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Working at Height and Rescue: Why They Go Hand in Hand

February 22, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 183

In case you're unaware, the Work at Height Regulations implemented in 2005 governs not only the proper use of safety equipment and procedures, but also the requirement for companies to have rescue procedures in place just in case there is an accident. Rescue procedures are of vital importance because no piece of equipment can fully prevent every accident. Wherever there are workers at height, whether in Mobile Elevated Working Platforms (MEWPS), using safety harnesses, or working on scaffolding, rescue procedures are an absolute must.

Rescue procedures can be required for anything from the worker being suspended in a harness after a fall to accessing stranded workers who might be stuck in an elevated MEWP. That means procedures must be specific to the type of danger posed. Just like PPE where safety procedures must be appropriate to the nature of work being performed, so do rescue operations. Attempting to perform a rescue operation in a way that is unsafe is to defeat the purpose. Under the working at regulations the rescuer must not be exposed to any additional risk. So this must be taken into account in the rescue plan.

Accidents Will Happen

The UK government has enacted various work regulations as a means of mitigating safety risks for workers. But no amount of regulation can make a job 100% safe. There are still times when operatives make foolish decisions, safety equipment fails, or weather factors contribute to an accident. Either way, accidents will happen from time to time. This is the primary reason why rescue operations are such a vitally important part of overall job site safety.

If rescue procedures are not in place, or workers have not been properly trained in how to implement them, an accident which might normally result in only minor injury could become something much worse. In addition, if an HSE investigation concludes that the results of an accident were made worse due to incompetence, negligence, or lack of proper rescue procedures, the company and its managers could be held liable. That could mean significant fines, jail time, and other penalties as deemed necessary.

Training Operatives

At the heart of rescue training are the day-to-day operatives that work on your site. While it's certainly important to train site supervisors and managers in proper rescue techniques, it is the operatives at the site that will most likely perform rescue operations if they are ever needed. Therefore, training them in how to use rescue equipment properly should be a normal part of their safety training.

Operatives should be trained not only in the right equipment to use, but how to decide what the safest way to perform a rescue operation is. Why? Because there may be multiple options for rescuing a stranded worker. These types of things need to be ingrained in the minds of workers and also in their method statements prior to work commencing, this will prevent time being spent planning, scrapping plans, and starting over.

You want your operatives to be able to think clearly so as to not make rash decisions. All of this comes through training and practice. The more training and practice your operatives undergo the better equipped they'll be to help a fellow worker in danger.

Endangering Fellow Operatives

One of the inherent risks of rescue operations is the very real possibility of endangering the operatives who are attempting the operation. This can be illustrated by comparing the efforts of professional rescue teams as opposed to fellow operatives who might be the first on an accident scene.

The biggest contrast we notice right away is the fact that professional rescue teams seem to take an inordinate amount of time to assess and implement rescue procedures. For us, they may even seem to be taking much too long. Yet even though it seems to us that time is being wasted, professionals have been trained to thoroughly think through all of their options before implementing a rescue. Obviously, there are life-threatening situations in which professional rescue teams don't have a whole lot of time to spare, but they will take as much time as possible to make sure things are done correctly.

On the other hand, when operatives are forced into a rescue situation because a professional rescue team is not available, they are more prone to do less thinking and more acting. Without thoroughly thinking through rescue options such workers could be endangering themselves as well. This makes for an even worse situation that could result in much more serious consequences. Making sure employees know how to think under pressure is part of safety and rescue training.

Rescue Operations

In an ideal world we would like to rely on a professional rescue team to perform our rescue operations for us, but unfortunately because of the nature of work this is very often unrealistic due to time constraints and money.

For example, a roofer falls off the roof but is arrested by his safety equipment but is subsequently left hanging in his harness, he will need to be rescued in a timely manor, this would be due to a the time the worker has before Pre Syncope (suspension trauma) takes hold. That would mean that the rescue needs to take place as soon as it happens and not wait for the Emergency Services to turn up which could be anything from ten to eighteen minutes. This could be too late for the roofer he could already be dead.

Therefore there needs to be a plan in place before work commences.

We can't always rely on the emergency services for several reasons. Firstly, will they get there in time? Secondly, capability, do all Local Area Fire units have fully equipped engines for rescue? Lastly they might be limited to the height of the rescue operations. These are thing that need to be looked at and highlight why the site needs to make there own plans for rescue.


Working at height and performing rescue operations go hand-in-hand simply because of the nature of working at height. Even companies with the highest marks for worker safety will encounter at least one or two accidents in their lifetimes. Learning and implementing proper rescue procedures may be necessary during those times in order to preserve a life. At the very least, a properly performed rescue will reduce the chance of serious injury or death.

Falls from height are one of the leading causes of death and serious injury in the work place, with a high personal cost to families and the subsequent financial cost to businesses.

With more than 50 years of experience in technical Leading Edge height safety training and products, we have determined not only to provide the best fall protection and height safety training possible, but to also continuously develop new ideas, further our technological expertise, understand and implement new techniques and to repeatedly set higher standards of safe working at height guidance

Source: EzineArticles
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