Incorporating Rescue Systems


Rescue Systems – Incorporating them into Fall Protection

Fall protection equipment is only half the battle when it comes to keeping workers safe at heights. Rescuing workers in a timely manner to avoid suspension trauma or additional injuries while suspended is the other half. The fall protection field is currently much more mature than rescue, but strides are being made rapidly with regard to rescue. OSHA’s General Duty Clause and the requirement for “prompt rescue” make it clear to employers that this procedure must be recognized and practiced.

Rescue is not just an element of a fall protection plan; it is a critical procedure by itself and needs to be prioritized on an equal level within a fall protection program. If an employer recognizes when fall protection equipment is needed, then the same must be true for rescue. Industry experts recognized this and incorporated new requirements into the ANSI/ASSE Z359.2 and Z359.4 standards.

ANSI/ASSE Z359.2 requires that the employer provides a means for rescue from heights, and defines requirements and training for authorized and competent rescuers. The standard also offers guidance for employers regarding procedures should they wish to rely on professional rescue services, such as fire departments, by calling 9-1-1. If the employer chooses this type of rescue program, it must follow certain procedures in advance. A written agreement between the employer and professional rescue service must be in place prior to any elevated work performed. A job hazard analysis of the site, along with availability, preparation, training and required equipment specific to rescue at that location, must be completed.

Z359.2 also contains guidance and training requirements for employers who decide to provide for their own rescue from heights. It requires that employees know how to inspect, anchor, assemble and use their rescue equipment. During rescue system training, employees must become competent to safely and comfortably conduct rescues from heights for all locations they will access or at which they will work. One does not become smarter during an emergency. Therefore, one must be well prepared in advance and have equipment ready for deployment prior to leaving the ground. Rescuers must be ready at all times since there is never any warning that a worker may fall and need help.

ANSI/ASSE Z359.4 created technical requirements and testing procedures for rescue descenders, ropes, harnesses and other equipment. I recommend that employers check whether their current rescue equipment has the ANSI/ASSE Z359.4 certification marked on it to ensure that product meet current standards. You would not use fall protection equipment that has not been certified to the current standards, and you also should not use rescue equipment that is not marked accordingly.

Many situations might arise where rescue would be required while working at heights. Slipping on a platform or ladder, aerial lift malfunction, heat exhaustion, cramping, nausea, diabetic reactions, electrical shock or even bee stings that cause anaphylactic shock are just a few examples of work situations that can lead to a rescue scenario. Falls continue to be one of the most common incidents in the workplace, so rescuing an injured worker is imperative.

Many people think rescue is challenging and difficult to implement into their fall protection programs. With advancements in descender technology and well-established procedures, rescue practices can be implemented easily and seamlessly into all fall protection programs. Since rescue situations tend to be infrequent, they sometimes do not receive the proper attention. However, since potential hazards and injuries resulting from a fall or suspension are serious, employers need to give rescue implementation a higher priority. Rescue really can be completed promptly and safely with the right equipment and training.

Jeff Wild is the technical manager for DEUS Rescue, focusing on fall protection and rescue procedures from heights in industrial environments, such as wind towers, oil and gas rigs, communication towers, transmission structures and aerial lifts. He also worked for Western Area Power Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Energy, for more than 22 years in construction, design engineering and safety. Wild has been a member of the ANSI/ASSE Z359 Accredited Standards Committee for Fall Protection since 2005 while staying active with the rescue, descender and rope access subcommittees. He is authoring IEEE’s standard, 1307 Fall Protection for Utilities, and also has contributed to the future A10.48 standard (Communication Tower Erection), NFPA 1670 committee (Tower Rescue), the International Society of Fall Protection and the National Electric Safety Code. He holds a degree in engineering from the University of Colorado.


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