Emergency Preparedness and Response

Safety 2018: A New, WISE Approach to Fall Protection Emergency Response

If there is a fall from height at your facility or construction site, would you know what to do? That was the question posed by Loui McCurley, CEO of Pigeon Mountain Industries, at her session “Rapid Response to a Fall Protection Emergency” presented at the American Society of Safety Professionals’ (ASSP) Safety 2018 Conference and Exposition held in San Antonio, Texas.

Construction slip trip fall

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McCurley urged attendees to develop rescue plans using the “WISE” approach consistent with American National Standards Institute (ANSI) Z359.2 Minimum Standards for a Comprehensive Managed Fall Protection Program. “WISE,” an acronym McCurley coined, stands for:

  • Workers on-site;
  • Integrated approach;
  • Solution mindset; and
  • Emergency response.

A WISE Idea

The WISE approach, developed over McCurley’s years of experience as an emergency responder and as the leader of a company that manufactures rope and other safety equipment for work and rescue at height, first dictates that employers include workers on-site as part of their rescue plan. Because many employees’ instinct is to rush to their coworkers’ aid and because the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandates prompt rescue during a fall protection emergency, McCurley argues that successful outcomes are more likely if employees are trained and depended upon as part of a facility’s rescue plan.

Next, rescue plans should adopt an integrated approach in conjunction with a facility’s fall protection plan. It is critical that employers determine which methods and equipment will be necessary for rescue, and this assessment begins with the fall protection plan.

Rescue plans should also be developed using a solution mindset, meaning that they should be fairly simple in design and easy to deploy. Since the main goals of a fall protection emergency rescue are to reach the subject, release him or her from the fall protection equipment, and evacuate them, this should be accomplished efficiently using as little equipment as possible.

Finally, McCurley stresses that rescue plans should be developed in coordination with local emergency response services, even if a facility or site has its own medics or form of emergency response. This gives employers a back-up plan in case their in-house efforts are unsuccessful, and if they have prepared well, the rescue will be complete by the time emergency responders arrive and can provide a medical evaluation. McCurley also suggested that facilities pre-plan with any local emergency service that may be involved in a rescue so that responders can get to know the site, the equipment used, and the planned rescue strategy, and so facilities can determine the emergency services’ exact capabilities.

The Standard

As part of the fall protection emergency rescue plan development process, McCurley suggested that employers also look to ANSI Z359.2, which recommends that plans:

  • Correspond with a hazard analysis document;
  • Consider fall potential and patient care;
  • Identify the response plan to an incident;
  • Identify personnel responsibilities;
  • Identify rescue methods;
  • Identify equipment;
  • Identify other resources; and
  • Establish an employee training program.

By pre-planning using the WISE approach and the ANSI standard before a fall protection emergency rescue becomes necessary, employers can effectively minimize the injuries sustained due to falls from height and increase workers’ chances of survival.