A worker suffered serious injuries when he fell on the platform below after slipping from a scaffold access ladder. Fire crews attended promptly however faced a difficult challenge to retrieve the casualty without making the injuries worse. After quite some delay, the man was brought down in a stretcher which proved extremely painful. He made a recovery in hospital after and months off work. In a review of the incident, the subscriber’s company considered how the rescue could have been dealt with more smoothly. In accordance with the Work at Height Regulations 2005, a plan had been written for the rescue of scaffolders who might slip whilst erecting or dismantling the scaffolding on the site. This had taken guidance for work at height rescue plans, which concerns itself with retrieving someone who is suspended on a harness. However, the recent accident was an entirely different scenario with an injured worker requiring retrieval from a platform above ground.
The subscriber realised that an assumption had been made (incorrectly) that due to the site being small, a rescue of this type was best left to fire and rescue teams. However, this was not consistent with the Work at Height Regulations 2005 which require under Regulation 4 that work at height is properly planned, including planning for emergencies and rescue.
So, what if someone has an injury or becomes incapacitated due to ill health whilst on a scaffold? The subscriber considered four potential solutions.
First was to transfer the casualty into the building via a window. This would cover any parts of the scaffold where there was an accessible window or opening of sufficient size.
The second option was to use a cherry picker or scissor lift but there were too many fundamental problems such as limited load capacity of most machines, limited size (not able to take a stretcher) and the fact that you should not climb in or out at height.
The third option was to devise a complex plan involving specialist equipment to enable the casualty to be lowered down the outside of the scaffold on a stretcher. This is would require a significant investment in specialist training, suitable lanyard attachment points, specialist lowering equipment etc. Again, they ruled this out.
The fourth option was the installation of scaffold stairs instead of access ladders.
The company decided on a combination of the first and fourth options as these were the most viable solutions or the site. Unfortunately, as the scaffold was already in place, alterations were required to achieve the level of safety required.
As this case study illustrates, you should consider your rescue arrangements for working at height well in advance. This should ensure that any casualty has the best chance of being safely rescued. It will allow any physical rescue provisions to be built in from the start, thereby costing less money in the long run.