Planning a Fall Rescue Strategy for your Work Site

3 reasons to add a rescue plan to your fall protection

Not all jobs involve the risk of extreme heights, toxic chemicals, heavy machinery or other hazards. But for those that do, it’s imperative to implement adequate fall protection. According to OSHA, fall protection plans are critical as falls are the most frequent cause of serious injuries and death in the workplace.

38% of all fatalities on construction sites are due to falls.

Read more about falls in workplace fatalities

In addition to meeting OSHA guidelines, fall protection plans are strategies that companies put into place to ensure safety in hazardous work environments. Smaller organizations may not have safety supervisors or ability to hire a safety consultant, [Top 5 Positions in Industrial Safety Jobs] but fall protection plans outline the areas of concern and the proper safety equipment and materials needed to perform the job. On top of the plan, all employees who work on these sites that pose certain risks have to be trained in and fully understand the correct way to fulfill their duties while maintaining all safety standards.

For those jobs that take place at 10 feet or higher, however, you must include a rescue plan as part of your fall protection. While no one wants an injury to happen when on the job (which is why companies have fall protection strategies), they do happen. And the actual fall is only half of it. How you implement the rescue is the second, and even more critical, step.

Though the equipment, as well as other aspects of your plan, will differ depending on your worksite and present dangers, most fall protection plans include the following details:

  • Name of the specific work site for which the plan is being constructed, along with the activities and tasks that occur there, and other information specific to the site.
  • All possible hazards within the working area.
  • All methods of OSHA fall arrest, including prevention methods (e.g., position lanyard, self-retracting lifeline, rope grab, horizontal lifeline, among others); measures for assembly, maintenance and inspection; and disassembly procedures. Any methods that you plan to use should be drawn out, and all employees should be trained on them.
  • The proper safety procedures for all employees.
  • The proper handling and storing techniques for all tools and equipment.
  • An emergency plan: That is, how to properly evacuate the work zone.

For the safest work environment possible, a fall protection plan should always be updated to meet the latest safety regulations. Every single employee needs to be trained on the correct use and storage of all tools, equipment and machines to prevent a fall or injury as much as possible.

While the above does cover a general guideline of what should be included in a fall protection plan, it’s missing one important component: the rescue plan. If a fall does happen, you don’t want to leave a worker hanging or suspended in his/her harness. That may only lead to further injury. Obviously, someone will call 911, but what do you do while you wait for the medical professionals to arrive? How long will that wait be?

It’s critical to dedicate part of your fall protection plan to the rescue. And a rescue strategy demonstrates the correct procedures to take in case that fall does happen. Below, we go into three reasons to initiate one if you haven’t already.

1. You can’t rely on 911.

With the proper training and equipment, you can try to prevent a fall or injury from happening. However, if one does happen, it’s up to the injured worker and the company to deem the injury severe enough to call 911.

In certain situations, it will be obvious you need to call for further assistance. But not all injuries are that severe. For instance, a fall could leave a worker with a possible fractured ankle, but he/she might opt to have someone give them a ride to the hospital rather than wait for an ambulance.

If you do determine emergency medical assistance is needed, it could take a while, depending on your site’s location, for them to arrive. And how the injured worker is cared for in that wait time is crucial. For example, if an employee falls and becomes suspended in his/her harness, you can’t just leave them hanging in midair very long. If a person is suspended vertically for more than ten minutes, the outcome could quickly become fatal. When an individual is vertically suspended, they could go into shock, which causes the blood to pool in the legs, putting extra pressure on the heart as it tries to pump blood to the brain.

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2. Rescue plans aren’t always hard.

Though they get a bad rap for being tough to carry out, rescue plans aren’t always difficult. In fact, in an ideal situation, a rescue plan would involve self-rescue — which is simple and direct. A suspended worker would ideally be able to lower him or herself to safety.

In the cases where this is not possible, many rescue assists involve one or two other workers. Your plan should avoid putting more workers in danger than are needed. So be sure to take the time to visualize and develop a plan that is simple yet effective.

3. Rescues don’t just apply to falls.

Falls aren’t the only hazard when working at heights. Other injuries include emergencies such as heat exhaustion, electrical shock, heart attacks and allergic reactions. So your rescue plans shouldn’t apply just to falls either; they’d apply to other serious injuries as well.

Overall, a rescue plan illustrates how other workers should monitor the accident, address the situation, and prep the injured while waiting for medical help to arrive — or care for the injured on the spot if no medical help is available.