Fire and emergency management/Rescue victims of a building collapse/Safety in training and operations

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Safety in Training and Operations[edit | edit source]

Introduction[edit | edit source]

The task of rescue involves the training of individuals and teams in a variety of skills, some of which, unless properly carried out, may well prove dangerous to the individual rescuer, the team, casualties, or bystanders. In all cases, the safety of rescuers is of prime importance. It is therefore necessary, particularly in the early stages of training and exercises, to pay a great deal of attention to safety measures, and to emphasise the need to strictly observe and enforce these measures.


All rescue training and operations must be carried out with due regard to safe work practices, occupational health and safety requirements, and codes of practice and guidelines.

Many of the safety precautions to be observed are merely common sense. Unfortunately, they are so basic and simple they are often overlooked.

The Responsibility for Safety[edit | edit source]

Safety is the principal consideration in any rescue activity and it is the responsibility of each rescuer to ensure that safety procedures and Occupational Health and Safety requirements are followed, instructions observed, and operations carried out with a minimum of risk. There are a number of guidelines, codes of practice, regulations, and procedures that relate to safety, and to operational aspects such as critical incident stress, and risk management. These are constantly being amended and updated – it is the responsibility of organisations to keep current.

Additionally, individual services have procedures for the management of these factors, and for laying out individual and organisational responsibilities. ll of these factors must be taken into account in the management of rescue activities. This section covers the key points of safety in training and operations as they affect the rescuer, the casualty, or the bystander. Specific safety points will be covered with each rescue technique, as they affect the conduct of that rescue technique.

Basic Precautions[edit | edit source]

Safety Officers should be appointed for any rescue activity. Team Leaders and Safety Officers are responsible for safety at all times. The orders given by these officers are to be obeyed without question or delay, as they are vital to safety.

Equipment must be regularly and carefully checked both before and after use. Ropes can wear and rot, batteries can corrode equipment, and machinery can break down. Faulty equipment can cost lives.

Any faulty or suspect equipment must be labelled immediately and removed for repair or replacement (e.g. the rope that a rescuer used, but did not check, and was damaged; may kill someone next time it is used).

Personnel ‘at risk’ by working at heights or depths must be protected by properly established and monitored safety lines and systems. Wherever possible, rescuers should adhere to standard techniques and practices. In any rescue technique, safety limits and margins have been built in for casualty and rescuer protection. These must never be ignored or exceeded.


Under no circumstances is smoking permitted in the rescue environment.

Protective clothing and helmets are issued to each rescuer. Each has an obvious safety application, and they must be properly used. Helmets, in particular, must be worn at all times of risk, whether great or small. They are designed to protect the wearer from a single impact, then be replaced. They must never be mistreated by dropping, throwing, or being sat on. They should never be exposed to the effects of UV for prolonged periods (e.g. by being left on the back window-ledge of cars, or any other place).

All safety equipment must be maintained and replaced in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.

For training and operations, other items such as protective clothing, foul weather gear, debris gloves, safety goggles, ear protection, and safety harnesses may be issued. These are all for specific purposes, and must be treated and issued with utmost care.

Rescue / Safety Harnesses[edit | edit source]

Personnel working at heights or in similar dangerous environments may require the protection and safety of a harness. A properly fitted climbing, rescue, or safety harness is recommended, and waist belts or safety lines are a minimum requirement if harnesses are not available. A certified Karabiner should be used for harness attachment with the rope or strop secured to the harness by this device at an approved point.

Some industrial safety harnesses are not suitable for rescue, as the location of the attachment points may be not suitable for rescue techniques. They are however, acceptable for low risk static situations. Competent advice should be obtained before their purchase and use is required.

Casualty Safety[edit | edit source]

It must be obvious that the safety of casualties is important. Every effort including the use of protective equipment must be made to ensure that casualties come to no further harm once a rescue team arrives at the scene.


Horseplay or casual handling of casualties is unsafe and must not be tolerated.

For the sake of realism in training it is an advantage to use live casualties in exercises and drills. Teams should bear in mind the added safety required when dealing with heights, water, and contaminated areas, where dummy casualties may be substituted. In most cases, it is only by handling live casualties in training and exercises that rescuers will appreciate the problems they will encounter on operations.

Safe Working In A Confined Space[edit | edit source]


Activities in a confined space must only be undertaken by appropriately trained and qualified personnel.

Rescue operations may fall within the definition of confined spaces as laid down in Standard AS/2865:1995 (Safe Work in Confined Spaces). This is the standard for Australia and New Zealand, check your local guideliines for your local standard.

A confined space is defined as an enclosed or partially enclosed space which:

  • Is at atmospheric pressure during occupancy
  • Is not intended or designed primarily as a place of work
  • May have restricted means for entry and exit
  • May have an atmosphere which contains potentially harmful levels of contaminant
  • Does not have a safe oxygen level
  • May cause you to be buried.

Rescue activities in such environments must be carried out with particular regard to the problems of breathing in dangerous atmospheres.

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