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Volunteer fire fighter dies after being struck by a shackle on a recoiling tow rope - South Dakota.

Morgantown, WV: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, FACE F2006-22, 2007 May; :1-9
On April 8, 2006, a 38-year-old male volunteer fire fighter (the victim) was struck by a shackle on a recoiling tow rope and died three days later. The fire department was dispatched to a controlled burn that had escaped its boundaries. Fire fighters arrived on the scene, extinguished the fire, and started departing the scene. An engine was being driven out of a soybean field when it became stuck in the mud. An attempt was made to tow the engine from the field using a tractor, tow rope and screw-type shackles on either end of the tow rope attached to the tractor and engine. With the victim sitting in the driver's seat of the engine and another fire fighter sitting in the passenger's seat, a farmer started moving the tractor forward. When tension was applied to the tow rope, the shackle on the tractor failed and the tow rope with it's shackle attached recoiled toward the engine. The shackle smashed through the windshield, struck the victim in the forehead and then proceeded out through the back window. Other fire fighters, standing in the area, witnessed the incident and ran to the aid of the victim and called for Emergency Medical Services (EMS). The victim was transported by ambulance to the local hospital and then was air lifted to a metropolitan trauma center. The victim died three days later on April 11, 2006, due to the injuries he sustained in the incident. NIOSH investigators concluded that, to minimize the risk of similar occurrences, fire departments should: 1. utilize a heavy towing service for apparatus and revise standard operating guidelines (SOGs) accordingly; 2. develop and implement SOGs and safe work practices for the selection and proper use of tow ropes and shackles, and for other rigging fixtures to prevent loading beyond their structural capacity; 3. ensure that fire fighters and/or other onlookers are removed from the hazard area when towing operations are performed in the event of rigging failure; and, 4. ensure that apparatus used at an incident scene is positioned in a safe location.
Region-8; Accident-analysis; Accident-prevention; Accidents; Injuries; Injury-prevention; Traumatic-injuries; Fire-fighters; Motor-vehicles; Emergency-responders; Safety-practices; Work-practices; Surveillance
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Field Studies; Fatality Assessment and Control Evaluation
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National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
Page last reviewed: September 2, 2020
Content source: National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Education and Information Division