Fall Protection Self-Rescue: A Misnomer?

OSHA regulations say that: “The employer shall provide for prompt rescue of employees in the event of a fall or shall assure that employees are able to rescue themselves.”

While I certainly believe that employers have a responsibility to provide for prompt rescue, I have a hard time with the second half of that statement.  How can you completely assure self rescue?

In a fall arrest situation, it is not unlikely that the fallen worker will undergo some kind of medical problem—either causing the fall or due to something that happens during the fall.  Even if a worker would be able to rescue themselves under ideal conditions, I don’t think you can rely on ideal conditions after a fall.  We have even worked with one client whose original written rescue plan (before we started working with them) was for fallen workers to reach their mobile phones and call for help.  As someone working at heights, would you want to rely on having the ability and wherewithal to locate, reach and accurately call for help after experiencing a fall?  I wouldn’t. Next time you see me, ask to see my phone and all of its scratches.  I drop it all the time while simply walking around on the ground.

As you are planning for fall protection rescue, I encourage you to consider rescue to involve a minimum of two people – the fallen worker and at least one another who can properly execute a safe and effective rescue plan.


  1. If you are working at height you shouldn’t have a cell phone, or any other acoutrement for that matter, that isn’t tethered to your person. Anything taht you drop is a hazard to those working below you, not to mention not being of any use to you once you drop it.

    Secondly, you should never be working by yourself in a situation that requires fall protection procedures / precautions. Just like the ‘buddy system’ with scuba divers: never go to work alone. There has to be somebody around to dial 911, as you may well be incapacitated should a fall or other incident occur.

  2. Erich,
    I agree with your two points. The way these can become real is by submitting comments to OSHA proposed 1910 reg on fall protection. Comments are due by August 23. We plan to have a few webinars on this in early August – stay tuned for more information.

    Have a great day, ThomK

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