Rescue Operations for Working at Height – Part Two

January 23 2018 0comment

Rescue Operations for Working at Height – Part Two

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A couple of weeks ago one or our articles dealt with the subject of suspension trauma (aka orthostatic intolerance or harness hang syndrome) - what it is and why it presents such a risk when a worker has had a fall stopped by a fall arrest system.  A rapid rescue response is vital to prevent permanent damage or even death when a worker is suspended in this way as the blood supply to the legs is constricted by the fall protection harness.  The resulting loss of circulation causes the heart work harder and keep blood flowing to the brain and vital organs which can lead to nausea, unconsciousness and a drop in both blood pressure and heart rate – circulatory shock.  The lungs can’t supply oxygen to the trapped legs and the leading to anaerobic respiration, during which glucose (blood sugar) breaks down into lactic acid in a process known as lactic acidosis.  The lactic acid develops in the stagnant blood in the legs so that when the worker has been rescued, the sudden restoration of circulation floods the body with high levels of acid, overwhelming the liver and kidneys, often resulting in heart failure.  It’s often the case that dialysis is needed to protect the kidneys after incidents of this type so if suspension trauma is a possibility, it’s essential that any medical personnel in attendance be made aware of this fact.  Last week we gave some information on work at height rescue operations which we’re continuing with today.

When planning rescue operations, attention must be paid to the type of situation from which the casualty may need to be recovered and the type of fall protection equipment being used by the casualty. 

All rescue planning and operations will need to consider the following issues:

  • The safety of persons carrying out or assisting in the rescue
  • The anchor points to be used for the rescue equipment
  • The suitability of equipment (harnesses, anchors, attachments and connectors) that has already arrested the fall of the casualty for use during the rescue operation
  • The method that will be employed to attach the casualty to the rescue system
  • The direction in which the casualty needs to be moved to get them to the point of safety (this should include direction when raising, lowering or moving laterally)
  • The first aid needs the casualty may have with respect to injury or suspension trauma
  • The possible needs of the casualty following the rescue

Loads placed on some equipment during rescue may be more than they were originally designed for so verification from the supplier will be necessary to ensure that it has adequate performance and loading characteristics in such instances – this applies to all parts of the system, including anchors.  Anticipated loads during rescue should be within the loadings specified in manufacturer’s instructions.  A rescue procedure requiring an operator to descent to recover the casualty will mean additional loading on all parts of the system, including the anchor which will need to support the load of two persons.

Anchor points are a vital part of any rescue system and they should be suitably positioned for the intended operation and be unquestionably sound.   When carrying out a rescue operation, methods which minimise the risk to rescuers are preferred to avoid placing additional personnel at risk.

Next week we’ll take a look at the different options when it comes to rescue so don’t forget to bookmark this page for further information.  You can always keep up to date with our articles by following us on Facebook or Twitter.

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