General terms

Rescue concept

A rescue concept, sometimes also called a rescue plan, is a special type of operating guideline that describes the procedure for rescuing accident victims. The need for a rescue concept is set down in Section 10 ArbSchG [Federal act on the implementation of measures of occupational safety and health] and DGUV rule 1 (see Sections 8, 24, 25, 29 and 31). Which rescue measures are required - and the scope of these measures - is determined by a corresponding risk assessment.

In the following, we will be describing a rescue concept based on working with personal fall protection equipment (PPE). However, it may be necessary to have a rescue concept in place for other dangerous work. If you deploy arresting systems, you will need to install a viable rescue concept.

General information

All employers are obliged to protect their employees from danger or any other resulting hazards at their workplace - from selecting appropriate PPE equipment to answering the question: "What do we do after a fall accident?"

It’s no use waiting for an accident to happen before asking yourself this question. A makeshift rescue often means putting your colleagues at risk, too - or having to wait around unable to do anything due to not having the right equipment to hand or not having received appropriate instruction.

The most important points to consider in your rescue concept

The measures described in a rescue concept will be different for each company. The rescue concept must be continually adapted to external influences. In this context, adjustments with regard to the material used (PPE and rescue equipment), the local conditions (e.g. a detached house vs. a block of flats) and many other influencing factors will need to be taken into account.

The most important cornerstones on which to base your rescue concept are listed below. These must be individually adapted and executed.

  1. Keep calm!
  2. Keep yourself safe!
  3. Talk to the victim:
    Encourage your colleague to try to help him/herself out of this situation (e.g. by using a foot sling)
  4. Dial the emergency services (Germany: 112):
    Make sure to explicitly mention whether your colleague is still suspended in his/her safety harness!
  5. Take appropriate rescue measures:
    This section of your rescue concept describes in detail which measures need to be taken
  6. Administer first aid!

FAQ - Rescue concept

"Why can't I just wait for the fire brigade to get here?"

The fire brigade (which is actually often only a voluntary fire brigade) often takes too much time to arrive. After the emergency call has been made, the fire brigade goes through its set-up routine. Once they are fully prepared, you have to allow time for them to travel over - and even when they are at the scene of the accident, this does not mean that the victim can be immediately rescued. First of all, the fire brigade collects the facts, then prepares the respective rescue measures and may even have to call in reinforcements (e.g. a specially-trained team for rescuing people at heights).

The victim is forced to rely on his colleagues and that they initiate the rescue operation straight away. These measures can then be continued or supported by the fire brigade.

"Can't I just pull my colleague back up?"

Of course, it is understandable that you want to try to pull your colleague back up over the edge but this is usually wasted effort - and also in itself highly dangerous. Even using the combined strength of several colleagues, it will not be possible to pull the victim back up over the edge of the roof.

"Can't I just cut through the cable and hope he survives the second fall?"

Extreme care should be taken in cutting through the cable - and this should only be done as the very last resort. Even during training, numerous accidents have occurred in the past through using the so-called "CUT rescue" method due to the fact that safety cables were accidentally cut through and not only the cable that was supposed to be cut.

In addition, there is an enormous difference between letting the victim fall to the ground after the cable has been cut or securing him/her accordingly.

IMPORTANT! Cutting through a connector should never be an official part of your rescue concept.

"Do I now always have to have rescuers on site who have been specially trained to rescue people high-up?"

No, I don't always need specially trained rescuers on a construction site who are capable of rescuing people high-up. However, this might be the impression you get the first time you get involved in rescue concepts.

On large construction sites, however - or at locations where it is difficult to maintain an overview, it is quite common for service providers to be commissioned with the task of providing rescue services. In such cases, a team of specially trained individuals - usually consisting of three members - is available to deal with emergencies.

"Can my employees be expected to take on this task?"

Yes, your employees can be reasonably expected to take on this task but they must first learn how to handle the rescue equipment and practise using it regularly - which is something anybody can do with appropriate training.

Many people are worried about having to learn special knots or having to be in top physical shape. However, you can counteract these worries through choosing the right rescue equipment and carrying out regular rescue drills.