The first thing that comes to mind when people think of fall protection is how to carry out a rescue plan or mitigate the dangers brought on by the fall incidences. But what most people—especially safety technologists and employers—fail to realize is that while rescue plans can save employees from a fall and prevent them from getting a single scratch on their bodies from it, a fall protection plan is way better in saving their lives than a rescue plan. As an EHS Today article points out, the amount of time spent on retrieving fallen personnel, especially those who are suspended mid-air after a fall, can make a huge difference in preventing grave health consequences, even death.
The problem, as Josh Cable, the article writer, stresses on, is that companies focus their resources more on creating a rescue plan rather than proving employees self-rescue or fall prevention training. Safety Through Engineering company president Mike Wright couldn’t agree more. Wright said that often times worker would claim they are prepared for fall rescue, but are not at all.
Another industry observer, Michael Dunn of the L.A.-based Emergency Response Training Inc., believes likewise: “Commonly, companies just follow the OSHA standard, which says they have to prepare the worker for self-rescue or rescue them in a prompt, timely manner. But very rarely do we find that companies train their employees in self-rescue for fall protection,” he told Cable.
Wright also noticed a glowing distinction between what OSHA has envisioned for its fall-rescue campaign as elaborated in the 29 CFR 1926 Subpart M and what’s really going on at the worksite. According to Wright, workers tend to equate the word “rescue” with 911 and are completely clueless on proper fall rescue plans. And it’s more like “anything goes” during times of fall incidences. Wright said that OSHA 1926 Subpart M envisions post-fall rescue as a completely different thing—specifically, as a “structured and methodical pre-planned event.”
So what needs to change, exactly? How can companies and workers carry out an effective fall protection and rescue plan that can shield workers from the dangers of suspension trauma, and worse, death?
Bob Apel of safety equipment maker MSA believes that this can be accomplished by encouraging employers to “try to master” the basics of fall protection first before moving forward to the subject of rescue. However, many employers are still a far cry from getting it done.
Things may change soon though, although slower than expected, following the release of a new national standard. The standard, which is codified as ANSI Z359.2 and titled “Requirements for a Managed Fall Protection Program,” aims to provide a more systematized way of executing prompt fall rescue operations. Hopefully, things will look up for the industry as the new safety code is implemented and observed.