By Jason Godfrey, General Manager, Safesite Ltd
Last week I started to look at the issue of rescue and why it’s essential, and a legal requirement, that rescue is included in the work at height planning process. This week I’m concluding my overview of rescue by looking at the actual rescue, medical considerations and explaining why regular training is essential.
Carrying Out a Rescue
If a fall occurs and a person is injured people often assume they can simply call 999 and the local fire brigade will come to the rescue. In reality this is not the case. The emergency services are already stretched so are unlikely to be able to respond in time and, more importantly, not all brigades have the equipment and specialist training to carry out a rescue at height.
When planning for a rescue, the method chosen should be proportionate to the risk. There are products on the market that allow self rescue, however this is not always possible, particularly if the victim is seriously injured or unconscious.
Other methods to consider would include simply using a ladder or equipment such as MEWPs to reach the fallen person and raising or lowering them onto a safe surface. Lowering the person to safety is the preferred option it’s more straightforward, it’s physically easier to lower someone than to raise them up and overcomes manual handling issues.
Whatever method is chosen, rescue should be carried out as quickly as possible so that the person is not left suspended for any length of time as this can lead to serious complications developing.
If an injured person is hanging in their harness the aim should be to remove them from upright suspension within 10 minutes. If the casualty is conscious they should be encouraged to move their legs in order to stimulate blood circulation.
Equipment such as suspension trauma straps should also be considered during the rescue planning process. Products such as these are designed to allow the person to stand up in their harness, relieving the pressure from being suspended.
Once the casualty has been rescued, they should be moved to a place of safety and standard UK first aid guidance followed for the recovery of a semiconscious or conscious person by a competent first aider. Professional medical assistance should then be administered as quickly as possible if required.
Anyone using fall protection equipment must be trained by a competent person. If employees are being relied on to carry out the rescue, then they must be properly trained otherwise they will put both themselves and the victim in further danger.
Training should include correct selection of products, inspection of equipment and specific rescue training. Those using rescue equipment must be both competent and confident in procedures so refresher training including practical usage should be undertaken regularly.
Following Best Practice
The main objective for anyone responsible for work at height must be to provide a safe working environment through proper training, instruction and supervision. Ensuring that rescue plans and procedures are in place and that everyone concerned is aware of and fully trained in these will help companies to comply with current legislation and, more importantly, potentially save a life.