. IF (when) someone deviated from what they were taught, they could be held liable.

          Good/Bad/Whatever, that is how we have been doing our stuff.
          "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

          Comment


          • #6
            How far can it go?

            Bones42 Extrication in NJ is the red-headed [email protected] step-child. It's not regulated in anyway as far as who teaches it and/or what they teach.

            This is the problem in almost all of the threads in this forum, and most states.

            If you knowingly exceed the published limits (i.e. building a box crib twice as high as the maximum height limit) of your equipment even though you have been trained and you know not to do so, and a victim is injured or killed due to failure of the equipment (i.e. the box cribbing collapses), is this negligence?

            First: federal law says they have to prove negligence, Which opens another question, How far can the liability go?
            To prove that the student was in fact taught this, the lawyer would have to produce a record of that students participation in a class, no problem, his CE records would show this, and who taught it.
            So now the question is, Is there a record of what was taught in that class?
            If the instructor has a recorded listen plan showing this technique, then the liability falls back on the student.
            If the instructor does not have a recorded listen plan then it is the students word against the instructors.
            Then lawyers being what they are today, would go one step farther, is there a record of a class that this instructor participated in that he was taught this technique, if so then the instructor has a 50-50 chance that other students do not testify that they did not learn it in his class either.
            Or one more, the lawyer may take another route. What are and were did you get your certification to teach this type class? Now the real problem of liability: Teaching is not covered under the Good Samaritan Laws, you are not helping someone in need.

            We need to be sure that we record every thing we teach in a class and as Bones42 said we need to document a national standard that we based our class on.

            In the case of the paid departments, If the students records show no record of his training in this technique, can the department be sued for hiring him to do a job he was not trained to do. They are not volunteering they are performing a paid service.
            http://www.midsouthrescue.org
            Is it time to change our training yet ?

            Comment


            • #7
              I'm not a lawyer, but practically you have to look at the alternatives.

              If you do not crib the vehicle at all due to lack of the proper size cribbing and the patient is injured, then what? Or if the patient's condition deteriorates while you are waiting for another unit with longer cribbing, then what is your liability?

              To me it's like many other things in this job, you do a risk vs reward analysis. If the patient is stable and you can get the proper cribbing, you wait, if not, you do what you have to do within reason. Everything else being equal, a viable patient transported to the hospital because "rules" were broken is better than a dead patient, but the rules were followed. Every situation is different.

              That doesn't really answer the question, but I think the circumstances and patient's condition play a big role in this.

              Comment


              • #8
                Wow Tim, way to stir things up. Brings up a whole new line of worm cans. How about the department that still uses axes for windshield removal rather then the better Glas-Master? How many times have we seen NO stabilazation at all? (be honest). How about the guys running pin jobs that haven't had an extrication class for over 10 years? How about the areas that run a squad from 7 miles away rather then the one 2 miles out just because "We don't like them" (be honest). We make ourselves such easy targets for the law crowd that it isn't funny, so many times we are our own worst enemy. With all the blatant stupid stuff that we do I think crib height would not even get noticed by most "back of the phone book" guys.

                Zmag

                Comment


                • #9
                  I think that this is a whole lot of worry over nothing. Prove negligence. What is negligence? Better yet, give me any kind of rescue scenario where absolutes will be maintained. The key is to do what you need to do to help your patient/victim, and to not further their injuries. We are all given guidelines, but they are there to guide us, not rule us. If you have to build a box crib out of “limits”, in order to effect an extrication, and that is your only option, so what? You are the professional, this is your field of expertise. Justify the actions you took, and explain the logic behind the decision. It is also YOUR scene, and no one needs to be allowed in without your approval, even OSHA. I’ve seen it done. Anyone who has done auto extrication, structural collapse, trench, realizes that there are no exacts. You are taught the basics about a box crib, a raker shore, or how to put whalers in a trench.
                  My whole point is simply to do what is best for the patient. If you have the know how, and experience, and you acted in your patients best interest, you’re fine.

                  By the way, we still do teach glass removal with an axe, along with the glass master.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The ax is still used by most around here. I don't see a problem with it, the thing is everyone has to be taught the proper technique. I would like to hear some more discussion on why I should buy some expensive tool to do the same job I can do with the ax I already have, or the sawall.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Right out of the FOG, with full contact (most stable) you can go to a hight to width of 3 to 1. In other words 4 points of contact on a simple 2X2 box crib you can got to a hight of 4 1/2 feet (54") using 18" cribbing.
                      You need to reduce down to 1 1/2 to one for two points of contact and 1 to 1 for one point of contact
                      Don't forget capacity 2X2 layout for a 4X4 crib is 24,000 lbs
                      3X3 layout for a 4X4 crib is 55,000 lbs
                      get some good douglas fir. No southern pine or pressure treated pine(your not building a deck)

                      Since these numbers come from our Federal Government (US Army Corps of Engineers) I wouldn't worry about liability.
                      The 15" is wrong for two points of contact it is 27" or just over 2 feet (18" cribbing assumed)
                      And again if it is a problem go to 24" cribbing (yes, harder to store)

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        TimatRescue42...I am not sure where you got the height limit of 15” from but with a standard box crib with "2 points of contact" you should be able to go up 1.5 to 1 X the width of the cribbing "box" (not the length of the timbers used). The width of the cribbing is measured from the "outside" of the "box" (not the length of the overlap or the length of the timber but the width of the actual "box" that is created).

                        A standard box crib with all 4 points making good contact has a heigth limit of 3 X the width.

                        A couple things that your friend can do to increase the higth of his cribbing...

                        1. Recalculate the limits (3 to 1 for 4 points of contact)
                        (1.5 or 1 to 1 for 2 points of contact)***
                        (1 to 1 for 1 point of contact) ***
                        NOTE: *** May need to have more than 1 box crib to make safe.

                        2. Use longer lenths of timbers. (make the box wider / bigger = more heigth)
                        3. Use more than 1 box to do the job...if needed.

                        This info can be found in the FEMA USAR FOG book and in most Stucural Collapse books.
                        Last edited by MEDIC0372; 08-24-2006, 11:07 AM.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Whoops...

                          Simple math error, I think, but you forgot to subtract the overlap.

                          18" -8" (2 X 4" of overlap) = 10" width. 1.5 X width = 15" height.

                          I didn't know (from the e-mails I'm getting on this subject) that so many people have not gotten any training on crib height. The Army Corps of Engineers first established the height using massive amounts of testing, and their standard has been adopted by everyone including FEMA, most Fire Departments that pay attention to such things, civil engineers, etc. There is no other data available that I know of.

                          I posted a PDF file of the page from FEMA on my site. Go to www.rescue42.com , click "stabilization Resources, click on "download information (PDF)", then the "FEMA cribbing fact sheet".

                          Hope this helps.

                          Great discussion!

                          Tim
                          www.rescue42.com

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Sorry, some simultaneous posting going on…

                            You guys are absolutely correct with your recommendation toward longer cribbing. Most carry 18” lengths, but I’m seeing a trend toward 24”. I taught a class where (I’m not kidding) they has 12”! Here’s the math for a 4-point contact (3:1), the tallest you are allowed to build, assuming 4X4’s, according to FEMA and most SOP's;

                            12” – overlaps (8”) = 4" width -- impossible because the thickness of the wood is wider (Yes, I know that a 4X4 is actually 3.5” X 3.5”, but use 4”, it’s much easier). So use 8” x 3 = 24” High. Don't even try this!

                            18” – overlaps (8”) = 10” width, X 3 = 30” High. 2 point = 15"

                            24” – overlaps (8”) = 16” width, X 3 = 48” High. 2 point = 24"

                            To emphasize the point, I ask the class if they have ever seen a building held up with a box crib during renovation. Most have, and they all agree that they “use big timbers”. Exactly my point. Let’s assume they use 12” thick timbers 12’ long.

                            12’ –overlap (2’) = 10’ width, X3 =30’ Height!

                            Go long!

                            Tim
                            www.rescue42.com

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Tim...your math is correct. In your first post you did not indicate that you were only using 18" timbers. Most of what we carry is 36" for cribbing and we carry some 24". If we need anything smaller for confined areas we just cut what we have to the size that we need.

                              You can nail your cribbing together to help make it more stable.

                              You can also use wider stuff like 4x6s on their sides (if the load is "light"...as in auto extrication) to help make it more stable.

                              You can also build a deck (base) below your cribbing to increase the height a little. Lay down a solid layer of 2x8s or 4x6s (on their side...4" elevation) and nail a 4'x4' or larger ply-wood to form a nice solid deck and then crib on top of the deck. You may want to toe-nail the first level to the deck if you feel that you need it.

                              These solutions will help get a few more inches out of your system BUT STILL you should not exceed your limits (as written prior).

                              But...to answer your 1st question. You never know what a good lawyer and a dumb jurry with come up with.

                              You stated:
                              I asked a lawer friend of mine (I know, I know, but they need friends, too), and he asked these questions:
                              "Did the Firefighters know the height limit of the equipment?" Yes
                              "Did they knowingly and intentionally exceed the limit?" Yes
                              "Did the equipment fail because they knowingly violated the limit?" Yes
                              "Was the victim injured because of this failure?" Yes
                              Negligence. Case closed.

                              I say:
                              Your Lawyer friend could be right!!!
                              Last edited by MEDIC0372; 08-24-2006, 02:43 PM.

                              Comment

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