The UK's search and rescue helicopters lower a man down on the wire.
When dealing with sailing boat masts, they often use a technique known as "Hi-Line". I understand the procedure goes like this.
Helicopter stands off the casualty, usually on the port side as it makes life easier for the pilot.
A light weight line is lowered to the casualty, who's crew coil it down, a bucket is recommended to prevent tangles. The winch
man is lowered down and is pulled in towards the casualty, whilst the helicopter keeps a safe distance away.
The rescue is then carried out. If lots of people need rescuing, there is a great time saving as the casualty and the helicopter remain connected. Should major problems arise, the Hi-Line has a weak link so the helicopter is not endangered.