Rope access has an exceptional safety record but there will inevitably be times when a rescue needs to be carried out. It may be that a person has fallen ill whilst working at height, or another unexpected incident has occurred. In these rare situations, carrying out rescues at height is necessary, whether that be by others or via self-evacuation of the individual with assistance.

Full rescue training is covered in the IRATA courses, as it is an essential skill to be able to deploy at speed and under pressure. Employers are required to make provisions for emergency planning under the Work at Height Regulations. In this post we will cover some of the basics of rescue operations to give you an idea of what is involved.


Planning and resources

As part of the requirement to have rescue provisions in place for working at height situations, it is necessary to provide a comprehensive plan. A reliance on emergency services to carry out any rescues is not sufficient and employees must be comprehensively trained to respond. Furthermore, one-off training is not enough to ensure that the highest standards of rescue safety are maintained. Regular refresher and reassessment sessions are key to maintaining an updated rescue plan.

As well as planning, it is also important to supply the appropriate rescue equipment that is readily available for any emergencies. Staff must be trained in use of the equipment including anchor points, attachments and operation. Best practice dictates that a risk assessment should be carried out to help you decide on the most suitable equipment for the situation.


Awareness of suspension intolerance

One of the biggest risks of incidents in working at heights situations is the potential for suspension intolerance (formerly known as suspension trauma). Anyone who is held in an upright position with their legs immobile for a period of time is susceptible. This may occur after a fall, as fall-arrest harnesses are designed to keep the body upright. The symptoms of suspension intolerance eventually lead to fainting, which can lead to serious oxygen deprivation of the brain when in an upright position. It can therefore be fatal.

We provide detailed guidance on preventing and treating suspension intolerance in our IRATA training courses. Standard advice includes encouraging movement of the legs to activate the muscles, elevation of the knees where possible and quick rescue to reduce suspension time. Standard first-aid guidance should also be followed with an emphasis on airway, breathing and circulation management (ABC).


Final say

Rescues at height are often complex and require specialist knowledge. It is therefore essential that the appropriate training has been applied and that employers are complying to the Work at Height Regulations. With the appropriate training, rope access is the safest option for working at height and the IRATA governing board helps to ensure that the best practices are applied across the industry.


For more information on the training courses we offer here at Martin Castle Ltd, get in touch with a member of the team and we’ll be delighted to help.