What your employees need to do to initiate a rescue
You should have a plan specific to the challenges of each job site. You will need to hold a fall protection planning meeting before you start work at any specific location.
When a fall occurs, call 9-1-1 right away. One person does this, while the other workers immediately begin rescue procedures according to your fall protection plan.
Rescue must be quick to prevent the suspended worker from losing consciousness. Maintain regular communication and encourage him to continue moving his legs. Find out if he is experiencing any symptoms such as faintness, dizziness, nausea, paleness, or narrowing of vision.
Depending on the height of the building, you can use stepladders as long as they extend from the ground to the roof of the building. If someone falls and is suspended in the harness, co-workers can move the ladder to a position where the worker can access it and make their way to safety. For taller buildings, an aerial lift can be used to retrieve a worker. You can also mount a flexible safety ladder to the top of the building and throw it to a suspended worker, who can then grab hold of it and climb to safety.
After completing the rescue, follow these steps until emergency crews arrive:
- Stay with your injured colleague and keep him in a seated position with legs out in front.
- Do not lay him flat in a horizontal position.
- Keep him calm and quiet.
- If the worker is unconscious, keep his air passages open.
- Follow any instructions given by the 9-1-1 operator.
Foot straps help prevent suspension trauma by improving blood flow and circulation. Workers stand on the footstraps to keep the harness from cutting off blood flow to and from their legs. The improved circulation provides more time for rescue procedures.
Not all harnesses come with foot straps, but they are available as a separate purchase. When not in use they are stored in a small pack on the side of the harness and can be easily deployed.
Unlike a fall arrest harness, footstraps may be re-used after a fall.
What to cover at your safety meeting
Talk to your employees about suspension trauma, and address any concerns they might have about working from heights:
- Do they know how to recognize the symptoms of suspension trauma?
- Do they understand how the harness is supposed to fit?
- Do they know how to adjust the harness for the particular job to minimize the fall height and the swing?
- Do they know how to deploy the foot straps?
- Do they know how to use the stepladder or safety ladder?
- Do they understand your rescue plan?
- If you have an aerial lift on site, do your employees know how to use it?
- Have you practiced your rescue plan?
Reinforce that time is of the essence and how regular movement and use of the foot straps can provide more time for the rescue operation. You might also consider holding a safety demonstration at your worksite and practice your emergency response plan.
When working at heights, employees are at a greater risk for serious or fatal injury. The additional steps you take to prepare for a fall can literally be the difference between life and death.
Investing in a quality harness and the foot straps along with the time to conduct safety demonstrations, makes a statement to your employees that you are serious about their safety.