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5 Essential Tips for Developing an Effective Working-at-Height Rescue Plan

When working at heights, a fall protection plan is critical, but if a fall occurs, do you have a fall rescue plan? Developing an effective working-at-height rescue plan is not just a regulatory requirement—it’s a vital part of ensuring workplace safety. OSHA 1926.502(d)(20) Fall Protection Systems Criteria and Practices states “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.” This detailed guide provides essential tips and strategies for formulating a fall rescue plan that is not only compliant with OSHA and ANSI standards but also practical and actionable.

For EHS Leaders, Safety Managers, Trainers, and Operations Managers tasked with overseeing safety at heights and safety compliance, understanding the nuances of a comprehensive fall rescue plan is crucial. This video meticulously outlines step-by-step processes involved in planning, documenting, and executing a rescue operation that could potentially save lives in critical situations.

Key Elements of a Working-at-Height Rescue Plan:

  • Documentation and Preparation: Learn how to meticulously document each aspect of your working-at-height rescue plan. This includes detailing the rescue procedures, equipment checks, and emergency contacts necessary for a swift and effective response.
  • Regular Drills and Simulations: Emphasizing the importance of regular training sessions to ensure that every team member understands their role in a rescue and can perform it under pressure.
  • Simplicity in Rescue Operations: Keeping your rescue operations straightforward is crucial to minimize errors during actual emergencies. This section explores strategies to streamline processes and ensure clear understanding across the board.
  • Maintaining Circulation in Fallen Workers: Discussed are techniques to prevent severe health issues such as suspension trauma in fallen workers, underscoring the importance of quick and efficient rescue operations.
  • Adaptability in Crisis Situations: Learn how to adapt your working-at-height rescue plan to unexpected situations, ensuring your team can handle complications effectively during an emergency.

This guide is an invaluable resource for anyone responsible for safety management in environments where working at heights or fall hazards are common. By ensuring that your working-at-height rescue plan is well-documented, practiced, and adaptable, you can significantly enhance the safety and efficiency of your operations. To download free fall protection guides, checklists, posters, and more check out the links below.

For further information and resources on developing a working-at-height rescue plan, or if you need expert advice, reach out to us directly. Remember, an organized and efficient working-at-height rescue plan is not just about compliance—it’s about ensuring that every team member comes home safely.



So you’re working at height, you’re using the proper fall protection, great job. But if you fall, does your team have a plan to help get you down safely? Rescuing a worker from a fall is just as important as preventing a fall. Did you know that if you’re not rescued in a timely manner, suspension trauma can set in. You may experience symptoms after only three minutes, and it’s possible for death to occur in minutes, not hours. So how do you set up a proper rescue plan? I’m going to give you five tips to ensure you’re keeping your team safe should a fall occur. My name is Ben and this is the Lifting and Rigging channel.

What is a Working at Height Rescue Plan?

OSHA 1926.502 states, “The employer shall provide a prompt rescue of employees in the event of a fall or shall assure that employees are able to rescue themselves.” So yes, this plan is an OSHA requirement. ANSI/ASSP Z359.4 provides guidance on safety requirements for assisted-rescue and self-rescue systems, subsystems and components. There is an inherent danger when hanging at height in your harness. Your harness can act as a tourniquet to your femoral artery. There’s also a chance that injury may have occurred during the fall. So the best way to ensure a safe rescue is to thoroughly plan out what steps should occur if a worker at height falls and is suspended in their harness. I’m going to give you five tips so you can better ensure the safety of a worker who has fallen and needs rescue. Stick around till the end for a bonus tip and access to supporting materials.

Tip 1 – How to Form and Document Your Working at Height Rescue Plan

Tip one: Documentation.

You need to document your plan. You should have documentation of the steps that will be taken should a fall occur. Have a JSA, Job Safety Analysis. We have a Working At Height Risk Assessment and JSA bundle that you can download below that includes tips and information that you should gather before the work at height begins. Things that should be documented in your plan are a description of the type of work being completed. How and where? The types of fall protection being used, and if ANSI/ASSP Z359 approves that equipment. Has that equipment been inspected? We have guides on how to inspect your fall protection equipment linked below. Document that it has passed an inspection before it was used. Document a fall analysis including clearance distance from the anchor point to the object and lower level. Document information about the length of your fall arrest system. This needs to take into account the height of the employee.

As you plan the rescue procedure, emergency rescue contact information needs to be gathered and provided to everyone who needs it. You need to note everyone who needs to be contacted should a fall occur and document that they have been notified before the work at height has begun. Also, designate someone who will call 911 or contact emergency services. The plan should include step-by-step procedures for self rescue and assisted rescue, whether mechanical or performed by a rescuer.

What equipment will be used to perform the rescue? Where is the equipment that needs to be used during the rescue? Is the equipment in proper working order? Document that it is available immediately should a fall occur. Note, if there is anything that could get in the way of a rescue, then make a plan for how to reach a suspended worker should that occur. What is the landing area for a rescue? How many people will be needed for a rescue? How will people be notified should a rescue be needed? Are the people needed for a rescue available immediately? How will you keep the personnel involved in the rescue safe during the rescue? How will you communicate with the suspended worker and the rescue team? All of these questions need to be answered and documented.

Documenting the plan will make sure that all of the information needed is accessible to anyone who may need to follow the plan. You can also use it as a checklist, making sure all steps are taken before the work at height begins.

Tip 2 – How to Rehearse Your Rescue Plan

Tip two: Rehearse your plan.

During an emergency, your plan should be second nature. Every minute counts. You don’t want your team fumbling around trying to figure out what they should do. You also don’t want anyone to panic or get hurt while they attempt a rescue. Practice how you will perform your rescue plan from a safe level, drill it frequently. Alternate roles so everyone knows how to perform the rescue. Your team should be well-trained. OSHA 1926.503 requires that all employees exposed to fall hazards shall be trained by a competent and qualified person.

Tip 3 – Keep Your Rescue Plan Simple

Tip three: Keep it simple.

Just like with any job, there’s not always a simple way to get things done, but you should keep your rescue plan as simple as possible. One, this makes it easy to pull off and understand. Two, there is hopefully less that can go wrong. Each job site will need its own plan. Your plan can be as simple as getting a ladder or scissor lift. If using a lift to rescue a worker who has fallen, make sure there is a second fall protection device available for the fallen worker. Also, remember that any equipment used in a fall must be removed from service.

Tip 4 – How a Fallen Worker Can Maintain Blood Circulation

Tip four: Maintain circulation.

When a worker falls and is in suspension, the harness acts like a tourniquet to your femoral artery, cutting off circulation. You can pass out and go into shock. You can develop a blood clot when hanging suspended in a harness which can travel to your lungs causing a pulmonary embolism or your brain causing a stroke. You can suffer from cardiac arrest or brain damage, or even worse, you can die. So that is why a fast rescue is crucial.

A fast rescue comes from a well-planned and practice rescue plan. Finding ways to relieve the pressure from your femoral artery and maintain circulation is crucial. One way to do this is to buy a harness with trauma relief straps or buy trauma relief straps and attach them to your harness. These are straps that allow you to stand in them and relieve some of that pressure from your legs. Even if you don’t have trauma relief straps, moving your legs can help. Is there a portable ladder, rope, ladder, et cetera that can be used to help a fallen worker relieve that pressure? This is also why it is so important to call 911 as the fall occurs. That way, once back on the ground safely, emergency services are there to take action if necessary.

Tip 5 – Be Prepared to Change Your Rescue Plan

Tip five: Be prepared to change your plan.

Planning everything that could go wrong, and then having a plan for that is your best option when forming a rescue plan. But just like any plan, you need to be prepared to react if necessary. Plan for things to go wrong, practice things going wrong so you can react to it. Training is key. Make sure all your workers who are exposed to a fall hazard are trained to work at height. Make sure they are trained on the rescue plan. Make sure they are actively participating in mock drills. Leave nothing to chance. Properly trained workers will be confident when a rescue is needed. They will be able to adapt and improvise.

If you need help with fall protection training, you can contact us at mazzellacompanies.com or follow the link below.

Bonus Tip: Avoid Working At Height

Bonus tip: If possible, do not work at height.

Remember your hierarchy of controls. The first thing you should ask yourself is, does this job need to be done at height? If there is a way to do it from the ground, do that. Remember, the most effective way to reduce falls is to remove the hazard completely. Download our free Fall Protection Hierarchy of Controls poster below, along with guides on how to inspect your fall protection gear and more tips for working at height.

How to Learn More about Fall Protection

Using and inspecting your fall protection gear is only half the battle. You need to have a plan if a fall occurs and a rescue is needed. Hopefully, these five tips will help you develop your fall protection rescue plan. If you’re looking for more information, we have a ton of fall protection content in our learning center at mazzellacompanies.com. If you’re looking for help with your fall protection needs, reach out to one of our experts today.

If you found this video useful, informative, entertaining, or you just feel like being friendly, then hit that like button so we can get this information out to everyone who needs it. Subscribe and hit the bell. See you never miss a video. If you have a question, drop it in the comments so we can get you an answer. Remember, safe rigging is smart rigging. My name is Ben. Stay safe out there.

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In This Video:

0:00 – Intro

0:51 – What is a Working at Height Rescue Plan?

1:17 – Why is a prompt rescue so important?

1:50 – Tip 1 – How to Form and Document Your Working at Height Rescue Plan

4:13 – Tip 2 – How to Rehearse Your Rescue Plan

4:51 – Tip 3 – Keep Your Rescue Plan Simple

5:29 – Tip 4 – How a Fallen Worker Can Maintain Blood Circulation

6:48 – Tip 5 – Be Prepared to Change Your Rescue Plan

7:31 – How to Get Help With Fall Protection Training

7:37 – Bonus Tip

8:06 – How to Learn More about Fall Protection

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Disclaimer: Any advice, graphics, images, and/or information contained herein are presented for general educational and information purposes and to increase overall safety awareness. It is not intended to be legal, medical, or other expert advice or services, and should not be used in place of consultation with appropriate industry professionals. The information herein should not be considered exhaustive and the user should seek the advice of appropriate professionals.