Falls from heights form a significant percentage of the annual death toll in the U.S. workforce, including in Minnesota. If your job involves working at extreme heights, your life is in jeopardy every day. Did you know that the fall protection you wear to save your life could also cause your death?
Although a properly secured safety harness can arrest your fall, the time you spend hanging in it can cause severe injuries that might even be fatal. According to the American National Standards Institute, the life of any person left suspended in a fall harness for more than six minutes is at risk.
Why is prompt rescue critical?
Various issues determine the level of danger facing a suspended worker. A medical emergency that needs immediate attention or a dropped object from a higher level might have caused your fall. Striking something on your way down when you fell may also necessitate emergency care.
Added to these dangers is the threat of suspension trauma — also called harness hang syndrome or harness-induced pathology. This is a life-threatening risk that suspension for more than six minutes can bring. The straps of the harness can restrict your normal blood flow, resulting in blood accumulation in your legs. This can starve your brain, heart and kidneys from oxygenated blood.
Factors that can influence the outcome
Suspension trauma typically causes unconsciousness that could lead to death. The factors that may bring about these conditions could include the following:
- Overall health — If you have pre-existing medical problems such a cardiac condition, you might be at an increased risk.
- Harness fit — A properly fitted harness that has an ergonomic design might protect the femoral arteries and veins from excessive pressure.
- Immobility – If you are unable to move due to unconsciousness or another reason, suspension trauma may result.
- Your age — The responsiveness of veins and arteries and the strength of the hearts of workers deteriorate over time, and an older worker may be at a higher risk of suffering suspension trauma.
- Exhaustion and dehydration — These are both conditions that can elevate the chances of trauma.
Knowing the factors that might affect your chances of survival if you should land in this life-threatening situation might save your life. If you research methods of self-rescue, you might not have to rely on the speed of rescuers to remove you from the harness. However, any injuries you might suffer will allow you to claim workers’ compensation benefits to cover medical expenses and loss of income. You may even choose to utilize the services of an experienced workers’ comp attorney to navigate the claim for you while you recover.