Understanding Suspension Trauma and Its Effects on the Body

Suspension trauma also referred to as orthostatic intolerance, is a critical condition that can occur when an individual remains suspended in a harness for an extended duration, often following a fall arrest incident. In such scenarios, blood may accumulate in the legs due to gravity, leading to inadequate circulation and a reduced oxygen supply to the brain and other vital organs. This situation can result in symptoms like dizziness, fainting, and, in severe cases, potentially life-threatening complications if not immediately addressed.

Essential First Aid Measures for Suspension Trauma

Addressing suspension trauma requires prompt and effective first aid responses, including quick evaluation of the suspended person’s condition. If they are conscious, it is important to reassure them while encouraging leg movement to maintain alertness. A swift rescue is crucial to reduce the time spent in suspension, thereby preventing serious complications. After a careful descent, the individual should be placed in the recovery position to enhance circulation and prevent choking. Even if the person seems to have recovered, immediate medical attention is necessary to evaluate any underlying complications.

Immediate and Long-Term Health Impacts of Suspension Trauma

Individuals exposed to suspension trauma may experience immediate health effects such as dizziness, confusion, fainting, nausea, and vomiting, along with pain and numbness in the legs. If not promptly and effectively managed, suspension trauma can lead to severe long-term health consequences, including kidney failure due to insufficient blood flow, compartment syndrome requiring potential surgical intervention, and neurological damage that can result in lasting nerve damage or paralysis.

Preventing Suspension Trauma in the Workplace

To mitigate the risks associated with suspension trauma, workplaces should adopt comprehensive prevention strategies. This includes implementing robust fall prevention measures like guardrails and safety nets to lower the likelihood of falls significantly. Select the right type of harnesses, ideally ones with padding and features designed to counteract the effects of suspension trauma, such as built-in leg straps for pressure relief. Providing workers with thorough training on using fall protection equipment and the risks associated with suspension trauma is essential. Developing a detailed rescue plan with the necessary training and equipment ensures a prompt and effective response during a fall arrest. Additionally, a buddy system can be highly effective, as it allows workers to continuously monitor each other and rapidly respond to any emergency situations that may arise.

Published by ProTrainings Europe Ltd. For more insights on workplace safety and risk management, visit our blog.

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