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Simply put, a rescue plan is the implementation, practice, and knowledge on how to safely rescue a worker whether that be in a confined space, from a free fall, or from any dangerous situation. Creating and having all persons on a job site know a rescue plan can be the difference between life and death. Preparing a rescue plan for every job site is crucial to keeping workers safe on the job.
You are having are normal day on the job site. Everything is going smoothly until your co-worker takes a fall from 30 feet in the air. Luckily, your team has been outfitted with the latest and greatest fall protection equipment. Thankfully, your fallen co-worker is safe, for now…
“You don’t have much time,” says fall protection trainer Blaine Pettit. “The effects of suspension trauma can be fatal in as little as 10 minutes. Developing a rescue plan shouldn’t happen while your co-worker is dangling in the air.” Pettit, who is also a volunteer firefighter in rural Pennslyvania, also stresses that 911 should not be the first step in your rescue plan. “At any given time our station could be 20 minutes away from getting you help. That well beyond the danger zone for suspension trauma,” he says.
Employees are responsible for being familiar with and understanding the established rescue plan and what to do before a fall. The OSHA standard number for a fall protection rescue plan is 1926.502(d)(2). OSHA states that “an effective fallen worker rescue plan addresses the procedures, equipment, and personnel needed to ensure that a rescue proceeds quickly and efficiently when a fall occurs.”
Creating a rescue plan, and knowing what it is, for each specific job site may seem tedious, but will save precious minutes from being wasted if a worker needs to be rescued. Depending on your job site, application, and status of the fallen worker, your rescue plan will vary. A simple rescue plan could involve raising an aerial lift to the fallen worker. A more complex plan may involve an authorized rescuer descending to the fallen worker and lowering them both to the ground.
Because no two job sites are the same, a separate rescue plan must be issued for all new job sites. When creating a plan it is important to focus on these items:
Each fall has unique conditions that need to be considered during a rescue. The type of rescue needed can completely change the response of the rescuers. There should be preparations for each of the following rescue types.
Given proper selection and use of fall protection equipment, a fallen worker has an increased chance of being able to perform a self-rescue. In the event of a self-rescue, it is the fallen worker who performs their own rescue. This is most commonly done by climbing to a stable platform or the level which they had fallen from. Check out FrenchCreek’s U-Res-Q self-rescue systems.
An important part of self-rescue that might not be immediately apparent is the possible need for medical attention. Even if a worker can safely climb back to their previous working platform, they still need to return to the floor or ground level for medical evaluation as is required by OSHA.
When a fallen worker can’t conduct a self-rescue, outside assistance is required. This employs the use of mechanical advantage systems such as rope pulleys to safely lift or lower the fallen worker to a stable area. When performing a mechanically aided rescue proper equipment will be required. The typical rescue with this method uses the following steps.
After a fall any equipment, individual components, or fall arrest systems that were impacted by the fall must be removed from service. This equipment must be documented with the item’s name, the date the fall took place, and what activity took place at the time of the fall. It is important that the equipment is turned in to management so that it is not mistakenly used again.
If the fallen worker is either unconscious or has injuries that prevent them from being able to self-rescue, a fully assisted rescue is needed.
Gather all workers to delegate roles and responsibilities. Go over the intended rescue options for equipment and scope performed. Have your team practice at a safe level and alternate individuals being the rescuer and the rescuee. At first, the rescue procedure may be a bit “clunky”, but with time and more experience, your team will be able to quickly diagnose and perform a fall protection rescue in a timely manner.