Rescue Operations for Working at Height – Part Three
Over the past few weeks here at D-marc, we’ve been looking at the issue of rescue operations when it comes to working at height. With a fall from height still the most likely cause of death in the workplace here in the UK, health and safety in this area realty cannot be ignored. It’s not just a matter of ensuring the any work at height that’s unavoidable is properly planned and complies with current health and safety legislation, there is the very serious and real issue of rescue operations when it comes to working at height. While personal protective equipment (PPE) in the form of a safety harness and lanyard securely fixed to an anchor point will prevent a worker from hitting the ground should a fall occur, swift rescue is essential if suspension trauma is to be avoided.
When it comes to a fall from height in which the fall arrest system being used as stopped a fall to the ground, the worker is often left suspended in the PPE and such rescues are unplanned events that require an immediate and effective response. Rescue and evacuation equipment should be inspected in the same manner and as regularly as any other work at height equipment. A stringent maintenance and inspection programme will ensure that the rescue equipment is ready for use and will function safely and correctly when it is deployed. The rescue equipment must be carefully inspected after use for a rescue or evacuation and a regular inspection should take place at least once a year and be carried out by a competent person.
Rescue equipment should always be available at the worksite and it should be sufficient to carry out a rescue of a worker from any situation on the site. Some rescue systems are designed specifically for rescue or for evacuation and may only allow the casualty to be lowered or raised. Rescue equipment should conform to the appropriate European or British standards which set out performance specifications for products but may not cover all aspects of intended use. If a rescuer uses a piece of equipment for other than its intended purpose or creates a rescue system from components, then the rescuer must ensure that the equipment is fit for purpose via additional testing or prior research to ensure that it will perform safely and in the manner required.
There are two types of harness available for rescue operations – those designed specifically for rescue and those designed for fall protection that can be used during a rescue. If a worker is suspended by a fall protection harness, using it to rescue them is unlikely to increase the risk to them. Harnesses that are specifically designed for rescue work will have advantages such as quick and easy fitting to the casualty (ideal in cases where the casualty is unconscious, needs securing quickly or needs rapid evacuation from the situation). If a casualty is severely injured a stretcher may be necessary.