Emergency Rescue Plans


An Emergency Rescue Plan for Working at Height

According to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), one of the most common work injuries is falling from a height - this also makes up 20% of fatal accidents. As a result, it is essential to know what to do if a fall occurs at work.

In this article, you will find information on what factors to consider when preparing an emergency rescue plan and what requirements it has to fulfil.

When Is a Working at Height Rescue Plan Necessary?

If work is carried out at a height where the potential of injury is high, a fall arrest system may be required that protects a person if a fall does happen. Examples of such work might include working on a ladder, on a roof, or anywhere else that poses a risk of falling through a surface or into a hole in the ground. 

As a part of these fall arrest procedures, it is a legal requirement to create an emergency response plan, which is a strategy that aims to recover an injured person as quickly as possible. While it is necessary to alert emergency services when an accident happens, waiting to receive their help and delaying rescue might result in a fatal injury.  

What Are the Work at Height Requirements?

Work at height must be carried out in line with the Work at Height Regulations 2005, which aim to prevent death and injury caused by falling from a height. 

According to these regulations, every employer must ensure that appropriate preparations have been put in place before the work starts, and that the work is adequately supervised and carried out as safely as possible. They are also required to take appropriate measures to prevent falling, such as choosing suitable equipment and inspecting the premises to determine if the surface is safe to use. 

Most importantly, they require every employer to create an emergency rescue plan. It is an employer’s responsibility to ensure that appropriate procedures are implemented and that the plan is updated regularly.

To find out more about working at height control measures, visit our previous article Working at Height Hierarchy of Control Measures.

What To Consider When Preparing a Rescue Plan? 

According to the HSE, a rescue plan should address the following issues:

  • The safety of appointed rescuers.
  • The anchor points used for the rescue equipment.
  • The suitability of equipment.
  • The method used to attach the person to the rescue system.
  • How to move the person to safety.
  • Any first aid and other medical requirements the person might have after the rescue.

In addition, it should consider the type of rescue. This could be: 

  • Lowering an individual.
  • Raising an individual.
  • Self-evacuation by descent.
  • Rescuing a person in descent.

Emergency Rescue Plan: Risk assessment

Before any work can begin, it is vital to conduct a risk assessment that evaluates whether rescue procedures ensure enough safety. To complete the assessment, a surveyor should visit the premises and look for potential hazards, consider who is at risk of being harmed and, if so, in what way, identify the risks and decide how to minimise them. These findings should be recorded and reviewed regularly. Refer to the Working at Height Risk Assessment article available on our website for more information on the completion process.

Emergency Rescue Plan: Rescue training

Every person involved in work at height should have sufficient knowledge of fall protection, rescue procedures, and rescue equipment. However, rescues must be carried out only by a competent person who, in addition to previously mentioned knowledge, should be trained in fall hazard recognition, fall hazard control methods, and equipment inspection. The individuals involved in rescue procedures should attend refresher training ideally every six months.

Emergency Rescue Plan: PPE and Rescue Equipment

A rescue plan is designed to minimise the risk of injury and retrieve a suspended person in a safety harness. There are two types of harness used when working at height:

  • A fall protection harness
  • A rescue harness 

Both types can be used for rescue, but the rescue harness works better if the injured person is unconscious.

Other types of rescue equipment used in fall arrest situations include:

  • Fixed lifelines
  • A free-standing lifeline
  • Deadweight anchors
  • Shock-absorbing lanyards
  • Anchorages
  • Fall arrest blocks 

Rescue equipment should be inspected at least once a year and after being used for rescue.

The type of PPE used will depend on the nature of work, but all employees at risk of falling should wear safety helmets.  

Emergency Rescue Plan: Carrying Out the Rescue 

To be adequately prepared and ensure a successful rescue procedure, the rescue kit must be kept near to where the work is taking place.

Once a fall has occurred, it is crucial to assess the situation first. An appointed worker should decide which position is best to carry out the rescue from, and the safety point the injured person should be moved to. If possible, they should communicate with the fallen person to decide on the next steps. Medical services should be notified and told about the details of the accident and any potential injuries.

The next step involves implementing the rescue procedures. Firstly, it is crucial to ensure that the anchor point for the equipment is positioned so that the equipment is easy and safe to operate. If the person had fallen off a building, it is important to keep the equipment away from the edge and ensure that the surface is strong enough to hold the load.

When lifting or lowering the individual, the rescuer should maintain control to prevent them from becoming trapped on the way - in some cases, attaching a guy line can help to avoid obstructions and direct the person to safety more easily. 

It is important to remember that prolonged suspension might lead to ‘suspension trauma that causes a person to faint. To prevent this, encourage the injured person to move their legs to keep the blood flowing. If they are already unconscious, they should be removed from the vertical position within 10 minutes and emergency services alerted of the person's condition.

Immediately after the rescue, the injured person should be provided with first aid and, if possible, they should sit down with their knees bent. 

Lastly, the incident must be reported to HSE and the rescue procedure reviewed to identify areas that need improvement.


If you are looking to complete a Working at Height course, consider taking our online Working At Height Online Course course which, unlike classroom courses, can be completed in your own time and at your own pace: