Near Miss update: ‘Roll the tanker’ takes on a new meaning

By Amanda McHenry

This week’s National Fire Fighter Near-Miss Reporting System highlighted report details an apparatus rollover:

“Tanker/Tender driver was responding to a structure fire and came upon a curve in the road. He slowed down but the back wheels of the tandems went off the pavement and started digging into the soft dirt. The apparatus then rolled over 3-4 times. Driver did have on a seat belt per our SOGs. Driver was not injured.”

Twelve firefighters have died this year as a result of vehicle collisions. Four of the twelve were confirmed ejected from apparatus or vehicles (Source: USFA). Tanker/Tenders lead the list in the apparatus type most involved in firefighter fatality collisions. The reporter of the above near miss rolled the tanker but is a survivor because he did…”have on a seat belt per our SOGs. Miraculously the “…Driver was not injured…” when the rig finally came to rest. That places this event in the mitigation phase of the error management model; seat belts being the last resort for survivability if errors are not trapped or avoided. Additional attention needs to be placed on the driving and handling of the tanker/tender itself due to its heavy weight, narrow roads traveled and high center of gravity. The message is clear: seat belts save lives, but keeping the rig from rolling over in the first place is the higher priority. Consider the following:

1. Do you require a periodic skills assessment of your department’s tanker/tender drivers?
2. How stringent do you believe seat belt SOPs should be enforced?
3. Has your department adopted a “cold response” SOP/SOG for tanker/tender response?
4. How often is your tanker/tender inspected to DOT standards?
5. What benchmarks do you use for initial qualification of tanker/tender drivers?

Had a near miss with your tanker/tender? Submit your report to today. Favorable outcomes because of following SOPs are survivor stories we can’t ignore.

Note: The questions posed by the reviewers are designed to generate discussion and thought in the name of promoting firefighter safety. They are not intended to pass judgment on the actions and performance of individuals in the reports.

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