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Lifeline rescue plan

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Marianne E. Lane
  • 97th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs
Mr. Smith feels dizzy, light headed, all the blood is draining from his face, he starts to sweat, and then everything goes black. Everyone is shouting, but he hears nothing because he has passed out and fallen from the top of an aircraft. He is dangling by a harness that is cutting off circulation by way of his femoral artery- he has six minutes before serious damage starts to occur in the lower extremities.

The fire department is called, arrives and they begin the process of an emergency rescue. One firefighter is lifted up to Smith in a lift, unhooks him and brings him into the bucket to be lowered to the ground. Smith is placed on a backboard with a cervical collar, strapped down and taken to the nearest medical treatment facility to make a full recovery.

This emergency rescue situation is a real threat to many Airmen who wear safety harnesses for their jobs. Thanks to the innovative new fall protection and rescue plan for their jobs, the threat of injury is not as high as it could be.

According to Air Force Occupational Safety and Health Standard 91-100 "any fall protection system must include a rescue plan. A rescue plan will be developed by the unit whenever fall protection measures are employed. All workers shall be fully trained in, and will have practiced the rescue plan."

Having fall protection rescue system training is a new requirement outlined in AFOSHSTD91-100. In situations where an individual can fall four or more feet, either a passive or active fall protection system will be used. Passive fall protection systems consist of guardrails, work stands, platforms and nets. Active fall protection systems consists of personal fall arrest systems (PFASs) which requires a body harness be attached to an anchorage or lifeline. PFAS absorb the energy forces during a fall, reducing the potential for injury, but there is only six minutes to rescue the individual before serious damage occurs in the lower extremities. The passive fall system is the recommended method.

According to Maria Johnson, 97th Maintenance Directorate safety voluntary protection program coordinator, fall protection has always been a safety priority for the A-Team.

The requirement for fall protection was previously 10 feet, but it is now four feet. This requirement was changed by the Air Force earlier this year to reduce the number of injuries. During the past couple years, the A-Team, has implemented new fall protection measures such as a dual-overhead cable system for the KC-135 Stratotanker inspection bay. This system allows four workers to safely walk on top of the aircraft while attached to the harness system. The A-Team is also trying to get a dual-overhead cable for C-17 maintenance crews. Plans for a safety harness for the C-17 Globemaster III maintenance bay are in the works.

Altus AFB is the first to conduct training on this safety requirement.