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  1. #1

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    Workplace legal advice...please come in.

    This is in regards to workplace rescue, particularly elevated rescue.

    Scenario: We have areas that differ from 35-120' that may need a rescue. Now, if not done correctly or quickly, gravity will do the rest. If someone is hanging in a harness for more than 15 min, this may develop blood clots and die. Being rescued quickly is important, but if done wrong the person will fall and most likely die. My Fire Dept rescue team is no less than 14 min away on a good day, and a realistic number is more like 20 min.

    -Our safety dummy at work has hit the ground a few times to say the least with some of the tests. We have purchased a almost fool proof system that has a clutch system that lets you down slowly to the ground if everything is hooked up correctly.

    Question(s):

    -We have taken a really light approach to this. Now one should plan ahead just in case a fall happens, have lifts or something on standby to rescue. Better yet, avoid the fall all together with engineering controls. So what if I personally do not want the people at my work with little to no training on elevated rescue helping me? I just really feel that the training is lacking overall and the rescuers could be injured as well.

    -I did some internet searching on Liabilities involving workplace practices, and never really came up with anything. What is my action if I am totally against this? What are my rights? I have a pretty good chance of hitting the ground, and the drills were done on a dummy, not a live person in a high pressure situation.

    -What are my families rights if something was to happen at work, I was trying to be rescued and I hit the ground from 90' and died?
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  2. #2
    jph3's Avatar
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    Document it now, even if its in the form of an email. It needs to be somewhat detailed as to why you are hesitant/not willing to move forward with it. It will either put you in a better position at work (more training or removal from duty) or it will, at minimum, put your family in the right position should something bad happen.

  3. #3
    Don't bother. If you are hurt while on the job you get comp and that's it, unless you can blame a third party that is not your employer.
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  4. #4
    I have no advice- but I LOVE watching lineman pole top rescue exercises when the dummy repeatedly hits the ground due to simple mistakes.

    If you are going to have a lift on site- why would you be climbing?
    If you cross thread a bolt, there is no need for loctite.

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  5. #5
    newracer's Avatar
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    If the training is inadequate or non-existent contact OSHA. Fall protection is one of the areas that OSHA has very specific rules and takes very seriously.
    Have you ever seen a man eat so much fish?

  6. #6
    Any injuries/deaths would be covered by workers comp.

    Workers comp generally relieves the employer of any specific liability for negligence (essentially it's an insurance claim) but there are exceptions to this. If you can show that there was a known hazard and that the employer disregarded it after being warned, then there could be some liability but that's a tough standard of proof. Another way to show negligence might be to look at similar other companies that have similar hazards and what kinds of safety precautions they put in place - if you can show that your employer deviated well below the "standard of care" that is normal in the industry, there could be some liability for the employer.

    Unless you are the business owner I don't think you would have to worry about being personally liable. Generally speaking if you are acting as an agent of your employer in the course of your work, then any liability would go to the employer, not the employee.
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  7. #7
    Quote Originally Posted by newracer View Post
    If the training is inadequate or non-existent contact OSHA. Fall protection is one of the areas that OSHA has very specific rules and takes very seriously.
    Good point and I should have mentioned that as well. There is a doctrine called "negligence per se" that says if there is a law or regulation that is in place to prevent a specific harm, and someone disregards that law, and the harm actually happens, you don't need to show anything else to prove negligence.

    However, I'm not sure that by itself would be enough to overcome the workers comp rules. Put another way, if Joe Employee gets injured because Frank Employer disregarded OSHA rules, Frank may well be subject to a fine by OSHA or other sanction. But that doesn't mean Joe would have a cause to sue Frank because Joe is still covered by Workers Comp.

  8. #8
    Let me dig a little deeper into your specific questions:

    Quote Originally Posted by Chris Halvorson View Post
    Question(s):

    -We have taken a really light approach to this. Now one should plan ahead just in case a fall happens, have lifts or something on standby to rescue. Better yet, avoid the fall all together with engineering controls. So what if I personally do not want the people at my work with little to no training on elevated rescue helping me? I just really feel that the training is lacking overall and the rescuers could be injured as well.
    I am not sure what you're asking here. Are you talking about a situation where you're actually in distress and need to be rescued, and then telling your rescuers to back off? I would think they would go ahead and do what they're going to do, just because you're in distress. I would think that if you are in distress and in need of rescue, the employer has a legal duty to try and rescue you to the best of his abilities (in fact, I think they would be liable if they DIDN'T try to rescue you.)

    Or are you talking about a situation where maybe you are discussing things with your employer and co-workers before your job and you tell the rescuers "If I need help, don't rescue me, I'll get out on my own."? I guess that would be between you and your employer, as to whether your employer would allow you to waive any rescue attempt in advance. I would think they wouldn't allow you to do so, for a number of reasons.


    -I did some internet searching on Liabilities involving workplace practices, and never really came up with anything. What is my action if I am totally against this? What are my rights? I have a pretty good chance of hitting the ground, and the drills were done on a dummy, not a live person in a high pressure situation.
    So again if I'm understanding correctly, the situation is: You are in distress and need to be rescued but you don't want the rescue team at work to rescue you because you don't trust their skills or training?

    I think that would fall under work conditions, i.e. that's one of the things that comes with the job, just as the risk of getting into a situation where you need rescuing comes with the job. If you don't have faith that your work environment is a safe one, then you should probably look for another place to work, or contact the appropriate regulatory agency (OSHA, MSHA, Union, etc) to address the safety situation.

    If I misunderstood what you're asking, please correct me. It might help if you could give me a hypothetical situation in which this might come up.
    Last edited by ZappBranigan; January 28th, 2016 at 01:33 PM.

  9. #9

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    Hey Chris - quit volunteering to be the dummy! Sorry, if it weren't for smart a$$ answers, I would have nothing to say.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by ZappBranigan View Post
    Let me dig a little deeper into your specific questions:



    I am not sure what you're asking here. Are you talking about a situation where you're actually in distress and need to be rescued, and then telling your rescuers to back off? I would think they would go ahead and do what they're going to do, just because you're in distress. I would think that if you are in distress and in need of rescue, the employer has a legal duty to try and rescue you to the best of his abilities (in fact, I think they would be liable if they DIDN'T try to rescue you.)

    Oh I would want to be rescued, but by more qualified people. Rescue teams train all the time, not twice a year...maybe.

    Or are you talking about a situation where maybe you are discussing things with your employer and co-workers before your job and you tell the rescuers "If I need help, don't rescue me, I'll get out on my own."? I guess that would be between you and your employer, as to whether your employer would allow you to waive any rescue attempt in advance. I would think they wouldn't allow you to do so, for a number of reasons.

    We have a good fall protection program, but then this rescue idea came up. None of the other divisions are doing this and when doing fall protection/confined space training, we are not to go back in for rescue.



    So again if I'm understanding correctly, the situation is: You are in distress and need to be rescued but you don't want the rescue team at work to rescue you because you don't trust their skills or training?

    Exactly

    I think that would fall under work conditions, i.e. that's one of the things that comes with the job, just as the risk of getting into a situation where you need rescuing comes with the job. If you don't have faith that your work environment is a safe one, then you should probably look for another place to work, or contact the appropriate regulatory agency (OSHA, MSHA, Union, etc) to address the safety situation.

    This is more for other workers. I sit behind a control center all day. Rarely am I in any harms way other than a paper cut. However, since I do run a power plant that has Hydrogen, High pressure natural gas/air/water/steam/oils, things can get sporty very quickly.

    If I misunderstood what you're asking, please correct me. It might help if you could give me a hypothetical situation in which this might come up.
    Answers in bold. Thank Martin.

  11. #11
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    Zapp's answers are spot on. If you really think the rescue training is inadequate, which you should bring up with your employer if that's the case, you can't refuse rescue or any other safety policies/procedures from your employer without the risk of being disciplined or even unemployed. If you did need elevated rescue, your employer had a formal program with trained personnel (which sounds like it's the case) and they did nothing for any reason, they're liable, including possible criminal liability in addition to any civil liability. "Yeah, Joe fell and died, but he told us earlier that we shouldn't try to rescue him" would get laughed out of court; that's not a reason, it's an excuse.

  12. #12
    I didn't read it all cause it's too long.

    But if he touched you but you said no then you have a case.

  13. #13

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    Well, looks like I will just stay off elevated areas with fall protection or hazards that might put me in that situation. Easily solved.

  14. #14
    Getting deep in here Hardcor4x4's Avatar
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    Your safety harness should have one of these on it.



    it allows you to stand on to take some of the pressure off the seat of the harness pressure points so you don't cut off circulation to your legs. If your harness rigging doesn't have this, get them. it'll extend the time you can be suspended safely while waiting for fire department or a rescue team.

  15. #15
    Re your family: If my job required me to be in a life or death situation that relied on other people's actions I'd tell them to purchase me a very nice life insurance policy. If they won't pony up then there's your sign to move your career in a different direction. You're family won't have you which is the most importing thing but at least they won't have to worry about how the bills will be paid.

    My previous employer was talking about sending my to Juaraz to visit a customer. I told them no way unless they got a 5 mil life insurance policy. They ended up not sending me and didn't ask me to go again.....which was fine with me.

  16. #16

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    Quote Originally Posted by Hardcor4x4 View Post
    Your safety harness should have one of these on it.



    it allows you to stand on to take some of the pressure off the seat of the harness pressure points so you don't cut off circulation to your legs. If your harness rigging doesn't have this, get them. it'll extend the time you can be suspended safely while waiting for fire department or a rescue team.
    They all do. Thank you for the recommendation. They don't work well in some situations though.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by GPP33 View Post
    Re your family: If my job required me to be in a life or death situation that relied on other people's actions I'd tell them to purchase me a very nice life insurance policy. If they won't pony up then there's your sign to move your career in a different direction. You're family won't have you which is the most importing thing but at least they won't have to worry about how the bills will be paid.

    My previous employer was talking about sending my to Juaraz to visit a customer. I told them no way unless they got a 5 mil life insurance policy. They ended up not sending me and didn't ask me to go again.....which was fine with me.
    They do, and I will just not put myself in those situations anyway. If a man lift, catwalk, or scaffolding is not in place...I'm not going to do it. My organization wants us to never have to use fall protection...ever. They have always provided over and beyond what is safe working environment.

    This is just a new idea that I really don't like. Coming from a guy that would train all the time in hurt man rescue off a power pole, I just think more training is needed. Maybe I can set something up.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by GPP33 View Post

    My previous employer was talking about sending my to Juaraz to visit a customer. I told them no way unless they got a 5 mil life insurance policy. They ended up not sending me and didn't ask me to go again.....which was fine with me.
    You saw "Sicario" too huh?


  19. #19
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    Well if things did go bad there is always the strong arm


    I thought you worked for CSU?

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by DaleD View Post
    Well if things did go bad there is always the strong arm


    I thought you worked for CSU?
    I do.

  21. #21
    newracer's Avatar
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    Are they trying to get you to do this?


  22. #22

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    No, but that actually looks pretty fun.

  23. #23
    Our company climbs towers (communications) as part of our business, and I will tell you that the OSHA requirements for working at height, as mentioned above, are extensive, but not necessarily good. (A lot of it is common sense, some of the rest is good info, but some of it, as usual, is fawking stupid).

    Our workers comp and liability insurance is crazy, but we have to specify that we climb towers to be covered.

    So, my thoughts are as follows:
    1. If you think the training is not complete enough, send an email to your management stating this, and suggest a cert class/training to them. We use Safety One in Denver, and have been very happy with their training. If their response is not acceptable, go up the chain, or to OSHA directly. (I hate OSHA, but they do have a purpose in some things).
    2. Make sure the the training covers rescuing at heights. Safety One teaches a "no-cut" rescue, which drastically lowers the risk of dropping the rescuee, well worth learning.
    3. Make sure your workers comp/liability insurance knows that you are climbing. I can't remember who you work for, but check with them, since at least 2 tower companies I know don't specify their work for savings on insurance. If they ever have a fall, they won't be covered though. Sucky day there.
    4. Considering your worries about "suspension trauma" (less clots, and more tourniquet concerns), consider getting rope access harnesses. They are designed to allow a person to hang by a single rope, and not cut circulation (the major concern in falls/long hanging rescues). We use RA harnesses only in our company, and they are actually significantly more comfortable than standard safety harnesses. I can spend 8+ hours on a tower in the harness, and yeah, I'm wiped by the end of the day, but the harness doesn't leave me sore or achy.


    Side note: Given the harness pictured (cheap fall arrest harness, not actually comfortable or really that useful), the foot strap is a good idea, but with an RA harness is much less necessary, and actually not convenient.
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  24. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by newracer View Post
    Are they trying to get you to do this?

    That would be fun, and it wouldn't hurt at all.

    The wrapping would gradually slow you down...

  25. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by Grant H. View Post
    Our company climbs towers (communications) as part of our business, and I will tell you that the OSHA requirements for working at height, as mentioned above, are extensive, but not necessarily good. (A lot of it is common sense, some of the rest is good info, but some of it, as usual, is fawking stupid).

    Our workers comp and liability insurance is crazy, but we have to specify that we climb towers to be covered.

    So, my thoughts are as follows:
    1. If you think the training is not complete enough, send an email to your management stating this, and suggest a cert class/training to them. We use Safety One in Denver, and have been very happy with their training. If their response is not acceptable, go up the chain, or to OSHA directly. (I hate OSHA, but they do have a purpose in some things).
    2. Make sure the the training covers rescuing at heights. Safety One teaches a "no-cut" rescue, which drastically lowers the risk of dropping the rescuee, well worth learning.
    3. Make sure your workers comp/liability insurance knows that you are climbing. I can't remember who you work for, but check with them, since at least 2 tower companies I know don't specify their work for savings on insurance. If they ever have a fall, they won't be covered though. Sucky day there.
    4. Considering your worries about "suspension trauma" (less clots, and more tourniquet concerns), consider getting rope access harnesses. They are designed to allow a person to hang by a single rope, and not cut circulation (the major concern in falls/long hanging rescues). We use RA harnesses only in our company, and they are actually significantly more comfortable than standard safety harnesses. I can spend 8+ hours on a tower in the harness, and yeah, I'm wiped by the end of the day, but the harness doesn't leave me sore or achy.


    Side note: Given the harness pictured (cheap fall arrest harness, not actually comfortable or really that useful), the foot strap is a good idea, but with an RA harness is much less necessary, and actually not convenient.
    One more thought, given my experiences and training classes...

    Don't use retractable safety fall lanyards. Due to their design, they don't catch a fall unless you are in a pretty narrow window directly underneath them. If you get out the the side at all, they don't catch and then they free-wheel and it's not good.

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