Industrial Fire World — Winter 2012
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Louisiana refinery takes proactive stance on back injuries using RollNRack device

When you think about personal protective equipment or PPE, what comes to your mind first? Breathing apparatus? Protective clothing such as bunker gear? Helmets? Boots? Gloves?

PPE is anything a responder uses to protect against accidents. Several years ago the emergency response team at ConocoPhillips’s Lake Charles, LA, refinery adopted a labor saving device known as RollNRack to reduce the risk of back injuries when rolling and loading large diameter hose.

It certainly qualifies as PPE.

“It’s obvious the potential is there, and that this is a proactive step you can take to mitigate those types of risks,” said Lyle Hawsey, former health and safety coordinator for the refinery.

RollNRack is a portable, heavy-duty aluminum and stainless steel hose tool. It enables firefighters to scoop up a roll of hose – without lifting – and take it to where it is needed. After the fire, the responder simply adjusts the device for the correct hose diameter, rocks the roll into the unit and transports it back to the truck safely using far fewer personnel than needed before.

The latest generation of RollNRack tools even drains the extended hose as it is being rolled up. A 100 foot length of large diameter hose weighing as much as 135 pounds can be gathered up in less than 30 seconds with the touch of a button. Fewer firefighters are needed to collect hose after a fire, meaning less time on scene.

Today, Hawsey is health and safety coordinator responsible for the Yellowstone pipeline stretching from Billings, MT, to Moses Lake, WA. He is also responsible for a shipping terminal in Portland, OR.

When Hawsey was still with the Lake Charles refinery, he was given the task of finding a better way to get LDH rolled up and stored with less physical strain. RollNRack seemed to be a suitable alternative, he said.

“The actual RollNRack itself uses its mechanical advantage to do the work for you,” Hawsey said. “So it really eliminated the need for fire brigade members to bend over and actually use their hands and backs to drag the five-inch hose.”

No specific injuries to the Lake Charles ERT triggered Hawsey’s research. Still, the potential for injury did exist.

“We were fortunate at the Lake Charles refinery that we didn’t have big events very often,” Hawsey said. “But we were training twice a month and more times than not rolling out our five-inch hose whether we were running our big Hired Gun monitors or hooking up our fire trucks to the refinery’s fire water system.”

Because rolling up hose was so labor intensive, it was a chore not readily embraced by the ERT members, Hawsey said.

“The RollNRack really seemed to simplify it for us,” he said. “We didn’t carry it on the trucks with us. We had a support vehicle that would bring it out to our training sessions. It could roll up our hoses with a lot less effort.”

RollNRack was the only such device considered for the job, Hawsey said.

“We were really pretty sold on it,” he said. “We got the DVD and studied how it operated. It really seemed suitable to our needs, so we placed the order.

RollNRack founder Javier Fernandez found the inspiration to develop the device when he hurt his back picking up heavy fire hose in Waukesha, WI.

“The great thing is you don’t have to handle the hose or take it out of the unit to load it back onto the rig,” Fernandez said. “An automatic breaking mechanism locks the tool in place, allowing two firefighters to load the hose onto the hose bed. The rig remains stationary, allowing a department to be NFPA compliant while hose loading.”

Firefighters riding on top of moving rigs while loading hose still manage to get themselves injured, Fernandez said.

Today, Javier and his wife Rose are owners of RollNRack, LLC. The response from the industrial fire service has been especially encouraging.

“Back strain injuries from lifting hose are responsible for more disability retirements than any other cause in the fire service,” Hawsey said. “RollNRack’s hose management system tools are a real way to protect firefighters and help them work smarter, faster and more safely.”