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Rescue of Personnel from Height on Tower Cranes - guidance from the UK’s Construction Plant-hire Association

Published:  20 November, 2013

Revised guidance covers the rescue of authorised persons on site: primary duty for ensuring rescue resources are available rests with the organisation controlling the site of the tower crane.

Earlier this year, the Tower Crane Interest Group (TCIG) of the Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA) published a revised guidance on the rescue of personnel from tower cranes.

The revision was prompted by discussions between TCIG and the Fire and Rescue Services about the levels of support that have now become available from many Fire and Rescue Services around the UK. The new guidance - which extends to 16 pages - was prepared with in conjunction with the Health and Safety Executive and Fire and Rescue Services, and with assistance and advice from tower crane owners, hire companies, construction contractors and tower crane manufacturers.

Wherever tower cranes are being erected, used, altered, maintained, inspected, thoroughly examined or dismantled, the evacuation and rescue of persons from height, although required infrequently, must be planned for. The new document, which supersedes earlier guidance published in 2010, covers the rescue of authorised persons on site, such as tower crane drivers, maintenance crew, and persons carrying out thorough examination. It does not extend to the special circumstances of rescuing non-authorised persons such as trespassers. Its primary purpose is to provide guidance on the planning of the rescue should an incident occur. 

The primary duty for ensuring that there are adequate resources for carrying out rescue from a height of persons on a tower crane rests with the organisation in control of the premises on which any tower crane is sited. In the case of a construction site this is the principal contractor as defined by the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2007 (CDM). Planning for emergencies is essential from the outset and the principal contractor is recommended to take all possible scenarios into consideration before work begins onsite.

One of key revisions in the paper is a recommendation that when the principal contractor is planning rescue from height from tower cranes, they should ‘always consult the local Fire and Rescue Service, who may be able to assist with a specially trained crew’. If this service is not available for whatever reason then the contractor needs to investigate other means of rescue and should seek the advice of the tower crane supplier.

Details of the rescue plan should be recorded in a method statement which should be specific for each type and model of crane. The plan should include details of the rescue equipment to be used; configuration of the equipment for different types of casualty, for example, walking wounded, assisted lower or stretcher rescue. The plan should also state what action is to be taken in the event of adverse weather such as high winds. The method statement should be used to brief those who will be working at height and involved in the rescue plan.

It is essential that all rescue from height on tower cranes is carried out by adequately trained and competent persons who should be available on site at all times when rescue may be required. Initial training, which should include pre-use checks of equipment, should be carried out by the supplier of the system to be used, or by in-house trainers who have been trained and assessed by the system supplier. Trainees should be assessed using practical exercises, as well as theory sessions and advised to undertake a simulated rescue on-site to confirm that the training has been understood. It is also essential that rescuers receive refresher training and reassessment at suitable intervals to ensure that their skills are maintained at an appropriate level.

The new version of Technical Information Note 13 - Rescue of Personnel from Height on Tower Cranes is available to download from the CPA website at

  • Operation Florian

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