Is Your Rescue Plan as Good as It Can Be?

Post-fall rescue is an essential part of developing an effective fall protection program. Implementing a thorough fall protection program helps to establish guidelines protecting all employees who are exposed to potential fall hazards. Overall, a fall-protection plan includes several factors, including the installation of appropriate fall protection systems, storage and maintenance of equipment, training, fall hazard analysis, and post-fall rescue planning.

Today, employers are making great strides in developing their own fall-protection plans, but according to many experts, their rescue plans are inadequate. Per OSHA, a rescue plan must be included in a job hazard analysis. This rescue plan must be clearly written and available to all employees. The purpose of a rescue plan is to minimize a worker’s health risks in the event of a fall, minimize the rescuer’s risk during rescue, and ensure that the rescue is done quickly, safely, and correctly. Developing a rescue plan for working at height will ensure that post-fall rescues are always a pre-planned event. Here are some important questions to ask when preparing—or even improving—your rescue plan: 

  • Were alternatives to using fall arrest equipment considered?
  • Were the appropriate people trained for a rescue?
  • Did a competent person make the rescue plan?
  • Who is the competent person for this rescue plan if questions arise?
  • What are the obstructions and/or hazards?
  • Is the selected rescue equipment sufficient for the rescue plan?
  • Where are the communication devices involved and were they tested?
  • Do the rescuers know how to use the rescue equipment?
  • If not working at an easily accessible location, is there equipment to reach the working location? (Example—if working over water, is there a boat to use?)

When writing the rescue plan, describe the types of rescue most effective for your application. Self-rescue is extremely effective because it is the fastest way to eliminate the risk of suspension trauma. If the worker is not badly injured, he can perform a self-rescue by pulling himself onto the level from which he fell. If the worker fell further than a few feet and is not seriously injured, assisted self-rescue is another great option. Assisted self-rescue can be done with a variety of equipment, such as a rope system. With a rope system, a rope is swung or lowered to the fallen worker, who then secures the rope to the appropriate D-ring. The rescue team can then lower or raise the fallen worker to the closest level.

If the fallen worker is unable to perform a self-rescue or unable to assist by securing a line for an assisted self-rescue, assisted rescue is required. An assisted rescue can be performed with different equipment, such as an aerial work platform or a rope system. With an aerial work platform, a second fall arrest device, such as an SRL or shock absorbing lanyard, is needed before raising the aerial work platform. After the aerial work platform is in place, the second fall arrest device is attached to the fallen worker. Once the second fall arrest device is attached, the impacted fall arrest device can be disconnected from the worker, and the rescue team can lower him or her to the ground.

Details are the key to a great rescue plan. For example, every facet of the plan should be written out right down to what communication device will be used to contact the rescue team. Also, remember to have overview procedures in place, such as a response procedure. If a fall event occurs, remember to remove and document all equipment involved and to give the worker who fell medical attention even if they appear uninjured. The emotional shock involved in a fall can mask injuries. Hopefully you will never have to use your rescue plan, but evaluating it annually will ensure that it is the best it can be.

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Nathan Muller

Senior Technical Writer |
Nathan Muller is the Senior Technical Writer for Spanco and Rigid Lifelines. Nathan has nearly four years of experience in technical communications and copyediting. He graduated from Bob Jones University with a B.A. in English and a minor in Professional Writing. He is also a member of the Society of Technical Communication.