In our last article, we emphasized the word “prompt” and why it is so important in terms of performing fall rescue. Imagine witnessing a worker falling 20 feet from a roof. Although the worker is grateful to be alive, they are still dangling mid-air. They may have escaped hitting the pavement, but they are not totally risk-free. How fast a worker is rescued plays a major role in a crew’s fall rescue plans.
Read on to learn about the dangers of suspension trauma. More information about fall prevention can be found on the OSHA website, and you can request counsel from an OSHA defense lawyer to help clarify any safety concerns in your workplace.
The Dangers of Suspension Trauma
The worker is actually at risk for suspension trauma, also known as orthostatic intolerance. When a worker is left suspended too long, venous pooling can occur and cause the vein in the lower legs to become engorged which in turn depletes oxygen from the blood. If a person has been suspended for too long, orthostatic intolerance can also occur when they attempt to move too quickly from the suspended position. When the body attempts to overcome this it leads to the following symptoms:
- Heart palpitations
- Low blood pressure or heart rate
- Poor concentration
- A Headache
The risk of the above symptoms is increased by a worker’s inability to move their legs, injury sustained during the fall, shock, dehydration, hypothermia, blood loss, and cardiovascular disease.
Preventing Prolonged Suspension
A crucial element of a rescue plan should detail how prolonged suspension in fall protection systems will be prevented, how workers can recognize orthostatic intolerance, how a worker will be rescued and treated. If a worker cannot perform a self-rescue or a crew member is not available to rescue the worker quickly, the worker should pump his or her legs frequently to keep the muscles active. This lowers the risk of venous pooling. Be sure that the suspended worker is monitored for signs of intolerance and suspension trauma. If the worker goes unconscious, keep the worker’s air passages open. After the rescue, seek medical attention immediately.
Remember, failure to promptly rescue a worker could lead to serious injuries such as brain and kidney damage or lead to death in as little as 30 minutes. If you have not done so already, we recommend reading part 1, part 2, and part 4 of this series which discuss various aspects of rescue plans.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.