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Why do I need a rescue plan? And how do I prepare one?

“Why do I need a rescue plan? And how do I prepare one?” A question that is often asked is, “Does OSHA require a fall protection rescue plan?”.

The simple answer to this question is: yes, you need a rescue plan because it’s safe and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does require that you have one.

You need a plan of action for your team to follow in the event of an emergency. A rapid rescue plan is essential for preventing secondary injuries and even death that can occur in a fall incident. Creating a rescue plan arms workers with the knowledge and processes they need to follow in the event of an emergency to prevent injury or death.

The OSHA standard number for a fall protection rescue plan is 1926.502(d)(2). The OSHA website states that “an effective fallen worker rescue plan addresses the procedures, equipment, and personnel needed to ensure that a rescue proceeds quickly and efficiently when a fall occurs”.

The standard also states that even when a Personal Fall Arrest System works properly, the fallen worker is still in danger. The worker’s body weight places pressure on the harness straps, which can compress the veins, and cause blood to pool in the lower extremities and reduce blood return to the worker’s heart. This condition is called suspension trauma, also known as harness hang syndrome. If the pressure is not reduced promptly, the worker can lose consciousness within minutes.

The OSHA website explains the following two rescue techniques. Self-rescue and aided rescue are two techniques for rescuing a suspended worker. Rescuing the worker promptly (i.e., aided rescue) or ensuring the worker can self-rescue is imperative to preventing injury or a fatality.

1. Aided Rescue

A worker who is suspended from a lifeline and cannot perform a self-rescue will need help from trained rescuers using appropriate equipment, including appropriate fall protection. Off-site emergency response personnel may rescue suspended workers, although most 911 responders are not trained in how to do so.

2. Self-Rescue

With proper personal fall protection equipment, training and practice, a fallen worker can take steps to minimize suspension trauma. Self-rescue methods allow a fallen worker to temporarily relieve pressure on the legs or in some cases to even lower himself or herself to the lower level.

The majority of companies provide a plan for aided rescue. Although there are devices available for self-rescue, it’s difficult to have workers at height with only a self-rescue option. There could be injury during the course of the fall that would prevent a fallen worker from performing a self-rescue. There also could be swing fall hazards and best practices are generally for a worker to have aided rescue.

Since OSHA requires that your company have a written rescue plan, you will need to make sure that it is prompt. You must have your employees trained on this rescue plan as well. You will need to make sure your employees are trained on any equipment that is being used.

For example, if a worker falls, you don’t want to say that the fire department will be there in 45 minutes to an hour. That means he will be hanging there for that amount of time and could have permanent damage or potentially death from hanging.

The opinions vary but no one certainly wants to be suspended in the air after a fall for that length of time. There are certain things that can happen on the way down from a fall even with the best gear. The reality is that you can have injuries on the way down from a fall and/or from the fall itself.

The hierarchies of where an employee should be and “fall arrest” is third or fourth down on the list. The hazard should definitely be taken out before exploring the option of having a fall and having it arrested. There aren’t hazards in every situation but there was in this example.

So, for your plan to be complete you need to have a rescue involved. Wearing safety gear and experiencing a fall is not enough. The worker has to be able to get back to the ground and seek medical attention. That’s why OSHA puts it in a language that allows the employer to determine what it is. You do have to have one ready, your employees should know it and it should be part of your training.

Malta Dynamics provides a free fall protection rescue plan, and the template can be found here . This fully customizable plan offers fall rescue awareness resources for your team as well as instructions for reporting fall incidents to OSHA. You’ll find a rescue plan quick sheet that includes emergency contacts and a detailed checklist you can use to prepare for a quick response to a fall incident.

Along with a fall protection rescue plan, there has to be a fall protection plan. Falls are among the leading causes of workplace injury and death each year. With more than 7,700 cases in 2018 alone, OSHA consistently cites more companies for fall protection violations than any other issue.

How can you keep your team safe and prevent expensive fines? It all starts with a plan. Before every job, before work begins and before your workers strap on harnesses or safety equipment, you need to develop a fall protection plan.

Malta Dynamics is pleased to offer a downloadable Fall Protection Plan template for your convenience. This fully customizable plan offers fall protection awareness resources for your team as well as instructions for how to inspect your safety equipment.

A fall protection rescue plan goes hand in hand with a written fall protection plan. Any location in the workplace where fall hazards are present, a fall protection plan for each hazard is also required. The fall protection plan and the rescue plan are organized by the Competent Person on site. Any Authorized Person should also be trained and have access to both of these plans.

For more information on specific regulations please visit www.osha.gov .

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