Does your job involve working at heights and relying on a fall protection harness to save your life if you should fall? You may not realize that the protection equipment can arrest the fall before you hit the ground, but your life will remain in danger. Your survival may depend on the prompt arrival of rescuers to get you out of the safety harness.
Your Iowa employer is responsible for your health and safety on the job, and this responsibility includes providing comprehensive training in the correct use of fall arrest systems. It is essential for you to learn about the risks of suspension trauma, and also how to stay safe.
What is suspension trauma?
When a person who is standing loses consciousness, he or she will fall and be in a horizontal position. This will allow normal blood flow because the brain, legs and heart will be on the same level. However, if you hang in your fall harness for longer than a few minutes, blood will pool in your legs instead of circulating in your body. Hanging in this position causes orthostatic intolerance, which can lead to suspension trauma. A prolonged suspension can cause severe brain, kidney or other organ damage.
What are the symptoms?
While suspended, you may feel breathless and light-headed, you may become pale and experience nausea. At the same time, you will likely start sweating, and hot flashes and dizziness may occur. Your blood pressure and heart rate may drop, or you might experience heart palpitations. While you will likely struggle to concentrate, you may start quavering, lose vision and become unconscious.
Which occupations are at risk?
Any worker whose job necessitates the protection of a fall arrest harness can be at risk. The following occupations are typically affected:
- Roof workers
- Construction workers
- Window washers
- Bridge workers
- Crane operators
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides comprehensive guidelines and regulations related to the prevention of suspension trauma. However, you may want to know that safety authorities say damage and loss of consciousness can occur within six to seven minutes, and if you are left suspended for longer than about 30 minutes, you may not survive.
What can you do?
You can gain as much knowledge about the risks of suspension trauma as possible, and learn how to inspect all the elements of your fall protection system before entrusting it with your life. If you are unfortunate enough to suffer such a workplace injury, the Iowa workers' compensation insurance system will likely have your back. With the help of an experienced legal representative, you can file benefits claims for coverage of medical expenses and a percentage of lost income.