Does your company have a plan for prompt rescue?

Post-fall rescue is a vital component of an effective
fall protection program.

But while experts credit employers for making strides
in their commitment to fall safety in recent years, they say many firms’
rescue plans are in need of rescue – if they have a rescue plan at all.

Here are a few guidelines for ensuring that your rescue
efforts don’t leave workers hanging, so to speak, after the fall.

1. Develop a rescue plan for anyone working at heights.
The process of developing a rescue plan might include determining the best
method to reach each worker, whether it’s by ladder, crane, aerial lift,
articulated lift, etc.; timing how long it takes to get from one end of the
job site or plant to the other; determining whether a worker would be raised
or lowered to safety; and determining if a worker would have a clear fall
path or not. As every work site has different logistics, each rescue plan
will be different, but the objective always is to make post-fall rescues
a ‘pre-planned’ event.

2. Put it in writing. The process of thinking through
the rescue plan, writing it down and communicating it to workers helps turn
a chaotic, stressful event into something orderly and scripted – and that
can save minutes and lives.

3. Involve workers. The workers who are up on that
scaffolding or that communications tower every day should be involved in
the development of the rescue plan. They know the hazards and logistics best,
and often they’re the ones best-suited to perform the rescue on their co-workers.

4. Plan for the worst. In a perfect world, falls
are short, fall protection equipment minimizes the maximum arrest force and
the worker is conscious and able to perform self-rescue. In real life, though,
things happen. At the very least, develop a plan to rescue an unconscious
worker at heights. Experts stress that employers should not assume that all
emergency personnel are trained in the complexities of high-angle rescue
– employers always should assume that it’s their own responsibility to rescue
their workers.

5. Train accordingly. Simulate a post-fall rescue
using a mannequin. Put your rescue plan through its paces to see if you’ve
calculated correctly for obstructions and other logistical barriers. If your
plan needs some tweaking, it’s better to find out during a drill rather than
during an actual rescue, when lives are on the line. Safety picnics and other
annual safety events are good opportunities to simulate a rescue.

6. Contact local emergency personnel before a fall.
While experts say that calling 9-1-1 in itself does not constitute a thorough
post-fall rescue plan, they recommend – particularly for construction sites
– contacting the local fire department and hospital before work even starts.
Employers should inform emergency organizations of where their site is located
and what some of the potential access problems are as well as find out how
long it would take for an ambulance or fire truck to get to the site – before
a fall occurs. In some instances, employers ask fire departments to come to
their job site for co-training on safety issues. Other employers may ask fire
departments to visit the job site and sign an agreement that shows they’ve
assessed the specific job risks.

7. Consult the standard. This last suggestion ends
on a bit of a cliffhanger, but the American National Standards Institute
Z359.1 committee is expected to promulgate a ‘family of standards’ in 2006
that will update its existing fall protection standard and will include a
new, comprehensive section on developing a managed fall protection program,
including developing a post-fall rescue plan.

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