Prepare For A Fall Arrest Rescue

Fall Protection training prepares students to consider multiple approaches to managing the hazards of work at height, from the most benign to the complex possibility of a fall arrest rescue.

From the simplest and safest approach, to the most complex, workers at height need to consider their options in order of overall risk, 

  • The first approach to consider is the elimination of the hazard altogether. Can the job be done a different way?  Can a different tool be used so that a worker isn’t put at risk of a fall?
  • The second approach to consider is a passive solution, like railings or barriers.  This kind of approach protects all the workers at one time, and does not require workers to do anything themselves.
  • Next comes the fall restraint approach. Fall restraint systems prevent workers from reaching the edge by some combination of harness, lanyard and anchor point.  
  • The fourth, and most complex, approach to consider is fall arrest. If a workplace demands total freedom of movement for the worker, systems can be put in place that will catch a worker if they fall when working at height.

Workplaces that need a fall arrest system must prepare an additional layer of strategies to back up their fall arrest system:

    – Equipment Inspection Program

    – Rescue Plan

    – Training Program

We’ll be re-posting our whitepaper about equipment inspection programs later this year – check back soon.

Now let’s talk about the other layers behind a fall arrest system: rescue plans, and training programs.

Fall Arrest Rescue Plans and Training Programs

Section 10 of Raven Safety’s Fall Protection Plan asks workers to preplan “rescue procedures for a fallen worker.”

Rescue plans and training programs are dependent on one another. A rescue plan for an activated fall arrest system will rely on a training program for successful implementation, and a training program will equip workers with the knowledge they need to develop a suitable rescue plan for an activated fall arrest system in their workplace.

A course like Raven’s Fall Protection and Rescue gives students invaluable hands-on opportunities to practice self-rescue and co-worker rescue skills.

The first day of Raven’s Fall Protection and Rescue course delivers the standard fare of a provincially compliant fall protection certification; day two gets students into the rescue environment.

We spoke with Raven instructor Jason Wolsky about what goes on during day two of a Fall Protection and Rescue course.

“We cover three rescue approaches during day two of a Fall Pro and Rescue course,” says Jason, “and end the day with scenarios that test your skills.”

Option 1: Self Rescue

“Self rescue is only an option if your shock absorbing lanyard is short enough that you can reach the anchor above you, and haul yourself back up onto the ledge you fell from.”

Option 2: Partner Rescue with Reach Pole

“Partner rescue could be as simple as putting a ladder up so that a fallen worker can get their feet back under them, unhook from their lanyard, and climb to the ground,” says Jason.  But ladders aren’t always an option.  What if you’re working on a tall building, or a 75 foot high ski hill tower?  “In that case, a partner might have to use a reach pole, with another rope attached to it.  They’ll clip it into the fallen worker’s harness, and use some sort of device anchored overhead to raise the fallen worker, unhook them from their lanyard, and then lower them to the ground for a first aid assessment.”

… but what if the fallen worker is beyond the reach of a reach pole? Or, what if there’s no overhead location from which to fix a raising and lowering system?  These are considerations that could tip a rescue into option 3…

Option 3: Partner Rescue with Rappelling Pickoff

“The third option is for the rescuer to go over the edge to collect the fallen worker.  They’ll perform a repelling pickoff, and both the rescuer and the fallen worker will proceed all the way to the ground,” Jason describes.

The time it takes to initiate this kind of partner rescue is why the risks of harness suspension pathology need to be taken seriously.  “It takes only 5-20 minutes for harness suspension pathology to set in,” cautions Jason, “and the results can be fatal.”

Using Fall Arrest Systems Correctly

“Everyone who deals with a fall arrest system knows they need the gear.  They buy a harness and a shock absorbing lanyard, but they don’t know what to do if the system is activated.”  They also don’t always know exactly which lanyard and harness they should be buying, or how to use them correctly before a fall even occurs.

As a rescue instructor, Jason has seen many well-intentioned equipment purchases place workers in harm’s way.

“For example, lanyards have different weight ranges. I often have students that will be north of 115 kg after they’re weighed down with tools and gear, but they bought a lanyard rated to a max of 115 kg. That absorber won’t be adequate for them – they’ll hit the end of it, and get a massive jolt.

“I also see long lanyards purchased because the worker wants the range of motion and freedom of movement.  But think about the reality if you fall – if your harness is a bit loose, you’re weighed down with gear, and you have a long lanyard, is there actually a chance you could hit the ground if you fall?”  

That’s the worst-case scenario. The best-case scenario sees the worker dangling beyond the reach of a rescue plan built around the use of a shorter lanyard length.

Raven’s Fall Protection and Rescue course walks students through their unique workplace situation so that they know what their total fall clearance needs to be.  Just because a worker has connected all of their PPE, doesn’t mean that they’ll actually be protected in the event of a fall.

Used correctly, activated fall arrest equipment will give fallen workers the chance they need to rescue themselves, or to be rescued by their co-workers… but pre-planning is key.

Work At Height Safely

From hazard elimination to fall arrest systems, fall protection is a broad discipline that requires the full engagement of its practitioners.  

Raven is here to provide education and support to anyone who works at height so that they can get their job done efficiently, and still head home safely at the end of the day.

Many thanks to Petzl for use of their incredible work at height photos