Fall Protection: Suspension Trauma, Are You at Risk?

 

Saved by your fall protection but are you still at risk?

A worker that has been saved by their fall protection, and still suspended, by their fall arrest system is still in danger of suspension trauma. Suspension trauma or harness hang syndrome (HHS) is a result of orthostatic intolerance over an extended period of time. While in an inactive position, blood accumulates in the lower extremities of the employee hanging from their fall protection harness causing orthostatic intolerance. This blood builds up and is trapped in the lower extremities causing the body to not be able to sufficiently supply the rest of the body blood and brain with the oxygen it needs. Orthostatic intolerance, in severe cases, can lead to death if not identified and dealt with immediately. Orthostatic intolerance has symptoms such as the following:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Nausea
  • Increased heart rate
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Fainting

Preventing Suspension Trauma

The number one way to avoid suspension trauma, is to have a rescue team on site while workers are in danger of being suspended by their fall arrest systems. Suspension trauma can set in very quickly, therefore rescue teams need to be quick and ready to address a fall at all times during the day. OSHA requires employers to provide “prompt rescue of employees in the event of a fall”. (1926.502(h)(3)) While waiting for rescue, suspended employees can pump their feet to keep muscles in the legs active, keeping blood circulating. Suspended employees can also attempt to get horizontal to keep blood flowing to lower extremities. Self-rescue systems can be utilized to avoid suspension trauma. These self-rescue systems can be attached to a fall protection harness and utilized once a fall has occurred. Self-rescue systems allow fallen workers to descend from the suspended position to the ground below. 

Site Safety Training & Safety Management Solutions

Are your employees safe? Do your workers have the proper fall protection training? Amerisafe provides various training services for fall protection as well as standby rescue training services. Our safety consultants are experts when it comes to site safety management services, including fall prevention and fall protection.  Call us today to find out how Amerisafe Group can manage your fall protection training and site safety services. 

 

Author: Benjamin C. Young