#YHSafetyTips - Fall Rescue Plan

Posted by Ashley Bechtel in #YHSafetyTips, Nov 30, 2016

What happens when a worker falls on the job? You have fall protection, such as harnesses, in place so that the worker is safe. But what’s next? It is required by OSHA that you have a plan in place that is known to all employees before a fall accident happens. If you would like a refresher of how to make sure that your fall protection is sufficient for your needs, check out our blog post on fall protection .

What is a fall rescue plan?

A fall rescue plan is one of the most important parts of fall protection. It covers what will happen after a fall occurs to help the individual who fell. Will you or one of your employees get the victim down? Or will you call 911(emergency services) instead? Things to consider when creating a fall rescue plan include:

  • Gain an understanding of the surrounding environment
  • Gain an understanding of the type of rescue that may be necessary
  • Determine the proximity of a professional rescue team
  • Determine if 911 works from the area where you would be calling, and the approximate response time
  • Determine who at your facility is trained to do a rescue
  • Decide if rescuers will be on-site or stand-by
  • Perform a job safety analysis of the rescue: Is the victim clear of obstructions when she/he is lowered? Does the lifeline deploy correctly? Is the lifeline long enough? Can you see the victim throughout the entire rescue operation?

While it is important to have a plan in place, you also need to have the right rescue equipment and supplies on site. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Rescue devices that can raise or lower a victim
  • Ropes and lifelines rated for rescue and evacuations
  • Rolling edge protectors or Velcro edge protectors to protect the rope
  • Designated anchor points for rescue equipment
  • Anchor straps and carabiners for making an anchor point when one is not available or convenient
  • First aid kit and defibrillator

To read more on this, check out OSHA’s rescue plan checklist.

Why is a Fall Rescue Plan Important?

There are many reasons why a Fall Rescue Plan is important. You want to make sure that you are prepared before a fall happens because a fall can still end in injury or death if the worker is suspended for too long. What about if the worker has been exposed to other hazards such as heat exhaustion, electrical shock, or a heart attack that caused their fall? They will be unable to use self-rescue techniques or even be able to call for help. If you do not have a Fall Rescue Plan in place, you will not know how to handle these situations. In some work places it may be necessary to have an on-site rescue team. This would be necessary in places where emergency responders would take a longer amount of time to reach your facility.

What is Suspension Trauma?

Suspension trauma, also known as orthostatic intolerance, can occur when an individual is in an upright posture with their legs relaxed straight beneath their body for more than 5 minutes. This can become deadly extremely quickly, so it is important that a fall rescue plan is in place to protect the individual who fell.

Suspension Trauma is caused when the blood flow to the heart is reduced due to gravity pulling the blood to the lower leg. Eventually, the heart will run out of blood to pump and the body will abruptly slow the heart causing the person to faint. This typically fixes the issue because then the individual will slump to the ground where the heart, brain, and legs are all on the same level and blood flow returns to normal. However, when you’re in a harness this does not occur and can lead to death if the heart cannot pump blood to the rest of the body.

For a more in-depth look at suspension trauma and how to avoid it, check out elcosh’s article here.

What should I do after a fall occurs?

If you are the person who fell, you should try to move your legs in the harness and if the harness has footholds, press your feet against them. You should try to get your legs as high as possible and get your head as close to horizontal as you are able. If you experience any of the following symptoms, let your rescuer’s or co-workers know immediately: faintness, nausea, breathlessness, dizziness, sweating, paleness, unusually low or high heart rate, hot flashes, unusually low blood pressure, or loss of vision. These can be signs of suspension trauma.

If you are the person rescuing the victim, try to get them to position their body as horizontal as possible. You should know that this could be a potentially fatal situation, and treat it with the proper severity. Follow your company's fall rescue plan to make sure the victim is as safe as possible. After they have been rescued, be aware that post-rescue death may occur if the victim is moved to a horizontal position too rapidly.

Check back next week when we cover the proper way to store chemicals.

To view last week’s post about fork lift safety, click here.

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