Requirements for a Fall Protection Rescue Plan

An employee wearing a harness must know his fall protection rescue plan.
An employee wearing a harness must know his fall protection rescue plan. (Image: pompier 6 image by Marc Chapelat from

Consider the presence of a well-defined rescue plan a vital necessity for a work environment that relies on fall protection to keep employees safe in case of drop-related accidents. Records from the University of Wisconsin reveal that in 1999 alone, more than 93,000 workers suffered injuries due to falls from a higher to lower building level. Of all deadly workplace injuries, 10 percent have to do with falls. As of 2007, these same records show that the number of fatal falls does not decrease but instead appears to rise.

Safety Procedure Definition

Workers require specific and certified fall protection devices to to their jobs. One example is a worker’s consistent use of a full-body harness connected to a restraint lanyard. Other methods of fall protection include wire- or rope control lines. Whereas fall restraints attempt to prevent a tumble in the first place, fall arrests seek to safely intercept the motion of an already tumbling worker; one example is a deceleration device. These methods require the use of rescue plans--geared to the specific devices in use--that allow the worker to safely free himself from the restraint and climb to safety or keep the worker in place and have him wait until rescue personnel arrive. The latter requires other workers or supervisors to take action.

Written Training Document

Once the fall occurs, the rescue plan determines how the affected worker returns to safety. The plan must be put in writing and become part of the company’s training manual. All workers must receive training that explains how to act if they fall and await rescue or witness another worker’s fall. Ideally this plan will limit the time that a properly restrained worker hangs suspended in the air. It also identifies fall protective devices that allow for self-rescue, such as self-retracting lifelines that the worker may operate with a manual crank, and provides adequate training on using these items properly.

Plan Content

A fall protection rescue plan touches on a number of emergency procedures in keeping with the needs of the work environment for which the author writes it. For example, the plan outlines the appropriate emergency contact information that workers use to call for help. It identifies and provides locations as well as instructions for the use of rescue equipment, such as ladders, winches, pulleys and controls for elevating platforms. The plan must also spell out safety processes for workers coming to the rescue of an employee to prevent any harm to them.

Update Frequency

A change in working conditions or standard safety procedures or tools requires an update to the fall protection rescue plan. Any time that an employer amends the plan, he must retrain his workers on the updated or changed safety measures. An employer must also retrain a worker if the employee does not follow proper procedures during an incident or improperly uses the equipment used in the rescue plan.

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