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Planning for (and Avoiding) Suspension Trauma

suspension traumaWhile preventing accidental falls in the workplace must remain a priority, it’s important not to forget about injuries that can happen when you use fall prevention equipment. A not uncommon “after the fall” injury is suspension trauma.

What is Suspension Trauma?

Suspension trauma is the common name for orthostatic intolerance. It occurs when blood pools in leg veins, reducing the amount of blood in circulation.

When you move your legs, it pushes blood through your veins via one-way valves. When your movement is restricted—and if your heart is unable to move blood from your legs to your brain and other organs—then the blood pools in your legs, insufficient blood reaches your brain, and you may lose consciousness. If pooling continues, suspension trauma can lead to organ failure and even death.

Aside from fainting, other symptoms can include breathlessness, sweating, raised or lowered heart rate, nausea, dizziness and loss of vision.

Because suspension trauma results from lack of blood flow, it can be exacerbated by injuries that result in blood loss.

Suspension Trauma After Falls

Suspension trauma is not an uncommon problem when fall protection equipment is deployed. Fall protection equipment can leave you hanging in a vertical, sedentary position—both of which contribute to blood pooling.

Fortunately, this can be prevented. (And it’s certainly no excuse for not using fall prevention equipment!)

Prevent Suspension Trauma with Planning and Equipment

To prevent suspension trauma, you need to plan in advance how to quickly and safely rescue workers suspended from fall prevention equipment.

In addition, your employer should provide you and your coworkers with suspension trauma release steps (or straps) that attach to your fall prevention harnesses. You can use these steps to alleviate the symptoms of suspension trauma by contracting your leg muscles while waiting for rescue. This movement pushes the blood through the one-way valves in your veins, moving the blood from your legs to your brain and other body organs.

For more on preventing this problem in the workplace, see OSHA’s Suspension Trauma/Orthostatic Intolerance Safety and Health Information Bulletin and the article Protect Workers from Suspension Trauma in Safety + Health Magazine.

Preventing Suspension Trauma at Select Safety Sales

At Select Safety Sales, we carry the Miller Relief Step Safety Device for suspension trauma prevention. It attaches to any type of full body harness and comes with two steps, one for each leg.

Need more information about suspension trauma prevention devices? Our safety experts are available to help you select the right device for your workplace. They can also help you choose from our selection of fall protection products. Call (866) 864-3495 or email sales@selectsafetysales.com. You can also get us through online chat!

 

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