Working at Height Rescue Plans and Considerations

We have covered a number of topics which circle this one but it is, to this day, a huge miss to the majority of South Africans Working at Heights. The topic of this issue is Rescue Plans and Considerations. A couple of points to note before getting onto this subject:

  • The rescue team must know they are required to perform a rescue in the event of an accident (human factor)
  • The rescue kit must be ready and available for use to affect an efficient rescue (equipment)

The above mentioned points should allow for a rescue to be efficient (suspension trauma can take place anytime after 5 minutes). These points seem obvious but let’s see what could happen.

The human factor could be an issue with the following points:

  1. Is the rescuer aware that he/she is the rescuer? – Have they officially been appointed?
  2. Is the rescuer competent to perform the rescue? – Has the appointed rescue personnel been trained and been deemed competent on the correct legal requirements?
  3. Is the rescuer familiar with the rescue procedure & equipment required? – Have the appointed rescue personnel had hands-on experience with the equipment and actually performed a rescue with that equipment?
  4. Is the rescue personnel certification current? – Training is certified for 3 years – when last did they perform a rescue drill?
  5. How will the rescuer react to a possibly severely injured colleague? – Are we sure if the rescuer is exposed to a potentially gory environment he/she will remain level headed and in control?
  6. Have rescue personnel been trained on First Aid? – This is not a legal requirement, but has it been handled appropriately?
  7. Is the victim conscious or incapacitated? – This makes a massive difference performing a rescue and the type of rescue is utilised.

The equipment factor could be an issue with the following points:

  1. Is the equipment ready and available to perform an efficient rescue when and where an accident happens? – If there are multiple storeys at the work site, where is the rescue kit?
  2. Has the equipment been inspected? – Whether it is a periodic inspection or inspection after it has been used, has the kit been inspected?
  3. Is the rescuer familiar with the rescue procedure & equipment required? – Have the appointed rescue personnel had hands-on experience with the equipment and actually performed a rescue with that equipment?
  4. Is the rescue kit current? – Equipment is certified for anything from 5 years – is the rescuer using older equipment which they may not have been trained on?
  5. Is the equipment packed correctly, ropes not tangled, to ensure an efficient rescue?

 

The above are a few of pointers which should be considered prior to any work at heights being performed – Ultimately if someone is required to work at heights there must be a plan to rescue that person should the worst case situation take place. This is why we only require someone to wear PPE in almost a last resort in our hierarchy of controls when working at heights.

I have marked two comments above in red. The points are made for both the human and equipment factors. This is where the biggest ‘miss’ is when talking about rescues. Unfortunately what we find, far too often, is that there is a single piece of rescue equipment which has been trained on a single rescue technique which has now deemed the rescue team ‘competent’ to perform a rescue on site. Whether the user needs to be lifted to safety, lowered to safety or moved horizontally to safety is not taken into consideration. More often than not the rescue equipment is able to do a basic lower to safety. The skill of the rescue person will also affect whether they can ‘make a plan’ which suits the situation. That’s unlikely if they spent a couple of days, several years ago, being trained to rescue and nothing since then.

The reality is rescues do not take place on a daily or monthly basis. Some teams may go their entire work life never being exposed to the need of a rescue. This is the reason keeping the rescue team current and familiar with the techniques and possible situations is so massively important – because when it is go time, the stakes are huge and being reactive is not going to be to their advantage.

 

Pro-active vs. Re-active

As mentioned above, falls do not happen every day – but how are we ready (pro-active) to efficiently and safely rescue as opposed to handling the situation as and when it happens (re-active).

 

Re-active vs Pro-active

  1. Rescue team deemed competent and recertify every 3 years as legally required vs. have the rescue teams perform mock rescues on a periodic basis (monthly, quarterly etc.).
  2. Have a generic rescue kit vs. perform continuous risk assessment which identifies the type of rescue which will be most safe and efficient to ensure the preservation of the casualty.
  3. Find rescue kit when there is an emergency and hope the kit is ready and equipped to perform rescue vs. ensure all rescue teams are aware of where the rescue kit is located and the kit is inspected prior to any work being performed at heights.
  4. Run around finding the rescue person to perform rescue when there is an accident vs. every person on site is aware of the rescue team as well as how they are to be contacted immediately so as not to lose time.

The above are just pointers. With a slight change of procedure or better communication, a team can be better prepared to save a colleague’s life. I hope this has sparked a couple thoughts based on your work site to implement an effective site specific rescue plan.

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