The Importance of a Rescue Plan Part 2 – Stuck on a Platform

Jacob WallaceHigh Rise SafetyLeave a Comment

You are working on a swing stage when the unthinkable happens… the motor stops working and you are stuck. You are now half way down the building and your local fire department doesn’t have any training in high angle rescues. What are you going to do?

Window Cleaning Gone Very Wrong


This is a common scenario in our industry. You need only Google window cleaning accidents to find several examples in the last few months. In almost every case the issue is eventually solved by fire fighters breaking the window from the inside and pulling the cleaners in.
In our last post we talked about the importance of having a rescue plan, and argued that calling 911 is not a suitable plan. Here we want to look at this common scenario and think through some things that might go into a rescue plan. Note that every situation is different. This post is no substitute for proper training. It is your responsibility to think through your safety and rescue plan for each job site.


In planning for a swing stage rescue we need to consider anything that might make the situation unique. In this case there are a few things to think about:

  • Is the platform completely stuck? Is there a danger of it falling?
  • Is the platform level or has one side gotten lower than the other?
  • Are the workers in imminent danger, or simply stuck on a platform that won’t move?
In a rescue plan, you’ll want to plan for worst case scenario. It’s fine if you have plans for the less serious cases, but make sure you also have a plan for the worst.

Rescue Plan Ideas

To get some ideas for appropriate rescues in this instance we talked with Todd Horning and Brian Bourquin of Safety One Training. Both are SPRAT Level 3, full time instructors, and the best of the best in at-height safety.

Self Rescue

“The self rescue by descent makes the most sense to me,” said Brian. You would use your backup line and a descender to lower yourself to safety. This rescue plan is quick, simple, and only requires that you have a descender that works with your backup line. You might also have an escape kit on hand for this. “However, if there is any doubt as to the swing stage falling or coming free on either anchor the worker should ascend or breach the building. Breaching the building should always be a last effort.” If there is a chance that the platform might fall, the last place that you want to be is underneath it.

Self Rescue Descend
Ascending up the rope is a bit trickier than descending down, but it’s far from impossible. “Don’t know how to ascend a rope? There is no time like the present to learn.” Brian invites anyone to email him to discuss it. Or better yet, take a SPRAT course at Safety One.

Self Rescue Ascend
Brian also notes that it’s a bad idea to break a window, so you should save it as your last resort. “If the fire department breaks the window they will be hailed as heroes. If you break the window there will be hell to pay.”

Pick Off Rescue

Similar to the self rescue above, you’ll use your backup line to descend. However, in this case you and your partner will descend together through a pick off strap connection. This plan remains simple, and only requires a descender, pick off strap, and a few carabiners. It would also be useful if one of the two workers is injured and unable to rescue themselves. “Scaffolds have been notorious for getting stuck at height due to various reasons.” Todd commented, “Having a basic rescue bag in the scaffolding could mean the difference between a simple, prompt and safe evacuation of a couple workers as opposed to a long and complicated rescue with the local fire fighters who would be operating far outside the scope of their normal skills and comfort zone.”

Pick Off Rescue Descend or Ascend
Again, it’s important to note that this isn’t a rescue you’d want to perform if there is any danger of the platform falling. If that is the case, youll want to ascend so that there is no danger in case the platform does end up falling.
What’s your plan?
Here we’ve thought about two basic ideas for performing a rescue. What rescue plan do you have in place in case of swing stage failure?
Thanks to

Icons made by Scott de Jonge from is licensed by CC BY 3.0

for the people shapes.

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