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Five ways to fine-tune your fall-from-height rescue plan

Fine tune your fall-from-height rescue plan

During our 20 years in the field, we’ve helped hundreds of clients go from zero to hero on the rescue readiness scale. It’s something we prioritise, practice and specialise in because we know it saves lives. And we know this from first-hand experience in fall-from-height rescue plan development. 

What we also know from experience is that most clients find it hard to tell if they’re truly rescue ready. That’s why our work involves a lot of hands-on stress-testing of their best laid plans. And today, we’ll show you how to fine-tune your fall-from-height rescue plan to avoid the most common mistakes we see.

#1 Upgrade your Risk Assessment:

Start your risk assessment early. Be thorough and have it peer-reviewed or approved by a rescue specialist. Always update it in response to on-site or project changes

Your fall-from-height rescue plan is only as good as your risk assessment. So if your risk assessment isn’t up to scratch, guess what!

An incomplete risk assessment leaves holes in your plan and unmitigated hazards on-site. An out-of-date risk assessment doesn’t cater for changes in the environment. A last minute risk assessment may leave you scrambling for safety on-site.

One of our most memorable rescue kit callouts came from a worker literally suspended 30 odd metres in the air on the side of a telecommunications tower. A visiting height safety inspector had halted work on-site until a rescue kit was put in place – leaving him hanging and the project on pause until it arrived.

Our tower worker was lucky, as were those responsible for the site. Inadequate management of risk can have far more serious consequences for all concerned.

#2 Find a Fit-for-Purpose Rescue Kit

Red zone all potential rescue hot spots on your site. Analyse each hot spot to know your rescue equipment needs. Buy a fit-for-purpose rescue kit(s) for your site

  • Visit our retail or online shop for world-class Rescue Kits

The wrong rescue kit on-site is about as useful as winter clothes on a summer holiday. Not right for the conditions, you’ll be forced to improvise and compromise – and in a rescue situation, that significantly increases the risk to everyone.

For example, one client we worked with bought a 100m rescue kit assuming it would cover their work area (with a potential fall distance of 80m). However it was a 3-to-1 pulley system, which meant the working rope available to reach and lift or lower in a rescue situation was only 30m.

In another case, a client purchased a 50m rescue kit (which was long enough), but because of the space they were in their kit had to be positioned 10m away from the fall edge. With only a 3m pick off pole, their rescue rope could not reach the casualty.

The moral of the story is your rescue kit must fit the rescue site and type of rescue required. Don’t assume close enough is good enough – and if you’re stumped get expert advice. The good news is there’s a rescue kit for every scenario – and they’re fast, safe and easy to use. 

#3 Scale-Up your Rescue Cover

Identify when, where and how often your team works at height. Calculate how much rescue cover you need. Book rescue training for staff and/or a standby rescue team

Not everyone requires rescue training (usually supervisor level or above) but every site requires rescue-trained personnel. And at least one of those people must be on-site and available to perform a rescue whenever and wherever there is work at height. 

Needless to say, that’s not always the case! Rescue cover can be a challenge – particularly for a smaller team where it’s all hands on deck or when rescue-trained personnel work across sites. 

There are two ways to meet this challenge. Industry-accredited rescue training (for in-house capability) and a standby rescue team (for expert supervision when short of rescue cover). We offer both – so reach out if you’re in a tight spot.

Always remember, the worst can happen at any time. Emergencies don’t take a break just because you’re away sick, or on holiday, or off-site for the day. And you can’t come to the rescue if you’re not there. So make sure somebody with rescue training is.

#4 Practice, Practice, Practice

Set aside time for rescue plan practice. Ensure all equipment is on-site. Have your practice supervised by a rescue-trained team member or expert rescue technician 

Practice is the best way to stress-test your risk assessment and road-test your fall-from-height rescue plan. Until you do this, you won’t know if you’re truly rescue ready.

Practising your plan is also a necessity under the Code of Practice – which requires demonstration that your rescue plan can be implemented safely and is effective. Although rarely requested, documentation of your practice is also a legal obligation. 

Despite this, we often encounter untested rescue plans. In real life, that would mean the first time you practice your rescue is during an actual fall-from-height emergency, where even 10 minutes of suspension trauma can be fatal.

That’s why on-site rescue practice (using a rescue dummy of course) is at the heart of our work with clients. Our rescue technicians identity gaps, iron-out kinks and build skills to help clients confidently use their kit and be ready to action their fall-from-height rescue plan if needed.

#5 Do a Daily Rescue Ready Check

Have a set location for your rescue kit and rescue gear. Inspect all items daily to confirm they’re safe and ready for use. Top-up your rescue gear as needed.

  • Visit our retail or online shop to top-up your Rescue Gear

Every site has a daily pre-start ritual of sorts – but some are better than others. We know this because SOS calls to our shop frequently involve avoidable issues – such as equipment and tools that aren’t where they need to be.

When it comes to rescue readiness, the cost of a poor pre-start could be more than mere inconvenience. That’s why we recommend a rescue ready check at the start of each day.

Is your rescue kit secure, accessible and in the right location? Is it still in one piece? What about related PPE – harness, helmet, etc – is anything broken or missing? Is there anything about today (eg. weather, work) that necessitates additional items or measures?

Remember, your rescue kit is only fast, easy and safe to use because it has everything you need and is ready to go. But, much like a first aid kit that’s been raided over time, an incomplete rescue kit could cost you dearly in an emergency.