The Importance of Rescue Planning Part 1

By Jason Godfrey, General Manager, Safesite Ltd

I recently shared a video which showed a dangling worker being rescued from a bridge and commented that this was a perfect example of why you need to have a rescue plan in place when working at height.   As we’re all too aware, no matter how well something is planned, accidents do happen.  So what should you do if someone falls and needs to be rescued?

Who Is Responsible?

It’s often assumed that if someone is accessing a roof or carrying out work at height, then either they or their company are responsible for providing a means of rescue.  This isn’t necessarily the case, for example, if a company is contracted to carry out maintenance of plant and equipment such as lightning conductors, then it is the building owner or their facilities management company who are responsible for the safety of those accessing the roof.  

There is a legal requirement under the Work at Height Regulations to include plans for emergencies and rescue when planning work.  The Regulations also stipulate that all activities, including rescue, must be carried out by a competent person.


Falls from height

Planning a Rescue

As a rescue is more often than not carried out under extreme pressure, all aspects of the rescue process must be assessed so that comprehensive rescue plans and procedures can be put in place. This will also help to ensure that the casualty can be helped quickly and given the professional care required. The longer a person is left suspended with out moving, the chances increase of serious complications developing.

A rescue plan must be site specific and should take into account the following:

  • location of the casualty, for example, obstructions such as signage or lighting or edges which could cause abrasion problems will need careful consideration.
  • the safety of the rescuer
  • type of equipment required for the rescue – additional equipment such as anchor points may be required to enable safe rescue
  • suitability of equipment which arrested the fall for use during the rescue e.g. anchors, harnesses, connectors etc
  • additional loadings that may be placed on equipment during the rescue procedure
  • how to attach the casualty to the rescue system
  • where the casualty should be moved to
  • first aid requirements of the casualty
  • training
Fall from height rescue

Rescue plans should be reviewed regularly and updated as and when required and all those involved with work at height must be made aware of the plans and procedures and updated on any changes.

What Next?

With careful planning, rescue need not be a complicated or traumatic exercise. Next week I’ll be looking at how to carry out a rescue, what the medical implications are of being left suspended and the importance of training.

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