The risk of serious injury or death doesn’t end after a construction worker’s fall has been arrested. Although personal protective equipment (PPE) may prevent ground impacts, it may leave you or your co-workers vulnerable to the harmful effects of suspension trauma, also known as orthostatic intolerance or harness hang syndrome.
Suspension trauma can occur due to a natural physiological reaction when someone remains upright while unable to stand. As a construction worker, it is crucial to be familiar with its signs and symptoms as well as how to help prevent negative outcomes.
What Is Suspension Trauma?
Fall PPE typically includes a harness and lanyard attached to an anchor point. If this type of system arrests your fall, you are often left suspended in an upright position, with your legs dangling and partially immobile.
This vertical orientation and inability to contract your leg muscles, combined with the pressure on your veins from your harness, can result in blood pooling in your lower extremities instead of recirculating. With reduced circulation, your brain and vital organs may be deprived of oxygenated blood, which can lead to unconsciousness, organ damage or death in a matter of minutes. That is why reacting quickly and utilizing suspension trauma prevention strategies is essential.
Suspension Trauma Prevention
There are types of equipment and techniques that can be utilized to help prepare for and prevent suspension trauma injuries and fatalities, including:
Plans should address both when the suspended worker can assist rescue workers and when the suspended worker cannot assist in their rescue. This may be due to a lack of equipment or unconsciousness.
Additionally, fall rescue plans should describe the types and amount of rescue equipment available, how and when to use it, and locations. They should include contact information for key personnel, authorized rescuers, safety managers, nearby hospitals, first responders and OSHA.
Additionally, training can provide rescuers with information on how to keep an unconscious worker’s airway open and treat and monitor the person after a rescue since the effects of the event may not be immediately detectable.
Suspension trauma presents a serious risk that threatens health and safety. By following OSHA regulations, reacting quickly and utilizing suspension trauma prevention equipment and techniques, you can help keep yourself and your co-workers safe after falls.
Source – Zywave, Inc.