Safety and health newsletter for the Oregon construction industry


November 19, 2012

practice rescue from fall with personal fall-arrest system

Dealing with emergencies

What do you do if a worker falls and is suspended in a personal fall-arrest system? You must provide for a prompt rescue.

Prompt means immediately. A worker suspended in a harness after a fall can lose consciousness if the harness puts too much pressure on arteries and must be rescued in time to prevent serious injury. If a fall-related emergency could happen at your work site, you need to have a plan for responding immediately. Workers who use personal fall-arrest systems must know how to rescue themselves after a fall – or they must be promptly rescued.

Developing an emergency response plan

Keep it simple. Your plan should show that you've thought about how to eliminate, prevent, and control hazards and that workers know how to respond promptly if something goes wrong. Key planning objectives:
Identify the emergencies that could affect your site. Identify any event that could threaten worker safety or health.

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 backup personnel can take over when primary responders aren't available.

Establish procedures for responding to the 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

Identify critical resources and rescue equipment. Prompt rescue won't happen without trained responders, appropriate medical supplies, and the right equipment for the emergency.

Train on-site responders. An effective emergency-response plan ensures that on-site responders know emergency procedures, how to use available rescue equipment, and - if necessary - 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.


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