Thursday, October 11, 2012

Going Down? Self-Rescue Beats Hanging Around

The US OSHA and UK HSE Fall Protection standards include a requirement that a rescue plan be in-place before climbing operations begin.  Calling 911 is not a rescue plan.  When a worker is hanging in a fall protection harness they can be subject to suspension trauma, so getting them down to terra-firma (the more firmer, the less terror) is the first priority.

Suspension trauma is the shut-down of the circulatory system due to the constrictions placed on the body by the fall protection harness.  There are kits that you can supplement on your climbing gear that will deploy a short set of bootstraps that tie back to the suspension D-Ring and will allow you to 'stand-up' and take some of the pressure off of your leg and waist fittings, but this is only a temporary solution to the problem.

The OSHA / HSE rescue requirements allow for self-rescue.  This can be a real time saver, as getting to a rescue kit, taking it up to an attachment point above the fallen worker, and reaching or rappelling down to attach the kit, then lowering the fall victim to the ground can be very time-consuming.  Here are three self-rescue solutions that are worthy of consideration:


The DUES 3700 is a small hands-free speed controlled descender that can be pre-attached to your climbing gear and deployed as-needed, or it can be pre-deployed and ready to go.  It can be used with up to 500 feet of rope.

The 3700 features quadruple-redundant braking, automatic speed-limiting technology, hands-free descent, and a speed control dial to control descent with just two fingers. Plus, the ropes can be replaced so it’s cost-effective and versatile.  The unit can be reused repeatedly.  More info at:


The Latchways PRD (Personal Rescue Device) is a backpack module that is fully-integrated with the climbing harness and preconnected to the fall arrest lanyard.  If you fall, you just reach up to your shoulder and pull a release cord that unlocks the descender and it lowers you to the ground.  Current models have a 65 foot rescue rope, and longer options are forthcoming. One drawback to this system is that you must send the unit to a Latchways service center to have it reset for the next use.  More info at:


The Petzel EXO personal escape system is a manually operated self-braking descender packaged with rope, carbiners and a easy carry pouch.  Originally designed for the NYFD, this is a lightweight and reliable solution.  The unit can be reused repeatedly.  More info at:


Climb Safe:
Plan the Climb.  Plan the Rescue.
Climb the plan.

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