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Rescue at Height

Prompt Rescue Required


The best strategy for protecting workers from falls is to eliminate the hazards that cause them. When you can't eliminate the hazards, you must protect workers with an appropriate fall-protection system or method. If a worker is suspended in a personal fall-arrest system, you must provide for a prompt rescue.

"Prompt" means without delay. A worker suspended in a harness after a fall can lose consciousness if the harness puts too much pressure on arteries. A worker suspended in a body harness must be rescued in time to prevent serious injury. If a fall-related emergency could happen at your work site, you should have a plan for responding to it promptly. Workers who use personal fall-arrest systems must know how to promptly rescue themselves after a fall or they must be promptly rescued.

Developing an Emergency-Response Plan

Practice Rescue from Wind Turbine

The following guidelines will help you develop a plan for responding promptly to falls and other emergencies.

  • Effective plans don't need to be elaborate: Your plan should show that you've thought about how to eliminate and control hazards and that workers know how to respond promptly if something goes wrong.
  • Get others involved in planning: When other workers participate, they'll contribute valuable information, take the plan seriously, and be more likely to respond effectively during an emergency. Key objectives for an effective emergency-response plan include:
    • Identify the emergencies that could affect your site.
    • Establish a chain of command.
    • Establish procedures for responding to the emergencies.
    • Identify critical resources and rescue equipment.
    • Train on-site responders.
  • Identify emergencies that could affect your workplace: Identify any event that could threaten worker safety or health. Two examples:
    • A worker suspended in a full-body harness after a fall.
    • A worker on a scaffold who contacts an overhead power line.

Developing an Emergency-Response Plan (Continued)

  • Identify critical resources and rescue equipment: Prompt rescue won't happen without trained responders, appropriate medical supplies, and the right equipment for the emergency.
  • First-aid supplies: Every work site needs medical supplies for common injuries. Does your site have a first-aid kit for injuries that are likely to occur? Store the supplies in clearly marked, protective containers and make them available to all shifts.
  • Rescue equipment: Identify on-site equipment that responders can use to rescue a suspended worker. Extension ladders and mobile lifts are useful and available at most sites. Determine where and how each type of equipment would be most effective during a rescue. Make sure the equipment will permit rescuers to reach a fall victim, that it's available when rescuers need it, and that rescuers know how to use it.
    • Will your longest ladder reach a suspended worker? If not, what equipment will reach the worker? When equipment is needed for a rescue, will workers know where it is and how to use it? Think about seasonal and environmental conditions and how they may affect rescue equipment and those who use it. Equipment that works for summer rescues may not work for winter rescues.

Developing an Emergency-Response Plan (Continued)

  • Train on-site responders: An effective emergency-response plan ensures that on-site responders know emergency procedures, know how to use available rescue equipment, and - if necessary - know how to contact off-site responders. Workers who use personal fall-arrest systems and who work alone must know how to rescue themselves. Those who work at a remote site may need a higher level of emergency training than those who work near a trauma center or a fire department.
  • Establish a chain of command: All workers must know their roles and responsibilities during an emergency. A chain of command links one person with overall responsibility for managing an emergency to those responsible for carrying out specific emergency-response tasks. Make sure that back-up personnel can take over when primary responders aren't available.
  • Establish procedures for responding to emergencies: Procedures are instructions for accomplishing specific tasks. Emergency procedures are important because they tell workers exactly what to do to ensure their safety during an emergency. Your emergency-response plan should include the following procedures - preferably in writing - that describe what people must know and do to ensure that a fallen worker receives prompt attention:
    • How to report an emergency.
    • How to rescue a suspended worker.
    • How to provide first aid.
    After an emergency, review the procedures; determine if they should be changed to prevent similar events and revise them accordingly.

    Summary: Responding to Falls

    Before on-site work begins

    • Identify emergencies that could affect your work site.
    • Establish a chain of command.
    • Document procedures for responding to emergencies and make sure they're available at the site.
    • Post emergency-responder phone numbers and addresses at the work site.
    • Identify critical resources and rescue equipment.
    • Train on-site responders.
    • Identify off-site responders and inform them about any conditions at the site that may hinder a rescue effort.
    • Identify emergency entry and exit routes.
    • Make sure responders have quick access to rescue and retrieval equipment, such as lifts and ladders.

    During on-site work

    • Identify on-site equipment that can be used for rescue and retrieval, such as extension ladders and mobile lifts.
    • Maintain a current rescue-equipment inventory at the site. Equipment may change frequently as the job progresses.
    • Re-evaluate and update the emergency-response plan when on-site work tasks change.

    When an emergency occurs

    • First responders should clear a path to the victim. Others should direct emergency personnel to the scene. You can use 911 for ambulance service; however, most 911 responders are not trained to rescue a worker suspended in a personal fall-arrest system. Make sure only trained responders attempt a technical rescue.
    • Prohibit all non-essential personnel from the rescue site.
    • Talk to the victim; determine the victim's condition, if possible.
    • If you can reach the victim, check for vital signs, administer CPR, attempt to stop bleeding, and make the victim comfortable.

    After an emergency

    • Report fatalities and catastrophes to OSHA within eight hours.
    • Report injuries requiring overnight hospitalization and medical treatment (other than first aid) to OSHA within 24 hours.
    • Identify equipment that may have contributed to the emergency and put it out of service. Have a competent person examine equipment. If the equipment is damaged, repair or replace it. If the equipment caused the accident, determine how and why.
    • Document in detail the cause of the emergency.
    • Review emergency procedures. Determine how the procedures could be changed to prevent similar events; revise the procedures accordingly.

    Fall Protection

    Watch this very good short video by MSA Safety on the ABCs of fall protection.

    Self Rescue

    Watch this MSA Latchways video on the state-of-the-art self rescue. It doesn't get any better than this!


    Before beginning this quiz, we highly recommend you review the module material. This quiz is designed to allow you to self-check your comprehension of the module content, but only focuses on key concepts and ideas.

    Read each question carefully. Select the best answer, even if more than one answer seems possible. When done, click on the "Get Quiz Answers" button. If you do not answer all the questions, you will receive an error message.

    Good luck!

    1. If a worker is suspended in a personal fall-arrest system, you must provide for a prompt rescue. "Prompt" means _____.

    2. Which of the following is a key planning objective in an effective emergency-response plan?

    3. To ensure a fallen worker receives prompt attention, your emergency-response plan should include all of the following, EXCEPT _____.

    4. You can use 911 for ambulance service because most 911 responders are trained to rescue a worker suspended in a personal fall-arrest system.

    5. An effective fallen worker emergency-response strategy primarily relies on _____.

    Have a great day!

    Important! You will receive an "error" message unless all questions are answered.