Every responsible employer's goal is to reduce the risk of accidents as much as possible. A zero incident and injury rate is the standard that everyone strives for (see The Journey to Zero! to learn more). That goal, however, is not always achievable – accidents happen, and so do equipment failures, human error, and severe weather. It's important, then, to have contingency plans in place to address accidents whenever they occur and minimize the negative impact they have on affected employees.
Part of your preparation is having the equipment you'll need to manage to emergency on hand. This article will go over what equipment you'll need when rescuing workers during an emergency.
No Simple Answers
The types of accidents that may occur at a worksite depend to some degree on the industry that the company is operating in. A metals and mining company, for example, has to worry about the risk of a tunnel cave-in and be prepared for subsequent extraction efforts. On the other hand, chemical manufacturers might not have to be concerned with cave-ins, but they do have to plan and prepare for chemical spills, including efficient evacuation plans to get employees to a safe location before fumes from the spilled material can damage their lungs (for related reading, see these Top Tips for Preventing Chemical Spills in the Workplace).
Given the variety of site-specific dangers, there is no easy answer for what type of emergency rescue equipment your company will need. You will need to careful evaluate the hazards your workers face and determine what you'll need to keep on site in case things go wrong.
First Aid Kits
While every industry faces its own unique hazards, some basic emergency rescue equipment will remain consistent across the board.
First and foremost, every rescue team should have fully stocked first aid kits. If these kits are not designated specifically for rescue operations, they should be checked regularly to ensure they aren't running low on any items. This should be the responsibility of one of the company's health and safety officers.
Even if the first aid kit is specifically designated for rescue operations and are restocked after every use, it's still good practice to inspect the contents regularly to make sure nothing has expired or otherwise been compromised.
Your emergency rescue plan needs to fit all seasons.
Someone needing to be rescued on an intensely hot summer day may be experiencing heat stress that requires immediate attention. Rescue teams should have water or sports drinks and cooling towels on hand in case they need to quickly hydrate and cool down the worker they're rescuing before their symptoms get worse (learn about some heat stress misconceptions).
Likewise, rescuers in the middle of winter may need to assist someone who is experiencing hypothermia or is at risk of frostbite. Blankets, gloves, and other warming items could prove to be an essential component of your rescue gear.
If you live in an hurricane or tornado zone, you may have to rescue workers trapped under debris caused by damaging winds. Access to heavy lifting equipment may be essential to perform a rescue following a natural disaster. Several flashlights might also be needed if your team needs to locate any crew members not accounted for.
A thorough hazard assessment should give you a good idea of what kind of rescue situations you may face.
Logging companies, for instance, may have to rescue workers who have been trapped under a fallen tree, which may have to be cut and removed quickly. Part of the rescue training in logging, then, should include the safe use of chainsaws and other similar equipment so that they can cut through the fallen tree to rescue a worker without causing them more harm in the process, or putting someone else in harm's way.
Municipal crews working in sewage systems and other confined spaces also pose a challenge for rescuers. Rescue teams need to have appropriate respirators on hand in case they have to enter a space that has unsafe concentrations of hydrogen sulfide. It's also incredibly difficult and unsafe to simply lift and carry an injured worker out through a manhole. In those situations, rescue teams should use a specialized tripod and hoist to safely lift the worker to safety.
Okay, so this one isn't equipment in the traditional sense. But if anyone attempts a rescue without being equipped with the right knowledge and skills, they run the risk of making things worse.
Having the right equipment on hand matters. But it won't necessarily make much of a difference if those performing the rescue don't know when to use it, how to use it, or how to avoid causing further harm by using it properly.
Being Prepared Is Priceless
Specialized rescue equipment isn't always cheap, and some employers might be tempted to settle for the bare minimum, reasoning that an emergency rescue is unlikely to be required.
It's important to reframe to conversation. The up-front costs might seem steep, but the benefits that come from a well thought out and emergency rescue plan are huge. Even if you're fortunate enough to be in an industry where emergencies requiring rescues are rare, they're not impossible. No matter the kind of equipment you need, the price tag will be small when it's compared to the potential casualties and loss of life that could result from not being adequately prepared.