Fall Rescue Plan – The Often-Overlooked Factor

March 21, 2014, 3:50 pm | by Ray Nardo

Preparing, Training For and Executing A Fall Protection Rescue PlanA rescue plan is critical to any well-managed fall protection program, but it is an often-overlooked factor. Having a plan in place is necessary for any organization with workers at height. No one wants to see a co-worker hurt. Every employee working at a height must be prepared to act quickly in the event of an accident, specifically, because suspension trauma starts to set in within minutes.

Manufacturers of PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) recommend that a fallen worker should be rescued within 15 minutes. This 15-minute deadline is based on a worker’s suspension trauma, i.e., the force of gravity on the pressure points where the torso is hanging from the harness. Without easy, on-site access to the equipment needed, and a well-rehearsed plan in place, it is almost impossible to bring a worker to safety within this short window of time.

Trauma straps are an inexpensive attachment to a worker’s harness and are a critically important aid in reducing discomfort for the worker hanging in them. If recovery takes longer than a minute, the weight load is transferred to the feet, which, in turn, reduces suspension trauma. All of the following should be taken into consideration and implemented:

  • Where the equipment is stored;
  • Who is in charge of the operation;
  • What outside emergency help will be summoned;
  • Post-accident procedures;
  • Who is properly trained for executing the plan;
  • Recurrent training/dress rehearsals for a fall emergency; and
  • A strategy for any area with workers at height.

Do OSHA/ANSI Rules and Standards Differ?

  • OSHA 1926.502(d)(20) – The employer shall provide for prompt rescue of employees in the event of a fall or shall assure that employees are able to rescue themselves.
  • ANSI – Z359.4; 6.1 and 6.2 – The employer shall provide prompt rescue to all fallen authorized persons, and written rescue procedures shall be prepared and maintained by the competent person for all instances where authorized persons work at height.

Which Guideline Or Regulation Is Most Comprehensive?

ANSI makes it clear that a plan should be in place and written up. OSHA, on the other hand, only indicates the employer’s responsibility to ensure that workers have the ability to rescue themselves in the event of an emergency. OSHA, however, does not mandate how it should be accomplished, or whether to have a written document in place.

More Than Just The Paper It Is Written On
Drafting a written plan is one thing, but, it is rather useless until it is implemented through training, as well as practice by competent persons who will be on site if and when an emergency occurs. It does not do anyone any good sitting in a binder collecting dust on a shelf. Ensuring that it is well-thought out and well-trained by all parties involved is a key element for complete fall protection. Further, the document should provide direction and guidance for an unfamiliar situation. Training helps to clarify what needs to be done, when and by whom, and practice identifies the weaknesses for converting ideas into action. As a result, when the need arises, the situation is handled safely, quickly and professionally.

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