Understanding the IRATA Syllabus: Rescue from Fall Arrest Equipment
When climbing with fall arrest equipment, a twin or single legged lanyard with an energy absorber can be used to prevent a fall from an elevated platform that’s close to an edge.
This technique has its risks. A fall arrest system often has a longer than normal 'clearance distance' than a rope access system, and so the fall distance is more likely to cause an injury. This is your reminder to exercise extra caution when using this technique; however, if a mistake does happen and a rescue is necessary a plan should have already been put in place.
L3 supervising techs will have detailed this plan in the Safety Method Statement for the work site. Rescuing a tech from a fall arrest system is going to require some extra equipment. The techs certified to perform this rescue will be responsible for setting aside an easily accessible pre-rigged kit (including equipment and ropes), which they’ll carry with them towards the casualty.
Also important to consider: who’s on your team, how many are certified to perform this rescue, and how quickly could a certified tech reach another team member? After a suspended tech becomes immobile, their harness acts like a tourniquet and cuts off blood flow to their legs. You'll only have 20 minutes before the symptoms associated with suspension intolerance get extremely dangerous. In other words, you'll need to make sure the designated/certified members of your team can act fast.
During your IRATA Assessment, L2 and L3 certifying techs will be asked to demonstrate competence rescuing a casualty who is suspended either by a fall arrest system (temporary or permanent) or by twin-tailed fall arrest lanyards.
Although this rescue and 'rescue from an aid climb' are both listed in the TACS certification scheme as required skills, you will only need to demonstrate one climbing rescue during your assessment. Which one, will be up to your assessor.
As you perform this manoeuvre, your assessor will specifically be watching to ensure that you…
- Maintain two independent safety attachments whenever you’re in suspension – going down to one at any point is a major discrepancy and an immediate fail.
- Practice good casualty management.
There's not just one way to do this. After rigging the ropes, you could either descend with the casualty or return to the structure and lower the casualty to safety. Which technique you use depends on the scenario – if there are hazards or obstructions in the path of the ropes, the state of the casualty, etc.
As we practice this manoeuvre during your training week (and when you demonstrate it on assessment day), one of your colleagues will be acting as a casualty and feigning immobility. If you’re playing ‘the casualty’, remember to move your legs frequently to prevent the onset of the symptoms associated with suspension intolerance we mentioned above.
Additional resources to check out:
TACS 6.9.2 for the source material for this blog.
ICOP Part 3, Annex G for more information on suspension intolerance.
ICOP Part 3, Annex Q for more information on fall factors, clearance distances, and associated risks.
YouTube Video: Comparing shock absorbing fall protection
YouTube Video: Safety harness saves two lives
TACS 9.6.3-9.6.4 for a full list of major and minor discrepancies.
This is part of an ongoing series, where we’re breaking down IRATA’s syllabus and clarifying exactly what ‘demonstrating competence’ and ‘demonstrating awareness’ means, and what will be expected of you on assessment day. As an IRATA L2 certifying tech, you’re expected to be fully competent with the L1 Syllabus. For the additional skills that are part of the L2 syllabus, click below: