Workplace Solutions Emergency response planning

Fall protection rescue planning

What do I need to consider when creating a fall protection rescue plan?

Responding is Steve Kosch, fall protection technical service, 3M Fall Protection, St. Paul, MN.

While falls continue to be one of the most common workplace injuries year after year, rescue plans are often one of the most overlooked components of fall protection. Rescue plans are a necessity for employers who have workers at height.

Many employers consider 911 a sufficient rescue plan. But the first responders that arrive on scene may not have the right equipment to save someone at a certain height or from a certain scenario. Even if they have the right equipment, personnel and training, they may take too long to arrive onsite and rescue the fallen worker.

OSHA requires “prompt rescue” of a stranded worker, although “prompt” is not clearly defined. ANSI Z359 addresses rescue in greater detail than OSHA regulations, recommending, at the very least, that verbal or physical contact with the victim occur within four to six minutes. The effects of suspension trauma can occur in less than 30 minutes and in some cases can be fatal. Because of these regulations and recommendations, it is no longer an accepted practice for employers to consider 911 their rescue plan.

Today, OSHA also requires employers to provide a site-specific written rescue plan.

The written rescue plan should include step-by-step response procedures for self-rescue, assisted rescue or multi-person evacuation. It can include what rescue equipment should be used in each scenario, where the equipment is stored, how to inspect it and how to use it.

Consistent training and practice are critical when it comes to rescue. If a rescue becomes necessary, the rescuers need to know how to implement rescue protocol and, more importantly, how to actually use the rescue equipment.

By planning ahead and creating a written rescue plan as part of a fall protection plan, employers can provide work environments that help ensure employees make it home safe every night.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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