Most employers are familiar with the requirements for fall arrest equipment, but many overlook the important requirement of rescue. What happens after the employee falls?
Here is what OSHA says about rescue of workers:
1926.502(d)(20) - The employer shall provide for prompt rescue of employees in the event of a fall or shall assure that employees are able to rescue themselves.
OSHA is not very specific about rescue requirements, other than to say that rescue must be available. Let's take a closer look at these requirements.
Emergency Services Rescue
The first option of rescue is that it is provided to employees. This is usually accomplished by calling for emergency services. There are some important things to consider when using this is an option.
- Are they close enough? OSHA does not define "prompt" but in Dec 18, 2003 standard interpretation, OSHA does say that prompt may vary, but it should be "in time to prevent injury to the worker."
- Do they have the right equipment? Rescue services should have the appropriate equipment to rescue employees. Depending on the site, this may involve specialty equipment.
- Do they understand the hazards of the work area? In order to provide rescue, they need to be familiar with the hazards of the work area, and be able to protect themselves from those hazards.
- Have they had the chance to practice? Emergency services should be given the chance to practice rescue, if necessary.
Employee Provided Rescue
The employer may use employees to provide rescue. These employees must be familiar with the correct use of fall protection, as well as proper rescue techniques. Sometimes rescue is as simple as using a ladder to reach fallen workers, other times it is more complicated. Here are some things to consider when relying on employees for rescue:
- Have the employees been trained on rescue? Before designating employees to peform rescue, they need training on equipment and techniques.
- Has the rescue team practiced? Rescue teams need to practice rescue scenarios frequently.
Watch wind turbine technicians practice rescue from heights.
The OSHA standard does not require written rescue plans or rescue briefings, but they are both an excellent practice. You should make sure that every employee who works at heights knows how to use fall protection, and what rescue method will be used in the event of a fall.
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