July 16th, 2009 Chattanooga Tennesse. A 41 year old Tower crane operator suffered a medical emergency while in the crane. From 105 feet the fire department had to rescue the operator and lower him to the ground using a ladder truck with a man basket on it.
Something that we don’t talk about much on tower cranes is how to rescue operators, and sometimes others, when they suffer a medical emergency. On a tower crane 300 feet in the air it becomes difficult and time consuming for figure out on the fly. As an erector we always had long ropes for tag lines and if one of us were injured, we would get them down via rope immediately. It would violate everyone’s policy to do so, but sometimes common sense and Bureaucracy don’t mix. I’m gonna save someone’s life and worry about the consequences later.
Contractors should develop rescue plans and talk about it. Materials such as good climbing ropes, possibly a block, harness, carabineers, should be available. If you don’t have a rescue plan in place, you may find yourself with a man in trouble and a fire department trying to figure out how to get someone down as they are literally dying. In the US these emergencies happen 3 or 4 times a year. With some simple planning, this problem if figured out ahead of time might save a life.
Additionally, something that I’m an advocate of is Trauma Suspension Straps. If you fall into your harness and are waiting for the Fire Department to rescue you, you might be killed by your harness due to heart failure (low blood pressure) Worse, the blood that pools in your legs cannot circulate and if you hang for too long, the cells will have de-oxygenated and become poisonous. When you are taken out of your harness, you have the potential to die anyways. For guys like me working on my own, that’s a miserable prospect. The straps roll up in a small packet and remain on your harness. If needed you unzip the packet, connect the straps into a loop and they allow you to stand taking the pressure off of the leg straps allowing the blood to flow and preventing a heart attack or toxic blood. $20 might save your life one day.