Whenever fall protection methods are used, the employer must provide for prompt rescue (including self-rescue) of employees in the event of a fall. Such accidents are deemed reasonably foreseeable in the high-angle working environments. Wherever the likelihood of life threatening accidents is foreseeable, the employer is required to designate a rescue plan, provide appropriate rescue equipment, and train designated employees accordingly.

While OSHA Fall Protection guidelines do not specifically require that a fall rescue preplan be written, a written plan is the best way to develop and monitor procedures, ensure that appropriate equipment is available, and to provide consistent training to affected and involved personnel. Employers must also take appropriate precautions to assure that the rescuers themselves do not become victims.

It is often (erringly) assumed that OSHA will not cite employers for incidents incurred during rescues. This is not necessarily accurate. Although OSHA is usually quite forgiving when it comes to spontaneous rescue efforts, and often does not cite for accidents incurred by a co-worker trying to spontaneously rescue a fellow employee, they MAY cite the employer for failing to have a rescue plan in place for a given type of incident.

Although OSHA has clearly stated that they will not issue a citation to an employer for any

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spontaneous rescue activity, this does not relieve the employer from the obligation to ensure safety to employees who may be designated to respond in the event of an emergency. Any employee who may be designated to rescue another must be provided with protection equivalent to the protection provided to the working employee, including PPE, communications, and any other appropriate safety equipment. Further, where rescue is likely to be needed, the employer is obligated to prepare and provide for an appropriate response.

By following a few simple guidelines, an employer can evaluate specific rescue needs and make appropriate preparations in advance.

Evaluating Rescue Needs

This process can be initiated by first reviewing (or establishing) the Job Hazard Analysis for the jobsite. A Job Hazard Analysis should be performed as a part of work preparation for every worksite, and whenever conditions change. Because the JHA specifically examines hazards, it is also a useful tool in developing the rescue preplan.

Define the area of responsibility that each plan will encompass. A given worksite may develop a single plan for a wide variation of needs, or separate plans for specific areas of need. Worksites that are geographically separated, that are particularly large, or that involve limited access will be more likely to have different response plans for different aspects of the jobsite.

List all known or foreseeable hazards in each subdivided area. Include specific details as to number of workers that might be exposed at a given time, how frequently and at what time(s) of day exposure may occur, and the proximity of other workers. Other factors that might contribute to increasing the hazard should also be noted: environmental conditions (weather), surface contaminants etc.

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