Fall Protection Rescue – The Unsung Hero

Imagine that your job requires you to work at heights, and your employer recently installed new, effective fall protection systems to protect you from a fall.  You have received thorough general and system-specific training and written use procedures are in place for the systems.  It’s a great day.  Shortly after the system is put into use, you personally go through a fall in the system. 

“Whew!”  The system functioned properly and arrested your fall.  You feel relieved and thankful for the new fall protection systems.

But, now what?  Now that your fall is arrested, do you and the workers around you know what to do to perform a rescue?  According to OSHA, if a fallen worker’s feet are not on the ground within 30 minutes, you risk serious injury or even a fatality.

In all my work with fall protection, I have observed that rescue is one of the most overlooked aspects of the subject.  Many companies rely on employee self rescue, or assume that their local emergency services, such as the fire department, will be able to handle any rescue situation.  These are risky assumptions to make.

In addition to OSHA guidance on the 30-minute threshold, the ANSI Z359.2 standard provides rescue requirements, which state that specific training, equipment and personnel should be prepared for rescue and that a written rescue plan should be prepared for each situation.  It also states that the plan should be prepared to contact the fallen victim within 6 minutes.

Your fall arrest systems may be in place to save a fallen worker, but are your rescue plans also up to the task?

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