For professionals who regularly work at height, the risk of falling is an inherent aspect of work life. That’s why people who work on towers, on construction sites, on platforms and the like typically wear fall protection gear. But fall protection alone may not be enough. In effect, when someone falls, even wearing fall protection, they still need to be rescued from the fall protection gear.
In this series, we are looking at the OSHA requirement for prompt rescue, and evaluating the value of self-rescue as an alternative to utilizing a rescue team. In part one, we discussed the significance of the prompt rescue requirement.
In this entry, part 2, we look at the benefits of self-rescue in ensuring prompt rescue.
Rising Costs: The Need for Speed
While the OSHA prompt rescue requirement, under the fall protection guidelines, may have been designed to protect the safety of workers, employers have an additional incentive: the bottom line.
Businesses whose workers suffer injuries related to falls will also suffer both direct and indirect costs related to such accidents. Worker’s compensation claims, paid days away from work, decreased team efficiency, increased administrative costs and insurance claims are just a few of ways by which an operation’s bottom line may be impacted by workplace injuries.
The costs of workplace injuries are not decreasing. In fact, the 2009 Workplace Safety Index from Liberty Mutual notes that costs for the most disabling workplace injuries increased 8.9% from 2006 to 2007. Between 1998 and 2007 those costs grew a staggering 42.8%.
“Fast Rescue” Means “Self-Rescue”
Traditionally, getting a fallen worker to safety meant diverting people and equipment to a rescue operation.
When emergencies occur, they occur quickly and without warning. The precious seconds or minutes lost waiting for a rescue team can be the difference between life and death – or avoiding more serious injury. The ability to self-rescue means that a properly trained worker has the opportunity to remove him- or herself from danger and get to the ground safely, long before suspension trauma is a risk.
With the correct training and tools, an individual worker can lift himself up out of his fall arrest lanyard and lower himself to the ground, even in the face of possible injuries to his hands and arms. Medical assistance can reach him more quickly on the ground. Reducing the time necessary to reach treatment may mean an improved outcome for the individual worker; it may also help to reduce the possible negative impact on the worker’s family and his team.
Self-Rescue May Also Mean Less Cost
As mentioned, while team-based rescue systems have been the norm, operations may lose valuable time and resources diverting attention to rescuing a suspended worker.
With the ability to self-rescue, a worker who experiences a fall and suspension from his fall arrest system can lower himself to the ground without requiring the assistance of his entire team. In addition to reducing the risk of further injury to the worker, self-rescue can have a positive impact from a cost standpoint. First, by avoiding more serious injury, a worker who falls then self-rescues is able to avoid many of the costs associated with those injuries, and is able to return to the workforce more quickly. Plus, operational efficiency is improved as the rest of the team can continue to work without the necessity of diverting resources to help their teammate reach the ground safely.
In our last post in this series, we will look at what criteria to use in evaluating self-rescue equipment.