Heights Rescue Planning


Whenever there are risks from working at height, appropriate emergency procedures and facilities, including first aid, must be established and provided. Typical injuries from falls can include unconsciousness and occluded airway, impalement, serious head or abdominal injuries and fractures.

A person using a fall-arrest system could suffer suspension intolerance as a result of a fall. The WHS Regulations contain a specific provision to address the need for emergency and rescue procedures for such situations

Regulation 80A person conducting a business or undertaking who implements a fall-arrest system as a measure to control risk must establish emergency and rescue proceduresThe procedures must be tested so that they are effective. Workers must be provided with suitable and adequate information, instruction and training in relation to the emergency procedures
Emergency Procedures

In developing emergency procedures, the different types of emergency and rescue scenarios that might arise should be considered. Information from the risk assessment will help in this task.

Regulation 42You must ensure that workers have access to first aid equipment and facilities for the administration of first aid. You must also ensure that workers are trained to administer first aid or that workers have access to persons who are trained in first aid

Further guidance review Heights Code of Practice  Managing-the-risk-of-falls-at-workplaces-COP   . The emergency procedures for falls may be incorporated into the emergency plan required for the workplace under the WHS Regulations.


When establishing emergency procedures, you should take into account the following:


Relevant considerations Questions
Location of the work area Is the work at height being undertaken in a remote or isolated place? How accessible is it in an emergency and how far away is it from appropriate medical facilities?Can the rescue of a person after an arrested fall be provided immediately, without the need to rely on emergency services?
Communications How can workers working at height communicate in an emergency?
Rescue equipment What kinds of emergencies may arise? The provision of suitable rescue equipment will depend on the nature of the work and the control measures used, for example, an emergency rapid response kit with man-made fibre rope, according to AS/NZS 4142.3 Fibre ropes—Man-made fibre rope for static life rescue lines.Selected rescue equipment should be kept in close proximity to the work area so that it can be used immediately.
Capabilities of rescuers Are rescuers properly trained, sufficiently fit to carry out their task and capable of using any equipment provided for rescue (e.g. breathing apparatus, lifelines and firefighting equipment)?Have emergency procedures been tested to demonstrate that they are effective?
First aid Is appropriate first aid available for injuries associated with falls?Are trained first aiders available to make proper use of any necessary first aid equipment?
Local emergency services— if they are to be relied on for rescue How will the local emergency services (e.g. ambulance) be notified of an incident? What is the likely response time?


Suspension intolerance

Suspension intolerance can occur with a fall-arrest system when a person has an arrested fall and is suspended in an upright, vertical position with the harness straps causing pressure on the leg veins. The lower legs’ capacity to store large amounts of blood reduces the return of blood to the heart, slowing the heart rate, which can cause the person to faint. This may lead to renal failure and eventually death, depending on a person’s susceptibility. This condition may be worsened by heat and dehydration.

The quick rescue of a person suspended in a full body harness, as soon as is possible, is vital. For this reason, workers should be capable of conducting a rescue of a fallen worker and be familiar with onsite rescue equipment and procedures.

Workers and emergency response workers must be trained in the rescue procedures and be able to recognise the risks of suspension intolerance and act quickly in the rescue of a person.

Preventing Suspension Intolerance

To prevent suspension intolerance occurring as a result of an arrested fall, you should ensure that: „

  • workers never work alone when using a harness as fall protection „
  • workers use a harness, which allows legs to be kept horizontal „
  • the time a worker spends in suspension after a fall is limited to less than five minutes. When a suspension is longer than five minutes, foothold straps or a way of placing weight on the legs should be provided. „
  • workers are trained to do the following when they are hanging in their harness after a fall: -„ move their legs in the harness and push against any footholds, where these movements    are possible. In some instances, the harness design and/or any injuries received may prevent this movement „ – move their legs as high as possible and the head as horizontal as possible, where these movements are possible.

The training for rescuing workers who have fallen should address the following factors: „

  • the rescue process should start immediately „
  • training frequency should take into account the worker’s competence and their ability to retain competence through regular exposure to the equipment and skills needed to perform a rescue „
  • workers should not put themselves at risk during a rescue.


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