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by the NFCC

Control measure

Effective and co-ordinated use of rescue tools

Control measure knowledge

A variety of manual and hydraulic tools are available for use in an extrication; which tool and how it is used will depend on the environment and the task. The appropriate tool should be selected based on:

  • Size and weight of the tool
  • Available working space
  • What its purpose is
  • Proximity and hazards to the casualty and emergency responders
  • Medical equipment in use
  • The required speed of extrication

Using an appropriate tool helps reduce the risk of injury. For example, selecting a smaller tool or a manual tool that is still capable of safely and effectively achieving the task, can help avoid manual handling injury to the operator. It may also reduce the need for crew rotation, providing a more effective and controlled rescue.

To safely manage tools, the number of personnel working in the inner cordon should be kept to a minimum and tools that are not in use should be safely stored. Establishing a tool area and marshalling point, for personnel to report to following the completion of their task, will assist in managing tools and operators.

Personnel and other emergency responders should be warned of actions before they take place, for example declaring ‘cutting’, ‘spreading’ or ‘impact’ before performing the action. However, a more detailed and reassuring explanation should be provided to the casualty. Casualties should be warned immediately before the operation of tools, making them aware of the potential for movement and noise.

Tool operators can become task-focused and be unaware of the impact of their activity or the activity of others on the incident as a whole.

It may be beneficial to appoint a safety officer to oversee the actions of tool operators. Safety officers can provide a wider view, improving awareness of the impact of tool operations, the item being operated on and those directly surrounding it.

A safe working area should be established immediately around the tool operation wherever possible. Only essential emergency responders should be in the area, approximately 2m to 5m from the tool.

Space creation plan

A space creation plan, to suit the needs of emergency responders and casualties, should be developed if required; this involves tackling components that can be displaced or removed using low energy strategies.

Space creation techniques need to be implemented appropriately and consideration should be given to the impact of creating space, as the size, shape and integrity of the structure may change.

Co-ordinated tool use

It may be necessary to provide adequate personnel and equipment to perform simultaneous activity. Personnel should ensure there is sufficient communication between the teams working in the inner cordon, as well as communicating with medical responders on the actions and outcomes.

Rescue tool consideration

Rescue tools can be extremely powerful and can cause uncontrolled movements if they are not used appropriately.

For example, reciprocating saws create a lot of vibration and noise, which may be transferred to and distress the casualty. This may vary with the tool design; the item or material being cut and the operator. Where possible a test cut on similar items or materials, but without the inherent hazards, may help appropriately manage tool use.

Operators should consider the following elements when using tools:

  • Ensure the tool operates as expected and is functioning correctly by testing before use
  • Look for and expose hidden hazards before use by revealing areas to aid identification of components that could:
    • Damage tools
    • Cause an uncontrolled release
  • Ensure they know what is being cut or moved
  • How the tool may respond and how it could move
  • What the item or material that is being manipulated will do:
    • Will it affect any other item
    • Is it supporting any weight
    • Will it release explosively
    • Will moving it or cutting it generate fragments or dust
  • Manage the hazard associated with the materials produced when using rescue tools, such as dust, shards and splinters; a combination of hard and soft protection should be placed between the tool and the casualty as a minimum, depending on the activity and how the item or material could be affected
  • The use of additional protection during cutting operations if required, such as a water spray on laminated glass

Cutting or manipulating high strength components used in the construction of an object may introduce high energy dispersal throughout it, due to its tensile strength or the amount of potential energy stored within the object. When planning a cut, consider how materials may respond, and prioritise options that will reduce movement and energy release.

Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Ensure personnel have access to a range of rescue tools suitable for the environments likely to be encountered by rescuers

  • Ensure that all operators are aware of the limitations and manufacturer's guidance on the use of rescue tools
  • Consider providing suitable hard and soft protection to isolate casualties from the impact of rescue tools being used

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Provide adequate protection between rescue tools and the casualties, operators and other emergency responders

  • Consider implementing an appropriate space creation plan

  • Ensure space creation techniques are being implemented appropriately

  • Select the appropriate rescue tool considering the condition of the casualty, space creation plan and materials

  • Consider the use of a water spray if dust and fibres are present, or when cutting laminated glass

  • Consider appointing a safety officer to monitor rescue tool operation

  • Co-ordinate the simultaneous activities of rescue teams and tool operators

  • Establish a marshalling point to keep numbers of personnel in the inner cordon to a minimum

  • Establish a tool area in which to store tools that are not in use

All personnel should:
  • Test and use rescue tools appropriately

  • Reveal hidden areas to aid identification of components that could damage tools or cause an uncontrolled release

  • Be aware that the size, shape and integrity of the structure may change during space creation

  • Warn emergency responders and the casualty before carrying out actions using rescue tools