Before we get into the detail of a rescue plan and how to construct one, it is useful to define two important terms; fall arrest and fall restraint. A fall arrest is where a person freefalls and therefore a fall arrest system stops the fall that has already occurred, resulting typically in a lower level of impact. A fall restraint system prevents a worker from falling in the first place. It is not the responsibility of the emergency services to rescue a worker who falls as a result of using a fall arrest system. However, the emergency services must be alerted immediately so that they can provide first aid if it is required.
Before you write the rescue plan, you need to consider some procedural points:
- The type of rescue system, i.e. will a self-rescue be possible or will assistance be required?
- Preparation should be undertaken before work commences. For example a rescue kit should be at the site in advance.
- There must be sufficient workers on site who are trained in the rescue procedures and equipment handling. They should also be able to assess the situation, make contact with the fallen worker, alert the company of the accident, and call the emergency services.
- The rescue plan should align with the overarching company health and safety policy and guidelines.
- The type of rescue required is most likely based on the place of work and the likely fall. There are broadly speaking 4 types of rescue: Lowering a casualty, raising a casualty, self-evacuation by descent or rescue someone else who is in descent.
The plan itself should include the following information:
- Details of the equipment to be used in the event of a rescue including where it will be stored.
- How the equipment will be configured for the different types of rescue.
- How often the equipment is serviced and inspected and where records of the prior inspections shall be stored.
- What the rescue kit will contain and where it will be located.
- Anchor point identification if appropriate.
- Limitations of the plan, for example for poor weather conditions.
- The trained individuals who will be available to action the rescue plan.
- The type of emergency medical assistance is likely to be required immediately after a fall.
Rescue plans are of no use if they are produced and are then locked away in a drawer. The rescue plan should be a living document that is updated:
- At least once per annum.
- After a fall.
- If there is a change in equipment, change of site, or change of anything of substance within the plan.
In summary, the importance of a rescue plan should be evident – particularly in the event that a fall arrest system is being used and it is the organisation’s responsibility (not the emergency services) to rescue the worker/s. Therefore it is advisable to engage with a work at height specialist who is experienced in falls who can provide assistance to create an appropriate rescue plan.
For further guidance on rescue planning, click on the link below to download the latest guidance from IPAF.
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